Interview

Interview: Exploring Msaki's Genre-Defying Voice

We talk to Msaki about her recent singles—"Blood Guns and Revolutions" and "Marry Me" with Black Motion—as well as her upcoming album, PLATINUMB HEART: Of Love and Protest.

Asanda Mvana, better known as Msaki, remembers trying out for the school choir twice and not quite fitting in. The first time she was in Grade Four. "I remember getting a fright from the size of my voice," she tells OkayAfrica, over the phone from East London. "I have a low speaking voice and I had a big alto for such a little girl. And my voice coming out of my body gave me a bit of a shock. It was just out of place because everybody was singing like sweet little birds."

She tried again in Grade 8. But still, nobody could figure out where to place her. "They put me in alto, then they moved me to descant," she says. "I had a chest voice that was quite soft, and I had a falsetto, and I had this other big voice that would just come out. And nobody really knew what to do with all those textures."

It's these very textures that helped turn Mvana into Msaki, the artist we know and love today. Textures that have allowed her to play in between the worlds of dance music and folk songs, between improvisation and composition, between the spaces of pain and gratitude. It's what allows for the layers in her songs, from the fervent urgency of "Blood, Guns and Revolutions" to the buttery thrill of "Marry Me," her most recent collaboration with Black Motion. And it's what will go into her forthcoming album, PLATINUMB HEART: Of Love and Protest, due for release early next year.

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