Mwanjé’s journey so far has taken her from her roots in Botswana, to Australia and back. Along the way she has spent much of her time and energy invested in singing; as a youngster she would sing and dance in front of her family with her sister (Sampa The Great), creating their own music videos together. From there it was a natural progression to begin performing in choirs, which she did from the age of six. Later she joined Botswana’s National Youth Choir and she was exposed to formal classical training. Pivotal to these formative experiences was an after-school club called Global Emancipation, where Mwanjé and her high school contemporaries would get creative; rappers, singers, dancers and actors collaborating, sharing ideas and curating their own shows. Every step of the way, the expressive channel that music and singing provides has been essential to her creative output, anchored by her religious/spiritual upbringing.
Across all seven songs on her debut, she strikes the delicate balance between cryptic lyricism and transmitting crucial messages through her wordplay. ‘Call 2 The Diaspora’ opens the EP with a laid back, lounge atmosphere gently easing the listener in with a cool, mesmerising intro. Next up ‘Dandelions’ ups the ante, with a funky groove supporting Mwanjé’s angelic vocals, which are layered to add depth and emotive potency to the cut. ‘LAC’ splices a psychedelic rock guitar riff with hip hop beats and sumptuous vocals to cultivate a dreamy soundscape. ‘Let Me Go’ straddles the line between contemporary experimentalism and neo-soul, emphasising Mwanjé’s ability to shift into the alternative realm with ease. ‘The Divine’ plays out like a cosmic lullaby, with a catchy chorus and soothing instrumental that complements her high octave delivery perfectly. ‘Wildones’ features her sister Sampa The Great and encapsulates all that’s great about contemporary African music – impeccable quality, unique and forward-thinking. Lastly, ‘Overture’ channels the original energy of neo-soul, accompanied by spinetingling vocals that emanate positivity and optimism. ‘Wildones’ is accompanied by a video that captures the essence of the song impeccably, with an aesthetic that exudes mysticism, vibrancy and communal connectivity. “Wildones expresses the notion of seeking personal freedom. In a more abstract light, it expresses the fact that we are all branches of the same tree. The visuals were inspired by the duality of youth in action guided by a deep sense of wisdom and knowledge that’s almost otherworldly,” she says. Mwanjé’s creativity extends to her visuals, collaborating extensively and attentively with each director to achieve the results she desires; from the overall aesthetic to the editing process. Musically, collaboration is also intrinsic to the creative process, with Kuzich creating Wildones, Call 2 the Diaspora and Dandelions – a bond formed through their mutual love for cinematic soundscapes. Sampa, of course, a collaborator since childhood and NapKingCole, who allowed Mwanjé to express the breadth of her musical versatility.
At the core of her writing is honesty, the foundational element from which all of Mwanjé’s self-expression blossoms. She writes about topics that we can all identify with, the ubiquitous nature of being human; joy, pain, sorrow, grief, trauma, euphoria, celebration… which trace back to her love of psychology, investigating the way people think and deal with life’s rich tapestry of experience. The conflicted duality of her upbringing, Zambian but raised in Botswana, was difficult but lies at the core of her vivid imagination which was a portal for escape in those formative years. “Juggling those two worlds was very difficult for me growing up, not really belonging to any place. That’s where the escapism and the imagination came from, I had to create a space in my head and in my heart where I just belonged,” she says.
As a product of contemporary African society, Mwanjé stands proudly for progression, evolution, the power of technology and diversity while cultivating a legacy that demonstrates and encourages African independence and diversity. Her broad outlook and innate determination position her as a cultural ambassador for the motherland. “Growing up, I wanted to see more representations of myself – a young African woman. A very big goal of mine is to be that representation for other musicians within Africa,” she explains. A key aspect of this role is to showcase Africa’s broad range of creatives and its multitude of genres and styles, away from the one-dimensional view that limits the scope of the nation’s output; i.e. that African music is either afrobeats or amapiano. In terms of independence, it’s about shifting away from the dominant power structures to embolden the nation and increase ownership. “I want us to have more autonomy, and more power over what we do; how it sounds, what we’re saying, and for that to be accepted the way it is for what it is.”
Mwanjé’s distinct style and identity form part of her inspirational outlook, coupled with her connection to Botswana’s broad creative community and the global diaspora. Guided by her spirituality, assured by her heart and galvanised by her intellect, Mwanjé is a force for progress. Part of a wider movement that’s reframing the way in which the Motherland is viewed on a global level, elevating the continent and its vibrant culture, Mwanjé’s conscious contribution to music is still in its infancy but already displays the capability to assert truly longlasting positive change…