Image supplied by the artist.

Langa Mavuso's 'LANGA' Captures the Beginning, Middle & End of Heartbreak

Langa Mavuso’s ‘LANGA’ Captures the Beginning, Middle & End of Heartbreak

South African artist Langa Mavuso speaks to us about his debut album, LANGA, and the mixture of pain, healing and raw honesty that allowed this project to come to life.

South African urban-soul singer and songwriter Langa Mavuso recently released his debut album titled LANGA. As has been the case with his previous projects, LANGA is an exquisite and deeply moving musical offering borne from both heartbreak and eventual healing.

The project, which features the likes of Yanga Chief, Zoë Modiga, Manana, Loyiso and Aimee George, is the follow-up to the artist's seminal Liminal Sketches EP which was released back in 2018. And just as Langa Mavuso has created anthemic numbers over the past few years with "Sunday Blues," "Love Six," "Intliziyo," and "Mvula," his debut album is a compilation of 12 repeat-worthy jams that show his tremendous evolution as an artist.

Conceptualised and executed amid his travels between London, Johannesburg and Cape Town, LANGA is a raw and honest project that captures the beginning, the middle and the end of heartbreak in all its jagged edges. With tracks such as "Pretend," "Love Lost," and "Spirit," Langa Mavuso takes the listener on an emotional journey in a way that only the 26-year-old crooner can.

And so we caught up with Langa Mavuso to speak with him about his latest project, his urban soul sound and both the challenges and highlights he encountered with the creative process behind LANGA.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Tell me a little about Langa Mavuso. Who is he as an artist and how would you describe his particular sound?

Langa Mavuso is a South African born singer-songwriter. [I'm] really soulful in my approach to music. It really is all music about love and it exposes the different phases of love. It's so hard to specify a genre when it comes to my music because I let the story inform the genre. So when it be more soulful, painful or joyous love songs, it always fits a ballad, right. And the intention of the song is usually most easy to be portrayed through a ballad. But I always say urban soul because at the end of the day, it's always soulful regardless of the BPM or the drum beat.

How does it feel to not only release your first album, but doing so during a pandemic?

I changed the launch dates so many times for the album because it just had to feel right. My team knows I am very particular about the feeling of a project even down to numbers. I'm very specific with the dates. It always has to equal seven. We released [the album] on the 25th because two plus five is seven. And even "Love Lost" was released on the 29th because two minus nine is seven. So I have that thing with numbers.

I was really nervous about releasing an album. I know it's so much pressure. If you wake up every day and someone's tweeting you, "Where's your album?" for three years, it becomes very daunting. And I'm also not going to create an album that they expect me to create. I'm not going to be singing "Sunday Blues". I'm not going to write "Sunday Blues" over and over again. That song came to me, it happened, we enjoyed it, but we move on. I'm growing as a person and my experiences are becoming broader with time.

For me, the most important part about this whole experience and this whole release was the fulfillment of completion. That's what I wanted from it a lot.

Langa Mavuso - OkayAfricaLanga Mavuso portrait shot.Image supplied by the artist.

What were some of the inspirations be they places, experiences or other artists that played a significant role in this particular album?

Three years ago, I was going through a breakup. And I had completely a different idea of what kind of album I wanted to write. I thought I'd write this love song filled, happy album. When I started conceptualizing, I was still in a relationship. But when I started recording, we'd broken up. So there I was, heartbroken––hard to write a happy love song.

More than anything, [the album is] a reflection for me. If you look at the cover, there's three faces on it. But what it actually is, is one face and two mirrors on the side. And the album reflects three parts of the journey through heartbreak.

"When I started conceptualizing, I was still in a relationship. But when I started recording, we'd broken up."

The beginning part is the pain and the anguish. You can hear it in the ballads. The middle part becomes very messy, very confused and really seeking. And then the last part is an honest conversation with a friend, Amy George. We talk about ending the pretense. I then go into a prayer and then reflect on the world on "I Wish" with Zoë and Manana. Finally, in "Love Lost" I accept that love has ended but I remember all the beautiful things that we shared and that's the moment of peace and resolution for me.

