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Shanga: Going Bold With Afro Roots

Shanga | Image: Bisi Udemba

Manuela Modupe Udemba known as Shanga was born in Bern, Switzerland to a Nigerian father and a Swiss mother. She graduated as an Audio Engineer in 2014. During her studies, Shanga fully embarked on her musical journey with her first EP release, “embracing vulnerability”.

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Music has constantly been a part of her family growing up. With the fusion of Afro, Jazz, Gospel, Neo-Soul and Hip Hop, she characterises her sound as “Afro rhythmic soul” which reflects in her debut album, Bold. The Guardian Life speaks with her on what makes

You grew up in Nigeria and Switzerland. How did your upbringing in Nigeria influence your sound?
My father is a percussionist and an artist. While growing up, my father’s go-to music was always Afro. I would say my upbringing in Nigeria influenced my sound rhythmically. On the other hand, my mother is a classical pianist. However, a blend of rhythm and western-influenced music shaped my sound.

Let’s go back to 2013 when you released your EP, Embracing Vulnerability, to great reviews in Switzerland. What has changed since then?
A lot has happened since 2013. Graduating as an Audio Engineer helped refine my sound and production. Besides that, my spouse who is a jazz pianist assisted me in redefining my craft.

Would you then say that your husband is pivotal to your success and what unique element does he bring?
Absolutely, he plays a vital role in the contribution to my success. He is my music coach and he influenced my sound by exposing me to more Genres. 90% of the album was produced by him and with his new-found passion for cinematography, he shot and directed all my music videos. He is the man behind the scenes, the “Invisible Hands”. The synergy we share as a couple, ignites more creativity to our craft. By joining forces, we always find an innovative way to electrify our audience with our passion.

Shanga | Image: Bisi Udemba

Your song Kelele peaked at No.1 on iTunes Swiss Charts and No. 4 on Billboard Swiss Digital Sales Charts. How would you rate the reception of the Swiss people to African sound?
The reception of Kelele was very positive. My swiss fans love this song and its colloquial expression. I am immensely proud to showcase my African roots in Switzerland. Afro is a fast-rising genre globally. Now it’s just a matter of time till the infectious sound grows more over here.

Does this put pressure on you to outperform this feat?
Music is my passion and what gives me self-fulfilment. My motive is to make people happier with my sound. I see it as an obligation each time I release a body of work to be as authentic and faithful to my genre as I possibly can. That’s the only pressure I put on myself.

In 2020, you navigated through the waters of new genres with your song, Certified. What is your opinion on the creation of new genres, and how would you describe your sound?
I would describe my sound as “Afro Rhythmic Soul”. And within that, there aren’t any limitations. I am an entertainer and my demographic is broad. My song Certified inspired a whole album. I forced myself to step outside my comfort zone, and the outcome was my empowerment. My goal is to inspire the youth and the world at large.

Congratulations on your debut album, Bold. What grounds are you looking to shatter with the album?
My Album “Bold” embodies power, strength, love, happiness and creativity. I would like it to touch the public globally by filling any void.

Who would be your favourite Nigerian artiste to work with?
There are various Nigerian artistes, and I respect their crafts. I would love to work with artistes with mutual respect and chemistry. If I had to choose one on the spot, it would be Wizkid.

If you could describe your life in one word, what would it be?
Determined.

In this article:
Manuela Modupe UdembaShanga
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