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Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

Get To Know This South African Duo's "Mandela Pop" Music

Radio 123 part of a new wave of South African bands defying all traditional rules and breaking genre boundaries.

Joburg duo Radio 123 (members Nyameko Nkondlwane and Simangaliso Mfula) just released a new EP titled Manga Manga. And oh boy, it's a treat.


The music Radio 123 make isn't easy to categorize—but who cares about labels anyway? The duo call their genre Mandela Pop, because, according to them, it's a sound that reflects the rainbow spectrum that South Africa has become.

On Manga Manga, they blend pop, jazz, funk, rock and even hip-hop. The opening song "Manga Manga," sees Mfula lay vocals over Nkondlwane's trumpet and 808 snares, before live robust drumming takes over changing the song's tempo.

"Manga Manga" is definitive Radio 123, in that you never know what to expect from the duo. Their music is a tapestry of various sounds both modern and nostalgic, and they have a way of blending all these influences into one solid sound that neither sounds forced nor scattered.

For instance, the EP's lead single, "Thando," is equally indebted to Outkast as it is to funk and drum & bass. It's colorful—the perfect soundtrack to the summer.

Lyrically, Manga Manga is easy on the ear, and gets humorous at times. The aptly titled "Thando" talks about how everyone needs love, and shows gratitude to our loved ones.

If you are educated enough to understand IsiZulu and kasi slang, you'll sure get a full experience of what Radio 123 are about—celebrating who they are without defining it or caring if you understand it. What's entertaining is they sound like they are having fun, and that will be propagated to the listener.

Radio 123 is part of the new wave of South African bands who are defying all traditional rules and aren't bounded by genre.

Listen to Manga Manga below, and download it here.

Follow Radio 123 on Facebook and Twitter.

Interview
Photo: Benoit Peverelli

Interview: Oumou Sangaré Proves Why She's the Songbird of Wassoulou

We caught up with the Malian singer to talk about her new Acoustic album, longevity as an artist, and growing up in Mali.

When Oumou Sangaré tells me freedom is at her core, I am not surprised. If you listen to her discography, you'll be hard-pressed to find a song that doesn't center or in some way touch on women's rights or child abuse. The Grammy award-winning Malian singer has spent a significant part of her career using her voice to fight for the rights of women across Africa and the world, a testimony to this is her naming her debut studio album Moussolou, meaning Woman. The album, a pure masterpiece that solidified Oumou's place amongst the greats and earned her the name 'Songbird of Wassoulou,' was a commercial success selling over 250,000 records in Africa and would in turn go on to inspire other singers across the world.

On her latest body of work Acoustic, a reworking of her critically acclaimed 2017 album Mogoya, Oumou Sangaré proves how and why she earned her accolades. The entirety of the 11-track album was recorded within two days in the Midi Live studio in Villetaneuse in 'live' conditions—with no amplification, no retakes or overdubs, no headphones. Throughout the album, using her powerful and raw voice that has come to define feminism in Africa and shaped opinions across the continent, Oumou boldly addresses themes like loss, polygamy and female circumcision.

We caught up with the Malian singer at the studio she is staying while in quarantine to talk about her new album, longevity as an artist, and growing up in Mali.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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