“My music is about making the culture cool again,” South African singer-songwriter Mlindo The Vocalist tells Apple Music. “It’s a message to the younger generation that there’s nothing to be ashamed of in holding on to your beliefs.” His 2018 debut Emakhaya blends the traditional and modern in equal parts. From the thumping 808s on “Cold Summer” to the maskandi-inspired guitar licks on “Wamuhle”, Mlindo is an interlocutor between the world we’ve left behind and the one we’re ambling towards. Now based in Johannesburg, the Port Shepstone-raised artist is at pains to archive the memories of his rural upbringing on Emakhaya. Here, Mlindo takes us through the album, track by track. “Ancestors” “With this song, I was paying homage to my ancestors. It’s because I feel there’s some sort of disconnect between this generation and their cultural beliefs. I was trying to tell the youngins that there’s nothing to be ashamed of; they need to embrace their ancestral beliefs.” “Emakhaya” “I wrote ‘Emakhaya’ after moving to Johannesburg a few years ago. When I moved here, I’d meet people who tell me the different kasis they were from, and it always sounded so cool. Someone would say ‘I’m from Soweto’ and people immediately know where that is. I also wanted to put home on the map. The song is about going home, going back to your loved ones after a long time of being here in Joburg.” “AmaBlesser” (feat. DJ Maphorisa) “The funny thing about ‘AmaBlesser’ is that it’s based on a true story. It was a high school love type of thing, and when things didn’t work I felt like it was the end of the world. So the song is based on that. Years later, I was posting covers on the internet with my brother. Maphorisa saw one of those and reached out. I sent him the a cappella [version] of the song and he flew me out to work on it.” “Egoli” (feat. Sjava) “When I moved to Johannesburg, I’d always pray that this music thing [would] work out because I wanted to make sure I changed the situation at home. I grew up emakhaya, never having had a room of my own. So on this song, I’m basically telling my mom that if the music thing works out, the first thing I’m going to do is build a house for my mom.” “Usbahle” “It’s a kasi story; a cautionary tale. I’m talking about young women who live that blesser lifestyle and don’t want to entertain guys from ekasi, because they think they’re better than them. I was saying, ‘If you’re a woman that walks that path—clubbing and having men pay for nights out—things almost always turn out badly.’” “Cold Summer” (feat. Vyno Miller) “‘Cold Summer’ is one of those records where I wanted to challenge myself. Even though I make the kind of music I do, I listen to different types of music. We were vibing in the studio with Vyno Miller on the day we made this song and I thought, ‘Maybe let me just trap for once and see how it goes.’” “Lay’ndlini” “This is a song about baby mama drama. It’s that unfortunate situation where you’re supporting the kid, doing the best to raise them, and the mother is just doing her own thing. I was putting myself in the shoes of someone who might be going through that. It’s a difficult situation to be in: You’re taking care of your kid, but because you’re no longer with the mother, she frustrates you.” “Wamuhle” (feat. Shwi Nomtekhala) “That’s not a sample you hear on the song. We made the beat from scratch. It’s inspired by ‘Ngafa’ from [South African ensemble] Shwi Nomtekhala. My producer was working on the beat and I knew I wanted to have them featured on the song. I asked Maphorisa if he could get them into the studio with us and he made it happen. I was super excited about that. They helped me with the remaking of the song, but the feel and the message was still the same.” “Imoto” “‘Imoto’ is about how fame changes the people around you. As soon as I became successful, some people started talking negatively about me. You know the saying ‘Dogs only bark at a car that is moving’? This song is about those that might be trying to bring me down because of my success.” “Usukulude” “On that song I was discussing that situation where you’re a hard-working man of the house and you feel like you’re not being appreciated. I was talking about the domestic drama when there’s always fights, and you’re trying [to do] the best you can for your kids. It’s an homage to underappreciated breadwinners.” “Nge Thanda Wena” (feat. Sha Sha) “We made that song with Sha Sha in 2018. We were both living in Maphorisa’s house, so we were almost like siblings. One day she came into the studio singing the chorus to ‘Nge Thanda Wena’ and I just loved the vibe, so we started working on the song. It’s a love song about finding your soulmate.” “Mosadi” (feat. Vyno Miller) “We recorded ‘Mosadi’ during the same week as ‘Cold Summer’. Vyno wrote the chorus and I thought it was amazing. Funny enough, I couldn’t understand what he was saying at the time, but I loved the melody. So, after a few lessons of translation, he told me what his chorus is actually about. So I took that and started working on my verses.” “Macala” (feat. Sfeesoh, Kwesta & Thabsie) “I made this song with Sfeesoh originally. The song made a whole lot of noise for us on the internet. The song is about being lit on both sides.” “AmaBlesser (Remix)” (feat. Rayvanny) “After the success of the original, Maphorisa thought it would be a good idea to add Rayvanny onto the song. He assisted in getting him onto the remix.” “Macala (Radio Version)” (feat. Sfeesoh, Kwesta & Thabsie) “When we made the original, Maphorisa asked me who I’d like to feature on the song. I’ve always wanted to work with grootman Kwesta, so I asked Phori, and he connected me with Kwesta. On the day we were in the studio, Kwesta was working with Thabsie, and that’s how she also featured on the song.”

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