By Lwazi Ndima
Here is an artist that brings with her an unmistakably brilliant expression of artistry. A voice that is unparalleled to any other musician of our time, instead, critics are boldly uttering her name in association with incomparable greats like NIna Simone and Billie Holiday.
2013 saw the fiercely talented singer and pianist Laura Mvula release her critically acclaimed debut album “SIng To the Moon” that made most noteworthy musical pundits sit up and take notice. Also the nominee for the prestigious Brits Choice awards earlier this year, that saw Adele and Emeli Sandé win in the previous years, Mvula’s career officially received a jumpstart that scores of artists crave for.
Hailing from Birmingham, London , the former receptionist who started her musical journey experimenting with garageband (apple music creation software) has now been working with industry giants like Jamie cullum and Prince and playing at huge festivals like Glastonbury- an unfathomable feat by any standards. The friendship with fellow jazz maestro Cullum, started off with a tweet Cullum sent out in November last year.
Their inevitable musicial pairing resulted in the haunting ballad, “sad sad world” with lyrics like “will you help me paint a smile, on this sad sad world”, fans of both Mvula and Cullum couldn’t be happier with the duet. Mvula (which translated in Xhosa means Rain) blossomed in the song, showing no signs of nervousness only inklings of being a pro.
Although the influences in the classically trained 26 year old’s “sing to the moon” are varied, the originality of the album is endearing to say the least. Her single “She” which I accidentally found while mindlessly ramaging through the plethora of YouTube videos became the beginning of the musical affair I have with Ms Mvula. Interestingly enough, the video for the song was shot right here in south Africa.
This is arguably how many people got to know Mvula but it is not surprising how she has catapulted into success in a relatively short space of time – she is that good.
The chart topping album features beautifully crafted songs that each arouse a distinct sense of nostalgia of a time when musicians were unapologetic in “sticking to their guns” and honouring the vision their music presented. Doing this without being subservient to execs (executives) from record labels or producers that do well in constricting the artists’ potential.
From the infectious radio friendly “Green Garden” , where the intro alone is reminiscent of NIna Simone’s classic “be my husband” with the rich in bass and rhythmic clapping of hands which in turn guarantees an impromptu dancing session for any listener.
Getting into the album one encounters gems like “Father Father” which is a song deeply rooted in despondency with Mvula playing simple yet captivating piano chords and nothing else throughout while repeatedly asking, seemingly begging at times “Father father why ‘ you let me go.. Father please… don’’t let me go, Father father why ‘ you let me go, Father please don’t let me go”. One quickly forgets that a few moments ago, they were listening to a song that reminded them of happy and joyful memories and are locked into a state of sadness (however brief it may be).
WIth a full band accompanying her, production on the album is stellar. This is prevalent in the album’s title track “Sing To The Moon”. The orchestral influence transports the listener into a deep avenue of themselves where Ms Mvula’s voice transcends over different emotions rendered by the song.
All in all Ms Mvula’s Debut album speaks to the discerning lister who was beginning to doubt whether or not this generation might produce artists that will remain in the playlists of the future music’s breed. Another remarkable aspect of Mvula’s music is that it is accessible to any and everyone who listens to it, unlike many jazz/retro-soul artists who appeal to certain type of audience, it is for this reason that the reign of Mvula will persist.
Take a listen to the rest of Laura Mvula’s Sing To The Moon album here : iTunes Preview