MANANA; Apple Music’s New Artist Spotlight

11th March 2021 BY Ivis Ngwenya

Hailing from Mbabane the Southern African mountains of Eswatini, Manana (Ndumiso Manana), the young and multi-talented singer, composer, producer emanates humility and kindness. His work suggests deep bravery, emotional maturity and honesty which makes him instantly relatable. Whether it’s behind a piano or microphone, he is able to express what the heart needs to hear; simply and honestly.

Manana is not just a formidable singer and poignant lyricist. He has writing credentials on some beloved South African and African tracks. Having written for and worked with Ami Faku on eBhayi, Amanda Black on Africa and Sauti Sol on Feel My Love, as well as worked with Seba Kappastad, Rowlene, and the upcoming Mila Smith,  Manana oozes a gentle and wise musicality in every one of his offerings and is poised to be a household name for his ever-growing songbook.  

Manana released his debut EP, In The Beginning, Was The End towards the back end of 2020. This EP reflects on the relationship with two emotive beings through sound. It captures the light and shade of growing and fading relationships, With his own marriage as his compass – it is a relatable love story narrated backwards. 

Where do you draw inspiration from as a song writer?

Uhmmmm I will say that the first point of entry of inspiration is probably my own relationship with my wife. The relationship and friendship that we have shared over the last few years. So obviously the music that I have been writing lately has had a lot to do with love and heartache and things generally to do with the heart, so that is probably the biggest inspiration rn. And historically just the kind of music that I have been associated with I grew up singing in a choir and then I studied jazz and contemporary music so yeah. 

How did you know that your wife was the one?

Ohhh that’s a good one. I guess  the friendship was important, so how we were able to be honest and trust eachother. And then also, I think the things that I was willing to sacrifice for the relationship as well I think were very very important. 

Who has been your favourite person to write for and why?

Probably Sauti Sol, I had the privilege of writing with them. I don’t if you’re aware of them but they are a band of 4 guys, 4 Kenyan guys. Before meeting them I was told by the guy that introduced us that they’re really looking for nice writers but obviously here they’re quite a big deal, not just for the music they’ve done but a lot of their writing as well is really nice. So I met them expecting to uno meet these celebrities who think very highly of themselves which I mean they should but not like you know what I mean. So I wasn’t sure what to expect but they are super nice and humble guys. Chilling and writing with them were probably one of the highlights of my career so far!

When did you first decide you wanted to take music full time?

To be honest, I joined a choir school when I was about 8 years old and from that point on I really never considered anything else. I might’ve considered being a soccer player at some point but never took that seriously. Once I finished my matric, I decided I was going to study music. I wasn’t sure what genre of music but I think from there at that age I was pretty serious about music. 

As an African man do you think there is a lot of stigma in the sense that you cannot show emotion?

Definitely, I was actually have a conversion with a friend of mine a few days back and we were discussing the difference between our generation and our fathers, so obviously our fathers struggled to be emotional. I know a lot of people have never had relationships where they’re like oh I love you dad – they struggle to express themselves verbally when it comes to emotion but I think uno in 2020 a lot of us are more aware of the importance to express yourself and the importance of being emotionally mature. I would love to teach my son, transparency, honesty and also just knowing that being emotional isn’t a weakness but it’s a strength. I think a lot of the times when people see others crying, they see it as a weakness but that’s not the case. A lot of the time I feel like the media has portrayed masculinity and strength as never crying when in fact emotional maturity is ab attribute that we all should try and have. 

Why the name the beginning was the end?

The EP is a love story but it starts with heartbreak and ends with this love tune ballad called all life sees. So when I was listening with my co-writers and the producers on the project we kind of started this story and this journey where we thought to ourselves maybe this is a story and a journey about love told in reverse, hence the name – in the beginning was the end. 

Which song in the ep holds the most significance in your life?

There’s a song called, if you hear this, now I need to go and that one probably just because it was a time when I was travelling, thinking, writing music and whatever and this like (the title) came up just because I was missing her and I was like actually being in one place with the person you care about is probably one of the dopest things you could ever have. 

What do you want people to feel whilst listening to the ep?

I’m hoping this project is relatable to obviously people in my generation. It’s starting with heartache, then ending with this intense love. I want the taste left to be this one of joy and you know what I mean? 

Who is your favourite African artist atm?

At the moment ooooo okay. Uhmm there’s a long list  but my top 5 would go temz, Sauti sou, yanga chief, burns boy and tkzee 

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I see myself doing what I’m doing right now- so more writing, more music, more performing. I would love to have worked with a lot of artists throughout the continent and In The U.K. 

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