Manu WorldStar; The modern African Sound

23rd July 2020 BY Ivis Ngwenya

Manu World Star is more than just your average South African born Congolese artist, he is a man on his way to global stardom with his modern sounds of afro-fusion – he represents the entire continent in his music. Every type of African influence you can think of, he covers it – his recent project MOLIMO is an eclectic modern African sound of East, West, Central and Southern African music and voices.

We’ve had a taste of what’s to come on his debut album MOLIMO with lead single choko – a song about believing in what you want in life and going after it so from the looks of it, this is going to be a pretty inspiring and motivating album!

“I want CHOKO to feed everyone’s souls just like how it fed mine,” expresses the Johannesburg born, South African artist of Congolese descent, Manu WorldStar.

The title of your debut album molimo is in Lingala, so will some of your songs have Lingala dialect?

Most definitely, you can expect some songs in Lingala – I’m only just learning to use it now in my music, so it’s not as much as I would like it to be included in the future but for now, it’s a start. I have like two or three records in the album where I’m speaking Lingala, where I am trying to embrace where I’m from.

What does Molimo mean to you?

The album is a reflection of the deepest thoughts and desires of my soul, that’s why I named it Molimo – it means my spirit in Lingala. I am so honest and real on these records, I feel like once you listen to it, you’ll know me a lot better. It took me two years to make this album and it was the best two years of my life.

What made you release African story last year, in between writing Molimo?

I just wanted to give people some music and to let them know that I am still here, I’m just working. I put out that EP with the intention to let people know that I am working on something big that is going to come out soon, so hold this for now. I felt like those records were a nice bitesize piece of what my sound is right now. It obviously has developed in these past few months from when I released the EP to now.

How would you say the vibe to young African story is different from the vibe we’re going to receive in Molimo?

I think you can expect more distinct sounds in the production and more honesty in my contents – you’re going to learn a lot more about me. There is also a lot of fusion – I like to think of my music as afro-fusion because you hear a mix of northern, eastern, southern and western African sounds.

How did you choose who would feature on each song? 8/12 of the songs include Collabs.

After I had all these songs and when it came to choosing which to put on the album, that’s when I realised that I had so many features – when I was making the music, it didn’t feel like it. I realised that the features I had were very strong, I could have easily put the records that I had on my own on there and literally just had 3 features but I wanted to do something different, I don’t think people expected for my debut album to be this collaborative – it wasn’t really a goal of mine, it just happened. I feel like a lot of people vibe with my sound and my music which allowed me to be in these different spaces and make the type of music that I make and I didn’t want to hold it, I’d rather hold the songs that I have on my own and give up those first because it’s an amazing body of work that best describes where I’m at in life at this moment in time.

What was going on in your life when you wrote Choko and what do you want people to take from the song?

Basically, the morning I recorded that song, I woke up and I prayed to God for blessings – this is the legit truth. I felt that I was stagnant in my life, I wasn’t really moving anywhere, I’d dropped the hit single nalingi and I was tired of where I was so I wanted God to give me a blessing, not say monetary but a fresh intake on life and I went to the studio that same night, I heard a beat and that exact same prayer that I said that morning I used as the chorus, then it became this whole song. When we heard it we were blown away, like wow, this might be the one. So that’s why we decided to put it out first.

In what ways would you say your debut single Nalingi changed your life?

It really did change my life, it’s my first gold single, so it didn’t just change my life financially but in a way that I can just get into these rooms and have so many features, I am writing for a lot more artists now (because I am also in the songwriting space), I have performed in places that I never thought I would perform in. It changed my life drastically. I no longer call my self an upcoming artist because I am an artist right now – nalingi did that, it changed Manu WorldStar from an upcoming artist to an artist right now. It did a lot for me and I think this album will do even more for me.

How long have you been doing music for?

I started singing at the age of 10 and I made my first song when I was 14 years old – I’m 25 right now, so for the last 15 years but officially you can say 9. My first song ironically was about a girl too, it was called “you’re in my head.” I had a crush on this girl and I didn’t know how to tell her cause I was still a bit shy and everything so I wrote her a song and I played it to her. It was pretty sweet and everything and she still didn’t give me a shot, can you believe that? But it burned this fire in me, I’m here right now at 25 years old, making music, making money from doing what I love and living my truth.

How would you say you incorporate both Congolese and SA culture in your music?

Definitely, there’s both cultures in my music and you’re going to hear it in my album. I don’t just sing in Lingala, I also try and sing in the South African language that we call Tswana and Sotho. When I tell you this is a blend, it’s a real blend of African music and I’m just so excited because I’m not just going to be representing a certain place in Africa but the whole continent. Even when I dropped nalingi people didn’t know where I was from, they knew I was African but not where I was from, I like that about me – I want to represent everyone because that’s also how I grew up – I grew up around so many cultures and it shows in my music.

You went from creating RnB to heavy Hip-pop to afrofusion? Walk us through that.

My first love in terms of music was hip-pop, I grew up with a lot of traditional music – a lot of African gospel because of obviously my parent who were pastors and my surroundings in general so I really only started getting into urban and “circular” music when I was like 13/14 and my first introduction to that type of music was through my cousins – they loved hip-hop. I grew up wanted to be like my cousins and they grew up wanting to be like the hip=pop artist we saw on MTV, at that point I was already singing but I felt like hip-hop was the genre that made you cool and stuff so I started learning how to rap and that was the main focus of where I was going for about 2/3 years. I did a couple of rap competitions in the country that are known, that’s kind of how I made a name for myself in this industry. Then one day I was in the studio and I heard a beat, the nalingi beat. That day I was meant to be recording a rap song but I told the engineer lets slow down with the rap song and work on nalingi – we deleted the rap song, we were like “this is not what we’re meant to do.” Then we dropped nalingi and the world loved it. I have always wanted to be a global artist, I feel like I have that global appeal and when I realised that’s what the world paid attention to me for then that’s what I’m meant to be doing. I feel like it’s perfect because that’s the way that I first started making music.

What is your favourite song from the album, can you tell us what it’s about?

That’s a tough question, I don’t know if I have a favourite song on the album, but I would say, my intro – celebrate. That song is pretty deep, I won’t reveal how or why but that song is pretty deep and I feel like that one has the most meaning to me because I am very honest in what I talk about, I’m basically addressing my mother in the song. That’s a very special one for me. However, in terms of favourite, I honestly cannot pick because I feel like I wake up every day and have a different track on repeat.

What is the future for Manu World star?

I see myself as the front runner, I see myself as an African ambassador in the next 5- 10 years, I see myself; repping the continent on a global scale. If Africa had a Mount Rushmore, I’d want to be on it in the next 10 years because Africa is a beautiful place and I feel like everybody should know! Like I’m sitting outside my yard right now looking at the horizon and its crazy beautiful outside.

Africa is going to be at the top in the next 10 years, we have only just started! All eyes are on us.

Listen to choko here;

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