What happens when three musical geniuses get together during lockdown? They make music of course!
Joburg’s trio Mpho Kodisang, Mondli ‘Smondlan’ Masilela and Tsholo Papo who have been in the music industry for a while got together to create Mezzo_ZA. And the new kid on the South African music block is about to dish up what was cooking during lockdown.
Mpho explained the reason behind the conception of Mezzo_ZA, “We analysed the amapiano society and saw a huge gap between amapiano and afro-soul. The amapiano beat is loud, dramatic and too energetic. What if there was a softer/medium soulful amapiano sound? So Mezzo_ZA was birthed.”
Now, what exactly does the name mean? Mpho explains, “Mezzo is an Italian music term describing the intensity or loudness of a melody. It is used to mean somewhat, half, or medium. So, Mezzo_ZA is all about somewhat between amapiano and afro-soul.”
Mpho is a prominent session musician, gifted pianist and music producer who’s mostly seen on stage with the likes of Ringo Madlingozi and Tshepo Tshola to count a few. He has contributed to several Theatre Productions which include; Songs from Jazz Town, Talk to me, Tribute to Maya Angelou, Paradise Blue and others. He is a versatile producer who has produced the likes of Athari (Jazz), Vusi Gcabashe (Gospel), Nosisi Mavela (Jazz) and DJ Skopas (Mapiano) just to mention a few. Mezzo_ZA ‘Unlocking’ is his latest project. He’s not only the producer but the beat maker as well.
Mezzo_ZA’s debut EP, ‘Unlocking’ is set for release on Friday the 29th of April 2022.
The EP consists of four easy on the ear tracks, all penned and sung by Mondli. Mezzo_ZA’s music is fresh, distinct and upbeat.
According to Smondlan, the EP was aptly titled ‘Unlocking’ because it’s an introduction to a new sound. He adds, “As you know, Amapiano sound is growing and evolving each and every day. We’re also ‘unlocking’ Mezzo_Za and we are coming out of our comfort zones.”
Tsholo Papo, the skillful guitarist was only 7-years-old when he first picked up a guitar and when he had his first performance which was at church. Tsholo was taught by his elder brother who was a bass player.
Papo’s career took off in 2010 when he worked with various South African artists including songbird Siphokazi, Jazz guru Vusi Mahlasela, Mandla Ntlaks, legendary Ringo Madlingozi and State Theatre Youth Choir, just to name few.
Tsholo and Mpho were so privileged to be part of the presidential inauguration band at SA current president, Cyril Ramaphosa’s inauguration.
Mondli, or Smondlan as he’s affectionately known is a seasoned qualified Afro-pop musician whose career commenced in 2015. He started singing at an early age and studied music at the University of South Africa.
Smondlan is a recording artist and is a band member in the ensemble Blaq Resonance which has performed at the South African state Theatre. As a solo artist, he released a Jazz single titled Ududu and is currently working on his debut album.
As a composer and song-writer his music is inspired by industry giants like Ringo Madlingozi, Bilal and the late Jabu Khanyile and Busi Mhlongo. Smondlan has backed many South African artists to date and will be featured in Jackey Masekela’s upcoming album. In 2019 Smondlan had his annual music concert at the Pretoria National zoo, where he was able to introduce his full compositions to his old and new audience.
One of the tracks on ‘Unlocking’, Endaweni, is a tribute to Mondli’s late brother, Mkhululi Zwelithini. “He was basically a mood changer, he had a crazy, bubbly personality and when he came to gatherings be it funerals or parties he would change the mood and make everyone feel happy. He sadly passed on in 2020 and when we worked on the song I felt I needed to write about this great personality, ” explains Mondli. He continues, “It’s also a feel good song so I believe as people we all have that special someone who enlightens our moods when we are sad. It is very important.”
Mondli says Bophelo ke Strata is the hustlers’ song, “Because is all about hustling otherwise you’ll starve. The first thing you do when you wake up is to go to the streets and go hustle for money for food and bills.” Mondli further explains, “There is no job security anymore. Today you might be working and tomorrow you might find yourself jobless. We need to put food on the table and secure our financial freedom, so hustling is the way.”
Inkululeko is my favourite on the EP. It’s quite a laid back track with an enticing beat to the feet. I can listen to the track for hours! It is quite an addictive rhythmic ditty that can be listened to anywhere and by anyone. Mondli says this track was inspired by real life stories he has witnessed in life, “Growing up ekasi, people tend to look down on you, so we basically saying let’s change our mentality and stop looking down on one another. If people look down or belittle you the only way to shut them up is to look and be happy.”
The track begins with an energetic amapiano beat but, this is not Amapiano. The lyrics are catchy, the sound enigmatic. You simply just have to listen to it yourself! Some of the lyrics are:
‘Kudala si cindezelwa
Sehluleka ukwenza izinto ngendlela
Noma sijola bathi siya zenzela
Bathi kuncono so khaba amabodlela’
DOWNLOAD THE EP FROM ITUNES