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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.

Love Lostwww.youtube.com

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.

Music
(YouTube)

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Photo Credit: Father’s Day (Kivu Ruhorahoza)

The 10 Best African Films of 2022 So Far

Young new filmmakers are emerging and more African films are being welcomed by the biggest film festivals around the world. Here are the standout African movies of 2022 so far.

We are at the halfway point and it has been an interesting year for African films so far.

Throughout the continent, the box office continues to recover from Covid-19 shutdowns. (Nigeria had its biggest hit ever with King of Thieves, which has raked in more than N300 million.) Young new filmmakers are emerging and more films are being welcomed by the biggest film festivals around the world.

While streaming platforms continue to deepen investments on the continent as they seek to expand their reach. So, when constructing our list of 2022 movies, we had a lot to choose from.

Here are the best African movies of 2022 so far.

Father’s Day (Rwanda)

A struggling masseuse is devastated by the accidental death of her son. A caring daughter contemplates donating an organ to save her ailing father. A small-time criminal drags his young son into his dangerous world. With the poignant Father’s Day, Kivu Ruhorahoza weaves three separate stories set in and around the city of Kigali. Presented with precision and emotional intensity, Father’s Day is a bracing, humane interrogation of the effects of traditional patriarchal systems.

For Maria (Ẹ̀bùn Pàtàkì) (Nigeria)

In Damilola Orimogunje’s stark domestic drama, a first-time mother (a volcanic Meg Otanwa) cannot bring herself to bond with her newborn after suffering a difficult delivery. The filmmaker and his strong cast of actors are able to create a realist piece of cinema that powers through limited resources and shines with intent. With mood, colors, shadows and silences, For Maria (Ẹ̀bùn Pàtàkì) paints a convincing and heartbreaking picture of postpartum depression.

King of Thieves (Nigeria)

This hugely entertaining romp, written and shot in the Yoruba language enjoyed massive crossover success at the Nigerian box office where it became the highest grossing film of the year so far. Directed by the duo of Adebayo Tijani and Tope Adebayo, the ambitious King of Thieves brings to life ancient Yoruba mythology with the story of a once prosperous kingdom caught in the grip of powerful bandit. Employing neat CGI tricks, a parade of hardworking actors and sheer narrative gusto, King of Thieves reaches beyond its obvious limitations.

Juwaa (DRC/Belgium)

A quietly contained drama, Juwaa is the first feature film from Nganji Mutiri, an artist and filmmaker originally from Bukavu who is now living in Brussels. Juwaa is set in both countries and observes a mother (Babetida Sadjo) and her estranged son (Edson Anibal) who are both survivors of a traumatic past as they reconcile and gradually renegotiate the layers of their relationship. Mutiri is working with limited resources and, while his film isn’t perfect, he reaches for big themes and grand ideas.

Lingui, the Sacred Bonds (Chad/France/Belgium/Germany)

The iconic Mahamat-Saleh Haroun returns to his native Chad with this timely and fiercely feminist socio-realist drama that tackles the beast that is abortion rights in a conservative society. Amina (Achouackh Abakar Souleymane) is an independent woman who finds herself in a race against the forces of patriarchy when her fifteen-year-old daughter Maria (Rihane Khalil Alio) gets pregnant. Amina supports her daughter as they try to get an abortion, a procedure that is both frowned upon by Islam and illegal in Chad.

Neptune Frost (Rwanda/USA)

Neptune (Cheryl Isheja), an intersex hacker is guided by magnetic pull to Digitaria, an outcast enclave in the hills of Burundi peopled by rebel hackers. There, they are joined by Matalusa (Bertrand Ninteretse), a miner mourning the loss of a loved one. As these outcasts journey on, they sing, dance, trade ideas and fend off interference from operatives of the state, all the while debating ideas and swapping concerns on what it means to exist on the fringes. Neptune Frost is a radical new vision conceived and co-directed by the duo of Rwandan filmmaker Anisia Uzeyman and Saul Williams.

No Simple Way Home (Kenya/South Africa/South Sudan)

For Akuol de Mabior’s debut feature length film, she turns inwards to her family’s legacy and grapples with difficult questions. What is the meaning of home? And what duty does she owe her people as a child of renowned politicians and freedom fighters? Born and raised in exile, de Mabior follows her mother and sister in South Sudan as they play their parts in nation building.

Silverton Siege (South Africa)

It is Silverton, Pretoria in 1980. And three armed activists of the ANC’s uMkhonto we Sizwe faction take a bank hostage. It ends in tears. Forty-two years later, these freedom fighters were immortalized in this splashy Netflix caper directed by Mandla Dube. Starring Thabo Rametsi as the leader of the group, Silverton SiegeSiege benefits from Dube’s eye for periodic detail and his affinity for setting up brisk action scenes. The film works best and delivers the thrills when it doubles down on the action set pieces.

