Essentials: Manana delivers deeply resonant R&B-fusion on ‘But could the moments in between’
Essentials: Manana delivers deeply resonant R&B-fusion on ‘But could the moments in between’

Essentials: Manana delivers deeply resonant R&B-fusion on ‘But could the moments in between’

Dissects running out of love within the concept of self-acceptance

Ndumiso Manana is not your ordinary contemporary artist. The eSwatini-born singer, producer and Grammy award-winning songwriter can only be described with lush melodies and jazzy backdrops of R&B. Diving into the scene with sanguine indie singles such as “You don’t,” his new age R&B exudes emotional maturity and honesty. Born in Johannesburg, Manana was always attracted to music and his surrounding allowed him to hone his ability to compose, produce and perform.

Manana fully introduced his fully-formed artistry with the late 2020 debut EP, ‘In The Beginning Was The End’. Complemented by stirring instrumentation, the EP channelled Manana’s understanding of romance through a resonant narrative, portraying a love story in reverse order. The project was well-received, and it served as a remarkable jumpoff point for his solo career, as Apple Music subsequently scouted him for their Artist’s Spotlight series, and the EP was nominated for Best Produced Music Album at the South African Music Awards in 2021.

After months of buildup, the polymath has released his second EP, ‘But could the moments in between’. The euphoric project houses 8 songs that conjure beatific grooves that radiate with alluvial soul, celestial jazz, electronic experimentation, and the polyrhythmic essence of Africa. In 22 minutes, Manana tells the story of romance, encapsulated with poetry and acoustic nostalgia that digs beneath your bones, seeping into your bloodstream and inner visions. The previously released summer anthem “Summervibe” and the December heart-warmer “Minute Of Silence” formed a perfect precursor, giving his fans a peek of what his conglomerate EP packed. 

Right from the start, the EP is heavily influenced by his Jazz background, while retaining his defining contemporary sound. The 8 tracks are perfectly woven together, varying between warm acoustic sounds and songs that allude to dance floors of the ’80s. The EP has zero features, as against his last drop that featured established South African R&B singer Rowlene, which was also the only feature on the project. Manana is at his mercurial bests as he starts off with “Summervibe” which was released last year. His Jazz influence is written all over the song as the bass drums form a percussive backdrop as he layers his vocals over the cool piano keys. The serene number sees Manana express his relationship with his mental health: “confronting my issues passive-aggressively.” The melodious hook has you humming as he gives a sense of hope opening a bright side to the album.

“Summevibe reprise” is a creative genius that loops in the opening track with a lighter tone, as it ushers you to the next track “Pulchritudinous”. Upon searching for the meaning of pulchritudinous you see Manana portraying his muse as literally beautiful. Known to derive inspiration from his relationship with his partner, this is a song dedicated to adoring her. His writing is flowery and flush with adoring declarations: “I’m falling deeper into your eyes, sometimes I do disguise my infatuation, I adore you there is no reservation.” The soft piano keys present an ideal situation for lovers to feel like a walk down the beach while watching the sunset.

Each love song is more potent in building a solid narrative for adoration and love. Ndumiso Manana switches up the slow tempo in “Dance Therapy”, enabling him to express his vocal range, putting on his serenading skills as he convinces his muse of his love while still reassuring her she should put herself first. “It’s all the same” serves as the next track as he asks his muse to be equally vulnerable. With only four lines, his soul-stirring lyrics take into life conveying a very weighty message with minimal effort. The curation of the album flows easily as you get to see the story of love in its different forms, from adoration and reassurance in “Dance Therapy” to petty fights in “But You First”, exposing the toxic side of love with the essence of finding yourself and growing. 


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“Minute of Silence”, which served as the second lead single, features moody production sends you to a mellow state as you grasp the thought of broken love. Mostly self-produced, Manana is a sonic genius as he uses “Summeribe reprise”, “It’s all the same” and “Minute of silence” to curate an eclectic musical experience as you are exploring the tape. With emotive writing in each song, Manana focuses on enticing his listeners with his vulnerability as he exercises his vocal range. “Patiently” closes the curtains to this sonic experience as he reminds you that you are enough. He offers relatable lyrics—“nothing’s wrong, just don’t know where my life’s going”—while still offering reassurance that patience pays, acting as a counterpoint to “Summervibe” where he is worried about his future.

Ndumiso Manana’s talent is a goldmine of euphoric settings, from his gripping writing, which gently carries you through the project, to his soothing vocal range that assures you it’s just life and you can get through it ‘But could the moments in between’ serves as a testament to his powers as a reality-based artist and auteur, as he dissects running out of love within the concept of self-acceptance. It’s the sort of premise that’s made Manana a distinctly alluring voice in South Africa’s teeming R&B scene.

Listen to ‘But could the moments in between’ here.