To the World & Beyond

Sun-El Musician

To the World & Beyond

On his second album To the World and Beyond, Sun-El Musician crafts a genre-straddling, 31-track offering that fuses the traditional and futuristic into electronic sounds with cosmic aesthetics. “This album is a continuation of my debut album Africa to the World and is focused on telling a story of healing and hope through dance music,” he tells Apple Music. With 26 collaborators spread across the double-disc album, Sun-El crafts sounds that relay the stories of his featured guests, including Sauti Sol, Niniola, Zolani Mahola, Omi Kobi, Bongeziwe Mabandla, Julia Church, Mannywellz and more.
“I want to help the storytellers tell their stories,” Sun-El says. “South Africa is so rich and is truly a rainbow nation—we all come from different spaces and all have our own stories to tell. Music is the point where we all meet and I feel like I’m a representation of that. I’ve always wanted people to tell their stories through what I design in terms of sound. With my first album I really just wanted to show that I’m a South African man, and on this one, because I love history and love doing a lot of research in terms of culture and music, I’m trying to show that I’m trying to take this to the world now. I’m slowly being embraced by the rest of the continent, and now it’s time to take all the stories from the rest of the continent and spread them to the rest of the world.”
Below, Sun-El Musician offers an overview of the album before we hear about a selection of some of the stories within these songs.
Sun-El Musician on To the World and Beyond “The first disc is basically continuing the sound of my first album, soulful and downtempo; and disc two is where I’m trying to be experimental, still on a dance tip but more uptempo and looking for sounds. I was introduced to electronic music by my big sister when she got kwaito cassettes at the time. That’s when it really began for me, because I could hear a lot of elements like the bass, and vocals with reverb and compressors. It was more technical and that’s why I consider kwaito as the first phase of electronic music in South Africa. The first album was telling South African stories to Africans; now we are taking all our stories to the world. This album is a fusion of so many things I grew up listening to as a kid—American soul, Zulu folk, gospel, electronic house music—and taking stuff from different pockets of the continent. It’s always based on feeling and it’s about writing the second chapter now, where we tell our own stories as Africans.”
Sun-El Musician on “Mngani Wami” “One song that’s dear to me is ‘Mngani Wami’. I’m a huge fan of Laliboi, he’s a conscious Xhosa rapper, and this song is so educational. It’s speaking for the kids on the street and he’s trying to be a voice for them. I love that because it’s such an ignored part of the community. It stands out for me because whenever I feel I’m all over the show, I listen to it and it takes me back to where I need to be.”
Julia Church on “Garden” “‘Garden’ is about wanting to protect a loved one who is struggling with mental health and loss. In this case, wanting to plant them a garden—a space where they can breathe and be surrounded by new life. It was inspired by my gran who always had the most beautiful garden. After my grandad died, she would spend all her time working on it and I think it became like therapy to her.”
Sauti Sol on “Fire” “‘Fire’ is a song that has been in our archives for long. Having attempted to record it several times, we never seemed to break through [to] the sound we were looking for—up until we met Sun-El. He brought the song to life and gave a great twist to it that we wouldn’t have done by ourselves. It was a great honour working with him.”
Diamond Thug on “Time Wasted” “The melody and lyrics were evoked by the joyful groove Sun-El had laid down, which gave life to imagining racing across the world to go dancing for hours with someone you love.”
Bongeziwe Mabandla on “Superhero” “This is a really special song. It was written during a period of deep introspection, when I was trying to deal with a lot of childhood trauma. The song came out as an affirmation about finding that inner strength—about discovering the resilient, powerful and can’t-be-defeated side of oneself. It’s about falling and then standing up; about being tainted by dust but making it back up again. I want to write more songs that are uplifting and that consciously evoke pride and a sense of empowerment.”
Zolani Mahola on “Call Me” “I love working with people of whom I am a fan. Sun-El is one of my favourite producers. His touch is unique and so recognisable and this track, ‘Call Me’, is the first of a few collaborations we are going to be hitting the world with in the coming months. Dope track, good feeling…one love!”
Niniola on “Opelenge” “I love this song so much and it means a lot to me. ‘Opelenge’ is a Yoruba word and it is used to describe someone who is extremely slim, someone who’s very thin. That was my nickname as a child ‘cause I was very, very slim as a child. It means a slim person—an opelenge—falls on breakable wares or plates and they stay intact, but if that same person falls on a mortar [shell] it breaks. It’s basically saying that you have superpowers and that nothing is impossible for you. So in this song, I’m saying regardless of what I’m going through, I’m going to overcome it.”
Msaki on “Chasing Summer” “I didn’t write this song—it was just a jam. In fact, we were relaxing after having finished shooting the ‘Ubomi Abumanga’ video in a beautiful lodge just outside of Joburg. Sun-El was DJing some un-Shazam-ables from his collection of unreleased tracks. This one came on and I didn’t even notice myself singing. When I opened my eyes, I realised he was recording everything! I laughed and ran away to chill outside with the others but by then some semblance of the song was already captured. A few days later I swung by his studio and recorded a few takes to build on that original idea. It’s just a fun song about taking it easy in the summer.”
Ami Faku on “Mandinaye” “‘Mandinaye’ speaks about a love that I have for someone. It’s like, when you love someone and just appreciate everything about them and their existence in your life. In the verse I explain the love I had for them at first sight and how they make me feel…how I’m not ashamed of my feelings for them. Their existence brings me joy, my heart is on my sleeve and there aren’t any egos involved. I’m in it for what it is and I’m just expressing the true nature of my love for them.”
Simmy & Sino Msolo on “Kwalula” Simmy: “Till this day I’m not even sure if I was supposed to be part of ‘Kwalula’. Sun-El sent me a voice note of a composition that he had been working on…it was so beautiful and I immediately recorded a hook idea, sent it back to him and he thought it worked. The following day we got into the studio and completed the song with Sino. It’s basically a song describing how easy it is to love someone.”
Sino: “One time, Sun-El calls me to the studio to check if we can come up with something. When I got to the studio, Simmy was there, too, so Sun-El played some beats that he had already made. He played this beat and the first thing that came into my mind was old-school Mafikizolo vibes. He kept on playing it and we all liked it and decided that it’s gonna be a kind of wedding song. If I remember correctly, Simmy had already recorded a chorus on her phone. That was actually the most fun studio session and [we] had so much laughter, ’cause I kept on singing Simmy’s chorus as if it were amapiano. We just jammed until some lyrics fell into place. I did my verse then came up with a pre-chorus, then Simmy did her verse and that was it.”

Disc 1

1
8
9
10
11
12
13
15
16

Disc 2

3
4
6
7
8
9
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13