Tug of War (Vuta N’Kuvute) (Tanzania/South Africa/Qatar/Germany)

The first Tanzanian film to screen at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is an adaptation of a hugely popular Swahili novel by author Shafi Adam Shafi. Co-written and directed by Amil Shivji (T-Junction), Tug of War is a visually appealing saga about a pair of star-crossed lovers caught up in the throes of the British occupation of Zanzibar. A young revolutionary fighting for self-actualization of his homeland falls for a rebellious Indian-Zanzibari woman fleeing an arranged marriage. Can they make it work?

We, Students! (Central African Republic/France/DRC/Saudi Arabia)

Rafiki Fariala was a student of Economics at the University of Bangui when he decided to film his experiences and those of his friends as they struggled to graduate in one of the most challenging places on the continent to be a student. Rough around the edges but oddly charming, We, Students! is the end result of Fariala’s efforts. The film received its world premiere at the Berlinale and tells a familiar story of systemic corruption, preying lecturers and depressing campus living conditions. Triumphing above all these challenges is the indomitable will of the students.

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Photo Credit: Adedamola Odetera

An Inside Look Into the Underground Queer Party Scene in Nigeria

As a result of the laws and law enforcement bodies in the country, queer nightlife in Nigeria is shrouded in secrecy and has been forced to go underground.

A few minutes before midnight on a June evening, there was a line of people attempting to gain access to an unmarked apartment block in Lekki Phase 1 — a suburban neighborhood in Lagos State. To the uninitiated, it was a regular house party in the heart of Lagos Island, which is populated with young people in their 20s. For the attendees who had a flier on their phones and a passcode on their lips, this was an event they had looked forward to for weeks. When they arrived at the doors, they were all asked for a passcode which transported them into a vibrant pulsing party which had drag queens walking across the room and men in shorts that barely went past their crutches gyrating on other men while afrobeats blared. Welcome to queer nightlife in Nigeria where, on weekends, apartments turn into gay clubs, barred with passcode-guarding doors to protect against homophobes.

Party people hugging each other

Secret house parties, discrete raves, and clubs are now becoming increasingly popular amongst young queer Nigerians.

Photo Credit: Adedamola Odetera

Across the country, especially in the big cities like Lagos, Abuja, and Port Harcourt, lounges, clubs, and bars dedicated to the LGBTQ+ community have started sprouting despite legislation that makes it illegal for them to exist. In 2014, the Nigerian government passed the highly controversial and homophobic Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act. Despite the name, the law would go on to criminalize many other aspects of queer existence and not just marriage between people of the same sex. The far-reaching law criminalized queer social spaces, groups that advocate for queer rights, and even individuals advocating and supporting queer rights. The law also went on to prescribe a prison term that could go up to 14 years for those who were found guilty of these crimes in southern Nigeria. However, in Northern and mostly Muslim Nigeria, where Shariah law takes pre-eminence, these crimes could lead to death by stoning. While there isn’t an extensive record of people being found guilty for these crimes in Nigeria, these laws emboldened many homophobic mobs who took the laws into their hands and would beat individuals who they identified as queer and destroy spaces and parties that they suspected were hosted by or for queer people. One of the most infamous instances was a 2018 case where 57 men were arrested at a party in Lagos under the suspicion of being initiated into a gay club. While this particular case garnered significant press coverage as the men were made to go to trial, it is far from being the only case of its kind. It is fairly common for the police to raid suspected queer parties to arrest everyone in sight — often with little to no proof of the suspects being gay.

As a result of the laws and law enforcement bodies in the country, queer nightlife in Nigeria has been forced to go underground. Bars and clubs are left behind for parties in apartments. Recent years have seen a resurgence in the public profile of queer nightlife in Nigeria — partly thanks to a rise of resistance against oppressive systems within Nigeria that have been supported and have originated on social media, more queer people are becoming brave and open about queer nightlife in Nigeria. Secret house parties, discrete raves and clubs are now becoming increasingly popular, especially amongst young queer Nigerians. Creative collectives like hFactor and Pride in Lagos have pushed the narrative even further by organizing pride-specific events and raves in Lagos over the last few years.

Man making out with man

"‘‘I had been to clubs before but this was different. There was a freedom I didn’t feel in other parties."

Photo Credit: Adedamola Odetera

‘‘My first time at a queer party in Nigeria was in 2021. A friend invited me to a hFactor event and It was such an experience,’ Peju, a 23-year-old bisexual man tells OkayAfrica. ‘‘I had been to clubs before but this was different. There was a freedom I didn’t feel in other parties. Guys were grinding on guys, girls were flirting with girls. There wasn’t a need to pretend to be something I’m not.’’

