ARTIST INTERVIEW: Shingai
Will Andrews talks evolution and inspiration with the amazing Shingai
It has been over a decade since Noisettes frontwoman Shingai Shoniwa rose to fame, following the breakout success of singles such as 'Don’t Upset the Rhythm (Go Baby Go)' and 'Never Forget You'. Noisettes were once a staple of British chart music but now the British singer-songwriter’s new solo venture looks set for equal acclaim. Will Andrews caught up with her to discuss her new musical chapter, how she's enduring lockdown and the success of her debut EP, 2019's Ancient Futures.
Congratulations on the success of your first solo EP Ancient Futures. How are you finding the experience of being a solo artist? Have there been any new challenges?
Thank you, it means a lot. It has been really great, but it has not been easy because I haven't had the machine of Noisettes behind me and there's been a lot of rejection, a lot of doors that were previously open that now are like firmly shut behind me, but at the end of the day the world is evolving, it's a different place and there's a lot of ways to skin a cat. The people that are working with us now are just genuinely for the music and that really relate to my journey and feel like the public doesn't deserve to be drip fed music that's decided in tiny little boardrooms with dreaded quotas and pie charts. Most of the independent industry is very open and caring and understanding, so I know that the people I am working with now offer relationships that are a lot better. I feel safer.
This EP is a musical shift away from the style of Noisettes, fusing pop with Zimbabwean/South African beats. What made you decide to pursue this new sound?
It's important for me as an artist to evolve and to be able to be more fully myself. Referencing the South African rhythms and melodies that I grew up with isn't something new to me. In our first Noisette album the signals were different and there was also a song called "IWE", where I sang in the Shona language and I also wore makeup in an ethnic way in the video. Noisettes had the pleasure to play festivals in Zimbabwe, Malawi and South Africa where Dan (Smith) and I picked some inspirations along the way. He was a big part [of] helping me craft Ancient Futures and very supportive along the way.
We're living in unprecedented times, how are you finding lockdown and what have you been doing during it?
The lockdown has given me the opportunity to reconnect with family. My siblings and I are camped out in the family home and it has been a time of reflecting and has given us the time and space to create content together. We started a weekly stream called Grounded Live eight weeks ago to give us the platform to collaborate on music and share our other creative skills. The show is every Saturday at 6pm and includes everything from live music, dancing, short skits and conversation about how we're feeling. People can also tune into the stream, make comments and send requests. It's #fam. #livefromthefambase
Ancient Futures certainly has a strong sonic connection to Africa. How has African culture influenced you as an artist?
There is something about the vibrancy and the pulse of the African continent which really inspire the vibes of creating new sounds. A lot of the pop music that Dan and I enjoy finds its roots in Africa and it has been an honor to bring this to light as an international artist.
Songs like 'Coming Home' and 'Zimtron' radiate great energy and definitely encourage people to get dancing. Which of your songs is your favourite perform?
Probably 'Champion Style' because like 'Coming Home' and 'Zimtron' it gets people dancing and adds an attitude which allows people to come out of themselves. Vocally it has to be 'Zimtron' which is really fun to sing as I also have to play percussion which keeps me on my toes.
As someone who has experienced being signed to a major label and is now releasing music as an independent artist again, do you have any advice for young independent artists?
Don't give up hope. Keep believing in yourself and always remember that music lovers are always going to want to have great music and you might be told "we only need a certain amount of this kind of music, or that kind of music..." but go for it! Have a great team around you that encourages fairness in the business deals that you get, make sure you get looked after and look after yourself. Don't go too hard on yourself and enjoy the ride!
You recently released a great cover of Joan Armatrading's 'Love and Affection' - so what is your go-to karaoke song?
My go-to is a bit like my sense of humour... dad jokes all the way. When everyone is bowing out to Mariah Carey or Whitney's 'I Will Always Love You' you can find me dancing to 'Eye of the Tiger' with 110% air guitar, or rocking out on 'Living On A Prayer' by Bon Jovi.
Since the current theme of this series is lockdown inspiration, we want to know who inspires you - If you could invite five people for a dinner party, living or dead, who would you choose?
Bob Marley, Boudica, Nelson Mandela, Jeremy Corbyn, Whitney Houston. It will be a gathering of fearless pioneers who also posses compassion for others and a sense of humour given the huge lives they lead/led. There would definitely be creativity involved at some point during the party, and a certain amount of indulgences... a night to remember.
Finally, what more can we expect from Shingai in 2020?
Following where the EP left off and with a name which means to 'be brave/bold' in the Bantu language of Shona, 'War Drums' marks the first single from the release of my debut solo album Part One: Only The Brave, due on Monday 18th May, with the album dropping on the 24th June. The album is an embodiment of multi-faceted, multi-layered music with a dexterous nature. An annihilation of aural boundaries.
Many thanks to the incredible Shingai for a wonderfully provoking interview, and to our talented reviewer Will Andrews. Read SMPM's other amazing artist interviews here and start listening to Shingai right now with the link below...
Will Andrews is a 21 year old student at King’s College, London. He’s the most southern man to ever come out of Yorkshire and spends his time procrastinating listening to music rather than studying. Thanks for reading! Slow Motion Panic Masters is a music, arts and culture blog created and edited by Ben Wheadon, a literature student and musician based in South Wales.
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