Langa Mavuso - OkayAfricaAlbum cover art for 'LANGA'Still taken from YouTube.

What were some of the highlights, but also equally some of the challenges (outside of heartbreak) behind the creative process of the album?

I think that the highlights for me would be the travel that I did. I did a lot of traveling and a lot of exploring sonically with different producers in London, Cape Town and Johannesburg. It was an exciting time for me. I would sit on the plane and I would think about what I am going to create and the intention. No one teaches you how to make an album. I went to UCT and at no point was I ever taught how to make an album. They teach us how to arrange songs, how to analyze music, how to write music, but never how to put a project together. So that was an exciting exploration for me and journey. It took a lot of learning and openness to the experience, to get here. The low points,

"No one teaches you how to make an album."

What would I say were the low points? I think maybe resources at a point, because my contract with Soulistic ended. In the beginning, the intention was to do the album with Soulistic and release it with them but that never came to fruition because our journeys changed. They became a talent agency and no longer a record label. I wanted to be an independent artist who owns their music. That journey of creating on a very limited budget from gig money. That was tough at times. How you're getting to the studio or what we're eating while we're at the studio, for example. Those are just day-to-day things that we don't think about. But eventually everything came right. In January, I signed with Platoon. They've been a great support in terms of the release of this album. And I've been able to retain the ownership of my music even with this.

In terms of your collaborations with the likes of Yanga Chief, Zoë and others, what do you think each artist individually brought to the project?

When I started working on the album, I had plans of getting these big artists for it just to elevate and really get attention to the project. But as I was working on the project, I realised it just felt a bit disingenuous of me to do that.

In what ways?

It was just from conversations while working in the studio. Aimee did the backing vocals in "Home". I hadn't seen her in so long because I left Cape town. I wondered what kind of conversation we would have if I bumped into her at the club or waiting room. And that's when I said, "Hey, old friend, are you breathing well?" That's how we used to talk to each other at school.

With Zoë and Manana, we were just in my living room and Manana was playing keys. And really the melody just came and we all just started talking about things that bothered us. Zoë was talking about happiness. I was talking about race and sexuality and Manana just then blatantly said, "I just wish that this song could change things, but it won't. It's wishful thinking to think that a song can make the world a better place. We have to be better and do better as a people."

With Yanga, it was in the middle of the night. "Panther" has seven different rap verses. I had a verse from so many different artists––none of them made sense for me. I had just come back from recording with Yanga Chief for his album and it was such an organic experience. We just got each other so easily and openly.

Langa Mavuso - OkayAfricaLanga Mavuso in the recording studio.Image supplied by the artist.

What is your favorite track on the album or what is the track that means the most to you?

Whew, this changes a lot for me. Just all the time for me, but I must say, "Pretend" is my favorite song on the album. It just pulls at my heartstrings for some reason. I don't know what it is, but there's something about that song. The honesty, the bareness, the simplicity of it. There's nothing pretentious about "Pretend".

"I think the best song that I've ever written though is "Love Lost.""

I think the best song that I've ever written though is "Love Lost". It's just the way that it eulogizes the love in such a beautiful way but also connects to old songs I've written. So if you listen to Liminal Sketches, there's a song called "Love Six" and it speaks about the death of love, and it's about Liso dying and him not being around anymore. On "Love Lost", I literally take you through the journey of my relationship with him. I go, "I've got scars in my eyes, I've been wrestling the stars. The sunless skies are way too vast." And this is the night that he died.

I stayed up weeping and looking into the stars. My eyes were so bloodshot the next day, it looked like they had scars. He had taken a new journey so it speaks to the transformation of love. I no longer have the physical affirmation of love. We can love each other, but it's not of this earth anymore. I start to remember in the chorus, when we first met and the first kiss, it was in September, but it was never meant to last.


What is your hope for this particular body of work?

