21 November

Who are the new muses of British R’n’B?

 

Hot on the trail blazed by Jorja Smith, their names are Mahalia, Ama Lou and Ray BLK, and their music, magnetic and innovative, is already seducing the likes of Drake and Gorillaz.

By Naomi Clément

Mahalia:

 

At the tender age of 20, Mahalia is being touted as the hottest new revelation on the British soul and R’n’B scene. And rightly so: this Leicester-born girl is creating bewitching and introspective sounds, following in the footsteps of great voices including Amy Winehouse, Lauryn Hill, India.Arie and even Adele, who she cites as one of her biggest influences.

 

While she got a contract with a recording label age 13 and released her first album when she was 16, it was only at the end of 2017 that her career really took off, propelled by a visit to the monochrome COLORS studio where she sang her track ‘Sober’ (the video has notched up some 20 million views already).

 

Since then Mahalia has been busy: as well as lining up a dozen tour dates around Europe, with two in Paris, the prolific singer and guitarist has also released a series of powerful singles including Hold On, I Wish I Missed My Ex and Proud of Me, done in collaboration with her friend Little Simz. Last September she launched Seasons a new EP consisting of six tracks that do everything to confirm the sheer scope of her talents.

 

 

“One Night Only” by Mahalia

 

Ama Lou:

 

Originally from North London, Ama Lou is a 19-year old singer whose alternative R’n’B has already attracted numerous artists. Among them, the captivating Jorja Smith, with whom she went on tour earlier this year, but also the all-powerful Drake, who recently confided to listening to Ama Lou during the creation of his latest album Scorpion.

 

But it isn’t just this young woman’s music that is mesmerising: she’s also political. In 2016, her first single TBC denounced the police killings in the Afro-American community in the USA, making direct reference to the death of Eric Garner (“I can’t, I can’t, I can’t breathe”, she sings). And her second track entitled Not Always deals with the notion of gender.

 

And yet this fan Ella Fitzgerald, Dolly Parton and Gil Scott-Heron doesn’t want her work to be seen just as a political weapon. “After the release of my first two singles I was often described as a political artist, and I thought I would change that vision,” she says about Pigeons and Planes. “Activism is still an integral part of my music, but I don’t want it to be limited to just that. I don’t want any restrictions on my work.

 

She made her point with the very poetic DDD, released last March. A sublime EP composed of three tracks, illustrated by a superb film in the form of a triptych that Ama Lou herself wrote and directed. This is an all-round artist set to make an impression on 2019 with her inspiring vision.

 

“DDD” by Ama Lou

 

Ray Blk:

 

We first heard her powerful and enchanting tones in 2016 with My Hood, a single from the EP Durt, which revealed her unique voice and authentic writing. Now, just two years after her debut, Rita Ekwere aka Ray Blk is currently one of the most sought after artists on the British scene.

 

Awarded the prestigious prize “BBC's Sound of 2017” and credited on the last Gorillaz album, this Nigerian-born Londoner offers a neo-soul tinted with a sincere and galvanising R’n’B that continuously celebrates women.

 

Her first EP Havisham, released on her own label in 2015, was inspired by Miss Havisham, one of the main characters in Charles Dickens’ book Great Expectations. As for her videos, they pay tribute to her mother (Mama) and to transgender individuals (Chill Out).

 

This feminist message was back at the heart of her first album Empress. A record with Ray Blk on the cover surrounded by a group of young mixed race girls that she described on Instagram as an invitation “to love each other, and never be scared to aim high”.

 

 

“My Hood” by Ray Blk and Stormzy

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