Umlilo explores grief in her avant-garde debut album ‘Mpumi’
Future Kwaai Records, an avant-garde label founded by South African artist Umlilo, is proud to unveil Umlilo aka Kwaai Diva’s long-anticipated debut album ‘Mpumi’. The 12-track LP is a collaboration with Berlin-based electronic music producer Akrobat (Tobias Purfurst). ‘Mpumi’ is named after Umlilo’s late mother and explores the stages of grief over futuristic electro beats with songs written in English, Xhosa, and Zulu.
“In 2019, I lost my mother and uncle within the same month and it shook my entire existence. Grief has become a huge part of my story as a black trans woman living in South Africa. It seems that every year, we are mourning the death of our loved ones whether caused by hate crimes or other circumstances. This album was my way of trying to find meaning and healing in these traumatic events that have had a huge impact on my life,” says Umlilo.
Listen to Mpumi here.
Watch/Embed Hamba visualiser here.
Recorded and written all over the world including USA, Germany, and South Africa, Umlilo began processing the trauma of grief by creating music with Akrobat and Jumping Backslash. The songs outline the seven stages of grief including shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, reconstruction, and acceptance in a thought-provoking and deeply personal manner.
The intergalactic musician explored songs in her home languages and mixed Zulu and Xhosa with English to create one of the most unique and genre-defying albums to come out of South Africa to date. The album combines elements of afro-soul, hip-hop, darkwave, techno, electronica, traditional songwriting, and cinematic soundscapes that push the boundaries of contemporary music.
“It took me a very long time to accept that both my parents were no longer here and that I have a responsibility to not only live authentically but also to reflect the suffering in our lives and represent my queer and trans community, which is often erased, abused, underrated, under-appreciated and extremely overlooked,” says Umlilo.
The album's lead singles, 'Qhakuva and ‘Bhuti’ produced by Jumping Backslash', have already garnered critical acclaim, with pulsating beats and haunting vocals. Qhakuva produced by Jumping Backslash is a Xhosa tongue-twister released with a dystopian Augmented Reality music video collaboration with renowned visual artist Francios Knoetze. It was featured as part of the Goethe Institute’s Archive of Forgetfulness exhibition and coffee table book of the same name. The second single Bhuti, also produced by Jumping Backslash, was released as Africa’s first queer Virtual Reality 3D Animation music video, which went on to be nominated for a Fakugezi Award in 2022. These tracks are great examples of what to expect from ‘Mpumi’ and a testament to Umlilo’s talent and innovation.
Umlilo has since launched her own fashion label Kwaai Boutique, performed a collaborative show at Boiler Room Soweto, and launched the ‘Mpumi’ album at the Legrand Queer Art Experience, which she has co-founded with The Fam, Brainbow Creatives, and Llewellyn Mnguni.
'Mpumi' is a journey through loss, love, destruction, and rebirth. It takes listeners on an epic sonic adventure, exploring the depths of human emotions and the process of healing. Each track is a reflection of a different stage of grief, and together they form a powerful narrative that speaks to the human experience.
The album's production by Akrobat is impeccable, with each track crafted to perfection in a captivating and immersive way. It's an album that demands to be listened to in its entirety, as each track flows seamlessly into the next.
Umlilo's vision for 'Mpumi' was to create a piece of art that was not only entertaining but also thought-provoking. The album's themes of loss and rebirth are universal, and Umlilo hopes that her music will resonate with listeners around the world.
“Mpumi pays homage to my mother, to her strength, courage, love, and resilience. It is a project that is personal, political, vulnerable, and gutsy. Akrobat and I really pushed ourselves to the edges of music-making and it feels cathartic to be able to share this experience with the world,” says Umlilo.
'Mpumi' will be available on all major streaming platforms. Please find the links here.
For more information on Umlilo and 'Mpumi', please contact:
Name: Umlilo Ngcobo
Get in touch with Umlilo (Kwaai Diva): Link tree