The process of creating is therapeutic for me. Once I put it out, it no longer belongs to me. I always hope that the healing that it does for me, is the same healing that it brings to the listener. When I started the album, I was obviously seeking to find peace and healing from a broken love, and from a love that I had lost. As we go through the journey in the album, as you listen to it, I want people to understand that it is important to love truly, to be honest in your life, and to always seek healing from pain and from loss. That's the intention of the project, to cultivate a healing space through honesty and truth.

I need to tell you guys that I was fucked up on champagne. In "All of Me", I go, "See I've been in the crowd with the trick bits. Creeping in the dark are the best treats, and maybe love's found in the pent suite, a little rendezvous in the backseat." That is a bit vulgar. I'm basically telling you about my sexcapades in such a nice way but that's what was happening. I was really out with dudes, looking to fulfill a void with a drink or with a new person and an energy of flyness but it was like, "Oh, you can't do this forever." It's really honest.

Photo by Oupa Bopape/Gallo Images via Getty Images.

Costa Titch Was Just Getting Started

Following his tragic passing, we take a look back at the polarising South African rapper’s career.

AKA expressed that his and Costa Titchs joint album, You’re Welcome, helped take him out of a dark place after losing his fiancé in 2020. “He and I started just hanging out, and he brought me out of my shell, saying, ‘Come out, come make music again, come start performing again,’” AKA told HYPE Magazine two weeks before being shot and killed in Durban last month.

Costa Titch, who died a month later while performing on stage at Ultra Festival in Joburg, had met AKA through Riky Rick, who also passed away in 2022. AKA and Riky appeared on the remix to Costa Titch’s 2019 breakout hit “Nkalakatha”—and AKA they hit it off from then.

Breaking Through to the Mainstream

The “Nkalakatha” remix was Costa Titch’s knighting event. Following years of bubbling under, the New Wave (South Africa’s SoundCloud rap scene) pioneer had not just caught the attention of two of the biggest rappers in the country, but he was on a song with them.

Costa Titch had worked his way up from dancing with his homeboy Benny Chill while growing up in Nelspruit in the Mpumalanga province. Costa and his crew had a stint as Cassper Nyovests’ official dancers in the mid-2010s. But Costa Titch found himself being a recording artist after making music with Tumi Tladi (another South African rapper who passed on last year). Their thinking was that, in order for their dance videos to be played on TV, they needed to be accompanied by original music. When people fell in love with their music, the two rappers ran with it and Costa Titch started building his name in South Africa’s SoundCloud rap scene.

By the time of his death, Costa Titch had grown into an A-list South African artist. His breakout hit “Big Flexa” had gone viral through a TikTok challenge and a music video that had surpassed 40 million views. His lyrical approach to amapiano was reminiscent of Focalistic’s style. “‘Ke Star’ like Foca,” Costa rapped on the song which featured his early collaborator Alfa Kat alongside Sdida, Man T, C’buda and the duo Banaba Des.

Polarising Nature

While millions of fans danced to Costa’s viral hits, the critics were crying foul play at a white kid appropriating black culture. “I had a lot black friends and I connected with black people more,” Costa Titch explained in an interview with SlikourOnLife. “I’ve just been around African culture.” Costa Titch’s best friend growing up was the rapper Benny Chill with whom he remained close until he passed on. “I’m learning Zulu through making music,” Costa said at the time.

The game opened its arms to the young rapper. His debut album Made In Africa, which dropped in 2020, featured the likes of DJ Maphorisa, Sjava, Riky Rick, AKA, Boity, Boskasie, YoungstaCPT and a few other South African music stars.

Costa Titch’s music was catchy and allowed him and his dancers to give a lively show on stage. He also maintained the dance element in his music which was helpful in an era when fans connect with songs they can dance to on camera, becoming TikTok sensations in the process.

Explaining the joint album, AKA said the two of them had set out to make a “non musical project.” “We are living in the amapiano era. So we said how can we make amapiano without making amapiano,” he said. “We wanted to make TikTok songs… We didn’t wanna make long songs.”

Saving AKA’s Life

You’re Welcome hardly made a dent. The album wasn’t well-received by fans and its lead single “Super Soft” didn’t do much either. It also felt too soon for AKA to be making music after the controversial passing of Nellie.

