Angelic Sounds – Review of Msaki’s ‘Zanelisa: How the Water Moves’

I recently made an unexpected realisation that listening to music in a dark room with nothing but sound breaking the deafening silence of that very darkness; may be one of the most spiritually-uplifting experiences. It sounds creepy, I know! But that’s exactly what happens when you pair the right music with the right moment, under the right circumstances.

Asanda Msaki Mvana Album Review
Asanda ‘Msaki’ Mvana – Image sourced from Facebook/MsakiMvana

The sound that ushered me into what I can only describe as a melodic trance, came courtesy of Eastern-Cape born artist, Asanda ‘Msaki’ Mvana whose latest offering completely blew me away. I’m saying it now; we can expect nothing but great things from this artist. So, jot down this name because this is only but the beginning of a great journey for Msaki.

Msaki Zanelisa Album Cover
Zanelisa: How the Water Moves Album Cover Art – Image sourced from emusic.com

This twelve-track offering, titled Zanelisa: How the Water Moves, is independently produced by Msaki, who hails from the Eastern Cape town of East London. Music so stunningly created, it makes the adjective ‘wonderful’ and all related synonyms feel like utter understatements to capture Msaki’s voice and lyrical prowess. Not always boxed within one genre as one listens from one song to the next, this album is a clear indication of a shaping of a new sound carved by this emerging South African musician. A sound that delicately incorporates contemporary South African jazz, some afro-soul, blues, and a hint of classical influences hard to miss, and very easy to appreciate. From the tracklist below, I have decided to specifically highlight three of my absolute favourites.

  1. Dreams
  2. Gibel’ Inkwenkwezi ft Umle
  3. limfama Ziyabona
  4. Chasing Sons
  5. Weight … For the war
  6. Liwa Lentliziyo
  7. Golden – 2nd Movement
  8. Smiling at the Moon tripping over bass drums ft Umle
  9. Dear Youth
  10. Nal’ithemba – (Harboring Hope)
  11. Ulwandle Lutshile
  12. Selah

Weight (For the War)

If you’re a fan of unexpected twists, this song is the perfect choice to give you that brief thrill while strongly capturing your emotions. The piece showers you with layer after layer of sound that paints such a captivating mental image, it always leaves me feeling like an audience of one in an intimate theatre setting wherein a story about love, loss and war is being artistically narrated to me through sound. Msaki’s elegant code switching between English and her mother tongue, isiXhosa, gives the song an artistic edge worth mentioning. It is, however, the purity and sincerity in her voice and the depth of the lyrical content that makes this song nothing short of a masterpiece. An uncontested favourite of mine!

Imfama Ziyabona
This track has such a feel-good element to it, one can’t help but snap and tap to the rhythm. A solid bassline infused with lovely guitar strings had me silently moving throughout the entire 3 minutes and 30 seconds of the song.

Expressing her love to someone, I would imagine that this track will resonate with happily involved individuals, as well as singletons such as myself because it celebrates love in its most honest form. It is probably worth mentioning that the song features a few repeated bars of humming which, for some reason, make me love the track all the more.

Liwa Lentliziyo

I was initially introduced to this track through an acoustic live performance of the song on YouTube, and was instantly captivated by the stripped and simplistic essence of the piece. This song is one of many on the album that I’ve decided to label a ‘lyrical show-off’ (the track ‘Dreams’ tops the list) where Msaki pulls my heartstrings when she launches into a high-pitched voice while delivering the last verse before the hook – absolutely stunning!

Like with any music, this album may not resonate with everyone but it offers some of the best vocal performances I’ve heard in a while. Often compared to the likes of Tracey Chapman and Joan Amatrading, Msaki’s music is soul-nurturing and demands one’s full emotional engagement – something I often look out for in music. Described by its producers as, “an album about loss, hope and the wave-like rhythms in between those two states of being,” this album is a definite must-have, and would make for an awesome gift this Easter season.

Have you listened to some of the tracks on the album? Share your favourites and tell us why; we’d love to know!

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