However, attending these events comes with specific risks. Guests often took precautions — attending the parties with friends, letting their friends who weren’t there know where they were at and confirming there were accessible exits at all times. For many of these attendees, they may have never had to use those themselves but they know of people or at least have heard of people who have had to. Tamuno, a 31-year-old gay man, tells me of a near-capture experience when he had gone to a party in Port Harcourt in 2020.

‘‘There was this party that happened weekly. It became kind of popular and more queer people started coming. What we didn’t account for was that neighbors had realized it was full of queer people,’ Tamuno said. ‘‘One day, we were all at the party and they surrounded the house. Some of us managed to escape, others weren’t as lucky. I wasn't lucky.’’ Tamuno recounts that after being taunted and shamed and then stripped to their boxers for a relatively long time, the police then came. ‘‘The police coming to carry us was what saved us because then my brother, who I called, was able to bribe them to let us go. Whenever I think about what would happen if the police hadn’t come, I experience a full body shudder.’’

a group of people taking photos

Organizers have to find ways to limit people who can gain access to these parties.

Photo Credit: Adedamola Odetera

To help combat this, organizers of these events prioritize security and the safety of their guests. It is important that attendees feel safe from homophobic attacks from civilians and the armed forces. To achieve this, organizers have learned to deploy multiple guards.

‘‘Everyone’s safety is a priority to me and this means that multiple channels of security are constantly put in place to help safeguard our guests.’’ Kayode Timileyin, one of the organizers of Pride In Lagos tells OkayAfrica. ‘‘The first of which is the fact that all our events are only by a registration and verification process. Also, external security guards are made available. Lastly, we go all out to look for a real safe space.’’

It doesn’t end at just verifying the identities of the guests. Organizers have to find ways to limit people who can gain access to the location. This might mean generating a password only verified guests are given or keeping the exact location — and sometimes even date — a secret and only given to the verified guests. For these organizers, these security measures are put in place, not against potential miscreants or robbers but instead to keep off the police force and homophobes.

woman wearing black smiling

Despite dangers, the queer nightlife scene is bustling and thriving.

Photo Credit: Adedamola Odetera

The underground nightlife scene in Lagos is bustling and thriving — despite the laws that criminalize it and the constant danger. This illustrates the spirit of resilience amongst queer Nigerians who choose to reach for any semblance of freedom they can find even if it is on the dance floor for just a night.

‘‘My experience getting arrested traumatized me. It scared me. I was getting beaten, and paraded and I was so scared that they would kill me. But they didn’t so of course, I’ll party again," Tamuno said. ‘‘I still go to these parties and I’ll still keep going. It’s not that I’m scared. It’s just that when I’m on the dance floor surrounded by other queer men, I feel like my true self. I feel happy. I feel content. And that’s what I want out of life. If I die because I am seeking that, that’s fine.’’

a group of friends taking a photo

More queer people are becoming brave and open about queer nightlife in Nigeria.

Photo Credit: Adedamola Odetera

Interview

Interview: Director K Is Making Historic Music Videos For Afrobeats & Beyond

The 28-year-old director behind the "Essence" music video (and many more) tells us about his come-up, inspirations and working with the biggest stars in Afrobeats like Wizkid, Burna Boy, Davido, and more.

African music is sprouting into dominance with the upswing of genres such as Amapiano and Afrobeats across dance floors, day parties, festivals, and gatherings across the globe. Among the ranks of directors curating the visual interpretation of African music; Director K, born Qudus Olaiwola, is an oft-tranquil figure that has charted a lane separate from his contemporaries.

Starting off in the perpetually bristling clusters of Surelere, Lagos, Nigeria as a phone repairer at his uncle’s workshop, Director K’s curiosity shoveled him into believing he could shoot videos on his iPhone. “I used to go super crazy on iPhones, I used to make iPhones do stuff that you couldn’t normally do,” he tells OkayAfrica nostalgically.

Raised in the hovels of Shitta, Surulere, and Lagos — home to Afrobeats trailblazer Wizkid—Director K found a neighborhood artist called C.O. Decoast, and tested his hands at music video directing off the lens of his iPhone. “It wasn’t anything big. It was just something in the hood that I shot with a few people."

Now, in the parking lot of a lush apartment in Lekki, Lagos, Director K regales me with stories of his journey while walking me towards a modest swimming pool. The Creative Arts dropout has had his work nominated for Video Of The Year at the Soul Train Awards, and he has won an NACCP Image Award and Best Music Video at Nigeria’s most-prestigious awards show, The Headies.

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