To AKA, though, You’re Welcome meant a lot. He was introduced to Costa’s younger fanbase as the duo performed in spaces AKA wouldn’t normally give the time of the day. Costa Titch saved AKA’s life, but both rappers, unbeknown to anyone at the time, didn’t have much time left.

AKA passed on two weeks before the release of Mass Country, his comeback album which was led by the monster single “Lemons (Lemonade)” which featured Nasty C, a rapper AKA has invited to rap on stage in Durban many moons before Nasty became a superstar himself.

Costa Titch was only getting started. His career had just taken off. At this year’s Cotton Fest in February, Costa brought out Akon as a surprise guest. The Konvict Kulture head honcho announced a partnership between his company and the South African rapper. “I wanna inaugurate him into the Konvict Kulture family,” he said. A remix of “Big Flexa” featuring Akon followed a week after. Costa Titch was about to make the world his oyster. But the universe had other plans. He collapsed while performing at Ultra and was pronounced dead almost instantly.

Costa Titch was a polarising artist as, while some felt he was performing musical black face, those on his side felt he was just being a citizen of a post-racial South Africa where racial and cultural lines are blurred the way Mandela envisioned.

Others hailed Costa Titch as an icon, understandably so. “You were that white kid who stood out like a sore thumb because of how incredibly skilled, technical, intentional, creative, professional, disciplined, hardworking and wildly amazing you were as a multitalented dancer and choreographer,” wrote Bontle Modiselle, who also spent a long time in the thriving South African hip-hop dance scene of the late 2000s and early 2010s.

Costa Titch joins a plethora of popular South African musicians who have passed on in what seems like a purge of sorts. In the last two years South Africa has lost talents such as Riky Rick, AKA, Tumi Tladi, Mpura, Killer Kau, DJ Dimplez, DJ Citi Lyts, Mampintsha and DJ Sumbody, a majority of who were on top of their game and had exciting futures ahead of them in the game.

News Brief
Photo by Cindy Ord for Getty

Trevor Noah Wins Prestigious Erasmus Prize

Trevor Noah is the first comic to win the prestigious Erasmus Prize since Charlie Chaplin in 1965.

Popular South African comic Trevor Noah has won the prestigious Erasmus Prize from The Praemium Erasmianum Foundation The award is named after Dutch philosopher Desiderius Erasmus' most famous piece of work.

According to a statement from The Praemium Erasmianum Foundation, Noah was receiving the prize “for his inspired contribution to the theme ‘In Praise of Folly,’ named after Erasmus’s most famous book, which is filled with humor, social criticism and political satire.” (Desiderius Erasmus was a an influential Dutch philosopher from the northern Renaissance era.)

Noah is the first comic since 1965 who has been awarded the honor. The last comic to win the prize was Charlie Chaplin, who received the honor in 1965. Since 1958, The Erasmus Prize has been awarded to recipients who are recognized for a wide range of achievements, including literature, music, philosophy, and social activism. Some of the notable recipients who have received the award in the past include Jorge Luis Borges, Isaiah Berlin, Ingmar Bergman, and Amartya Sen.

The panel who selects awardees for the prize include a committee of scholars and cultural experts who review nominations and make a recommendation to the board of the Praemium Erasmianum Foundation after weighing in on the strength of each candidate. After the recommendation, it is then up to the board to make the final decision on the recipient of the award. The prize is typically awarded in the fall during a ceremony in the Dutch royal palace in Amsterdam.

Beyond his work as a comic, the former Daily Show host has been vocal about his social justice advocacy and has been a strong advocate for human rights issues on a general scale. While he was a host on The Daily Show, he consistently used his voice to highlight other prominent Africans. It is safe to say that the 39-year-old has indeed made South Africa proud.

News Brief
Photo by Mark Kerrison/In Pictures via Getty Images

Uganda Passes a Law Making it Illegal to Identify as LGBTQ+

Uganda’s parliament has passed a law that makes it illegal for Ugandans to identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community. People who are found to be gay can face the death penalty if caught.

