Neo Muyanga has established himself as one of South Africa´s most singular and deeply impressive musical talents through the duo Blk Sonshine and his highly successful solo work. His music has been alluded to as a blend of electronica and hip-hop, urban and ethereal, street and ambience. Muyanga creates sonic layering using his own voice and musical instruments, ranging from the guitar and the piano to Greek and African instruments. Life, love, travel and dreams inspire his multilingual lyrics.
Over several years, and mostly through the extraordinary duo, Blk Sonshine, Neo Muyanga has established himself as one of South Africa´s most singular and deeply impressive musical talents (BMG Music South Africa). The sound is eclectic, described as Afro-folk with “a little bit of hip-hop, little bit of soul, a pinch of jazz and a sprinkling of R&B” (http://entertainment.iafrica.com/music/archives/240326.htm). Muyanga comments: “I can’t really define my music by boxing it…the idea is to move in and out of different emotions…” (www.suntimes.co.za/2003/05/04/arts). For Muyanga “songs have a personality…\they come to me when I am having a conversation with a friend, or walking around town watching people…some of my songs come to me because of a particular experience of my life" (www.suntimes.co.za/2003/05/04/arts).
His inspirational sources are closely linked to life in Cape Town, his adopted home: "A year ago (2002) I took the decision to move down to Cape Town," he says. "Don´t get me wrong - Jo´burg is great. My family is here but I also know so many people here and the business side of being a musician ended up consuming me - I felt like I was always in the car going to sessions and that there was very little time left to do any writing and recording. Every time I went to Cape Town I always felt very inspired to write - and it´s the cheesy cliché. It is so beautiful and it has really given me the space to expand creatively. Ultimately it has benefited the songwriter and the artist in me. I´ve been able to focus on creating new songs which is what I love." (www.music.org.za/artists).
His debut solo album The Listening Room (2003) has received great critical acclaim: “a delightful mix of genres and styles that you will want to hear over and over again…A recurring motif in the album was Muyanga’s use of humming sounds and vibrating, whirring percussion. An unusual combination, part desert soundscape, part whispering lullaby…” (www.iafrica.com/music/archives The Listening Room). Muyanga adds: "The songs are all filled with different emotions - almost like going into a different room each time and having a different experience. It also came because I was doing research at the University of Cape Town to music that the Muyanga tribe made in Mozambique and that required quite literally going into ‘listening rooms´ on campus."
Under the auspice of a Creative Collaborations in Music Award (2004) Muyanga collaborated with Simon Deacon, a musical conductor and arranger, to create the Sweet Metal choir made up of members of the artistic community of Northwest England and the local community of Kensington, Liverpool. The choir created a platform for a shared creative journey and in the process developed strong relationships and new forms of mentoring within the wider communities. The choir had the participation of around 30 individuals representing many disciplines in the arts world and from a diverse age range. Performances of work took place at Saint Cyprians with Christ Church in February 2005. The project had an educational dimension involving students from Broadgreen High School exploring the music developed for Sweet Metal. Muyanga summarises the experience: “working on \the Sweet Metal project was a wonderful experience that taught me a great deal about the power singing has to bring people together in a supportive and non-threatening way. I saw once again how singing is a great purveyor of knowledge about culture and history, and how it is a great teacher of discipline and compassion. The songs I created for the Sweet Metal project were mainly about hope – how people who have been depressed and constrained by political and economic marginalisation can once again revive within themselves the strength to change their lot” (Neo Muyanga, correspondence to Visiting Arts, December 2005).
Author: Ana Sanchez-Colberg
Born in 1970, Neo Muyanga is a songwriter and performer based in Cape Town, South Africa. He has two albums out in South Africa under the titles, ´Listening Room´ and ´Blk Sonshine´. Muyanga mainly tours in South Africa and Western Europe, where he performs either solo, with a small band, or as the duo act, Blk Sonshine.
The Listening Room (mudra no. 28)
Neo Muyanga´s debut solo album, ´The Listening Room,´ is described by iafrica.com as: "a happy album, the kind to play while you stick sunflowers in your hair. There´s a little bit of hip-hop, a little big of soul, a pinch of jazz and a sprinkling of R&B."
Masauko Chipembere and Neo Muyanga are the duo that comprise Blk Sonshine and they have combined their guitar-playing skills, songwriting talents, sweet voices and eclectic influences (Malawian/American and Botswanan/South African) to produce the most entertaining and evocative, jazz, rock, folk, reggae, kwaito and kwela South African musical fruit salad for ages. (South African Rock Digest 2000)