After years pursuing a more traditional western R&B sound, emerging South African singer, songwriter, and musician THANDO SKWATSHA found himself at a crossroads between authenticity and aspiration, having aspired for so long to emulate his musical heroes such as Ne-Yo, Brandy, and Beyoncé, while also being immersed in the homegrown sounds of Ringo Madlingozi and Vusi Nova. For his beautiful debut album titled IIMINI NENTSUKU, as featured in Earmilk, Thando Skwatsha had to make a choice, and he chose home – with every song on the album written in his home languages isiXhosa and isiZulu.
To be released on November 18 via emPawa Africa, iimini nentsuku was written by Thando Skwatsha, produced by Milan Rendall, mixed by award-winning producer Keron Sheriff Thomspon (Major Lazer, Wyclef Jean), and mastered by Christian Wright (Ed Sheeran, Radiohead, Laura Marling) at the renowned Abbey Road Studios. The 12-track album is driven by Thando’s captivating voice, impassioned songwriting, and authentic sound, which are served on a musical plate of lush afrosoul and afropop soundscapes, with house, afrobeats, and electronic music sensibilities.
The album opens with the soulful lead single ‘isaziso’, which sees Thando Skwatsha reflecting on how his transition from childhood to adulthood has changed the relationship with his parents, and ‘ibali’ about an unrequited love that was not allowed to exist for cultural reasons. The album continues in this theme of past love with the glorious ballad ‘thandolwami’, before ‘andazi’ sees the South African native waxing lyrical about finding his own way in life – a theme that Thando explores further into the album on ‘all night’, where he sings about hope and believing in oneself.
Songs like ‘ngyazfela’, ‘mina nawe’, ‘umuntu’ and ‘khumbula’ continue Thando’s exploration of love and relationships on iimini nentsuku, with ‘ngyazfela’ unpacking how jealousy can lead to heartbreak, and ‘mina nawe’ revealing the power in walking away from a relationship that is not working, while ‘umuntu’ and ‘khumbula’ sees Thando reflecting and reminiscing over missing his lover. That strong theme of hope continues into ‘iskhalo sabantwana’, where Thando extols the good that can still be found in the world, and calls on the listener to lean more into the good of the world.
All in all, Thando Skwatsha has created a resounding work of art – both sonically and lyrically – with his new album iimini nentsuku, which not only makes for a glorious listening experience from start to finish with its heartfelt delivery, exceptional musicianship, and soulful soundscapes, but also shows that authenticity in music is a thing to be embraced with both hands. With this record, as he explores his own heritage and family, while opening up his heart, and manifesting his hopes for the future, Thando wants to bring joy, light, and hope to the listener in this chapter of their life.
Speaking about the inspiration behind his iimini nentsuku album and how the record came together, Thando Skwatsha says, “‘iimini nentsuku’ (which means days and nights) is the first full project that I have written entirely myself. It is close to my heart because every song is written in my home language of isiXhosa as well as isiZulu. The recurring theme in the album is past love. However, themes of hope can be heard throughout the album, including on songs like ‘iskhalo sabantwana’ and ‘all night’, while key stories from events in my life can also be found across this album.
In these songs, I openly discuss my childhood, my hopes and dreams, and my relationships, among other themes. I wrote this album with the intention that people would be left feeling hopeful, that it will leave them having experienced something new and different from what they may have heard from me previously. Writing in vernacular has allowed me to dive deeper into who I am and allows people to relate to me more closely. I hope to leave people hopeful and inspired”.
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