Uganda's parliament overwhelmingly approved a law that makes it a crime for Ugandans to identify as members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) community. Additionally, the legal body gave authorities the permission to target gay Ugandans; according to the bill, which was passed on Tuesday (March 21), people who are found to be gay can face the death penalty if caught.

“A person who commits the offense of aggravated homosexuality and is liable, on conviction, to suffer death,” the amendment states.

Of the nearly 400 representatives present, only two voted against it. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is expected to sign it into law.

Same-sex acts were already deemed unlawful in Uganda. And although Uganda joins a number of African countries that have taken strict stances against members of the LGBTQ+, this new law seems to be the first to carry such heightened consequences. Mutasingwa Kagyenyi, a member of the parliament and a co-writer of the bill, told the chamber that the law was meant to “protect children from homosexuality.”

“We want to shape the future of our children by protecting them from homosexuality," Kagyenyi said. “Sexual relations are between a man and woman. Those are our cherished values and culture, and we shall protect them jealously.”

On Wednesday, The United Nations (UN) and United States expressed outrage over the passed bill. Volker Türk, UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights called the Anti Homosexuality Bill 2023 “draconian” and urged Museveni not to sign the bill.

“The passing of this discriminatory bill—probably among the worst of its kind in the world—is a deeply troubling development,” a statement from Türk’s office stated.

“If signed into law by the President, it will render lesbian, gay and bisexual people in Uganda criminals simply for existing, for being who they are. It could provide carte blanche for the systematic violation of nearly all of their human rights and serve to incite people against each other,” the statement added.

The United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken also spoke out against the bill. On Wednesday (March 22nd), he tweeted: “We urge the Ugandan Government to strongly reconsider the implementation of this legislation.”

White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby did not rule out some economic "repercussions" if the legislation is implemented.

Uganda has had a long history of enacting strict laws against homosexuality. In 2014, the country passed an anti-gay law that authorized life imprisonment for "aggravated homosexuality.'' The law prompted several of Uganda’s donors in the west to halt aid payments to the East African country until it was annulled. That annulment happened after its constitutional court determined that the law was passed without the appropriate number of people present.

Photo by David Nana Ansah

Cozyshrt is Curating Freedom & Community in Accra

The Ghanaian photographer who snapped Kendrick Lamar when he visited the country last year has become a leading curator of the local cultural landscape.

Within Africa, Accra has become a hot destination for tourists, especially since the 2019 “Year of Return" program championed by the government. In Accra itself, there has been a continuous renaissance in pop culture earmarked by the growth of genre-defying collectives such as La Meme Gang and Superjazzclub, the global rise of fashion brand, Free The Youth, and the establishment of the Virgil Abloh-supported skatepark by SurfGhana. The zeitgeist is evolving and the culture is pulsating with ingenuity.

Through his photography, Cozyshrt, pronounced Cozy Shirt, has become one of Accra’s foremost culture curators, adding to this growing atmosphere of creative inventiveness. “Photography is kind of personal to me, in a sense of, a personal space for me to express myself, and to question everything,” he tells OkayAfrica over Zoom. “It’s this space that makes me wonder what things could be outside the norm or the values society has now.”

A graduate of Information Technology Management from the University of Professional Studies, Accra, Cozyshrt, whose real name is David Nana Opoku Ansah, landed his first editorial gig through a stylist friend who was in Accra for work. But his career path could have gone in a completely different direction. “When I was young, it was between directing or being a psychologist. I find human behavior quite interesting, and I am a huge fan of observing human behavior,” he says.

Now, Cozy, as he’s fondly called, uses photography to observe humans with a unique approach that is focused on reimagining the feel and storytelling potential of photography. A testament to his incandescent imagery is “Family Property” from his series titled Area Boys. Photographed during the lockdown, “Family Property” depicts Cozy’s cousin in outfits owned by his late grandfather. “Most of my images can be about colors and how gentle they can be because growing up, the tenderness and gentleness of images were not there,” he says. “It was more about commercials and weddings and I did not exist in that world.”

In his Area Boys series, photographed during the lockdown, Cozy photographed his cousin in outfits owned by his late grandfather.Photo by David Nana Ansah

From Photographing People to DJing EDM Raves

Cozy’s photography repertoire has seen him take on projects that have left a mark on the local cultural landscape. From his first milestone feature for Nike — the first ever sneaker campaign in Ghana led by an all-local team — to photographing Kendrick Lamar for an exclusive Citizen cover, during the rapper’s high-profile visit to the country last year. And his resume continues to expand, working with the likes of FootLocker and Maison Margiela. “I always want people to see things in a new light. I want my photography to question things, and show people that there are more things outside of our beliefs. In the community I grew up in, if something is new or it begins to question things, people just end up dismissing it and are not open to it.”

A hobbyist DJ who has played a Boiler Room set, and a member of the seven-man collective, ALLMYCOUSINS, who are currently pioneering the rise of EDM raves in Ghana, Cozy is redefining culture in Accra through photography, community, and music.

OkayAfrica spoke with the multi–hyphenated artist about the power of community and curating a culture of expression in Accra through art.

The interview transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

An image taken by the photographer of a man looking at the camera with buttons on the collar of his jacket and on one side of his face.“Filling Pieces” created by Cozyshrt in 2021Photo by David Nana Ansah

Do you think your love for psychology factors into your photography?

I think I ended up being able to study and observe things through photography. Anytime I am shooting, I am always thinking about what world I can create in my head that I would love to be real. I always try to move toward conflict in images because anytime I’m shooting a subject, they have a whole different emotion, and there is how I see them in my head. Sometimes, that conflict is what I’m chasing.

Your photographs seem to have a common theme of community, where does that stem from?

Growing up was sort of me and my family against the world, community did not exist when I was growing up. Community is giving myself all the things I wish I had when I was a kid. I see how you can move faster in a community than just by yourself. There’s some sort of joy I’ve been chasing for a long time, and it feels really good to see all the ideas me and my friends had coming to pass. If you had told me three years ago that there would be some sort of upcoming rave culture in Ghana and that it would be pioneered by us, I would have doubted it.

An image taken by the photographer of the rapper Kendrick Lamar in which he\u2019s wearing cowboy boots and standing on sand.Cozy photographed Kendrick Lamar during the rapper’s first visit to Ghana last year.Photo by David Nana Ansah

How did it feel photographing Kendrick Lamar?

I was contacted by the magazine [Citizen] for a different shoot, and after a while, I let the editor know that I was not feeling inspired at the time. The Kendrick opportunity came about, and they reached out to me again. Everything happened so fast, I couldn’t believe it.

Kendrick was very friendly and warm. He spoke to me like we were cool, and he was open to ideas. Exchanging ideas and waiting till I was satisfied with the shots.

Who are the photographers that inspire you?

A bunch of photographers – Viviane Sassen, Harley Weir, Alex Webb, Alec Soth — to mention a few.

How does it feel to be at the epicenter of culture curation in Accra?

It feels inspiring and great to be one of the voices around, but it comes with some pressure. Also, sometimes it’s overwhelming but it feels really good knowing we are changing the narrative one step at a time.

A black and white image taken by the photographer of a young boy wearing an Adidas jacket over a tie. Cozy has worked with the likes of Adidas, creating this piece, “Small Poles” for a recent print campaign.Photo by David Nana Ansah

What do you love about Accra?

What I love is when you are just starting out, no one gives a fuck, so you can be whoever you want, no one is watching.

What do you hate about Accra?

People are so dismissive when it comes to new cultures. Now more than ever, Accra needs a huge community of everyone supporting each other to be able to move very well. That is uncommon and difficult to come by. The fact that there are no mentors and you have to strive so hard for success is just wild.

What do you want to be remembered for?

I want people to feel like this person made me feel there was more to what we thought things could be, and that it is safe to question everything. That it is okay to build your own world and let people understand that this is how you see things. I think I would be satisfied if I could make people feel like they could be themselves freely with no judgment and be okay with making mistakes and failing.

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