“We are the world, we are the children…” – These are the lyrics to the 1985 song recorded by an ensemble of artists, USA for Africa. Written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, and produced by Quincy Jones, this song initialised a signicant change in the musical environment. Sovereignty and nationality as far as what happens elsewhere started to matter less, especially when it came to global issues and the creation of music. Hence today there’s even the blurring distinctions of different genres within music.
Hloni Mohlala, who categorically considers herself a world musician, comes from a musical family background and is a former member of the group RARE. She recently took part in the Kaya FM Soultember Unplugged nights where she performed an amazing track titled Freedom – alongside fellow muso Relo (of Skwatta Kamp fame) and rapper Zubz. Lavatory Records reached out to the budding songstress to find out more about her as a person, her career accomplishments and notably the significance of the song Freedom and much more.
Lavatory Records: Who is Hloni Mohlala, as a person and an artist?
Hloni Mohlala: Hloni Mohlala is a very loving, caring, bubbly, real, hardworking, and funny people’s person, as an individual. As an artist “Hlo” is a creative, perfectionist and hard worker.
LR: Is there any particular reason you chose to be known by your real name rather than using an alias?
HM: By birth my name is Malehlogonolo Mohlala so I grew up with people calling me Hloni, but in actual fact identity is something I hold close to my heart. I chose to go with my real name because that’s how people have always called and identified me. Going with a name change would confuse people because I have done so much in music and people have always known me as Hloni.
LR: You were part of the group RARE, what was that like?
HM: Being part of RARE was one experience I will never forget. It made me feel like I belong. I felt like a leader amongst leaders. Singing 5 days a week, with a fitness trainer before rehearsals is something that NEVER happens with any group in SA. It taught me perseverance, patience, mastery of the craft and also grew me vocally. It had its challenges but it was through that experience that out came this Artist.
LR: When did you decide to venture out as a solo artist and why
HM: I didn’t decide to venture out as a solo artist, so I cannot really put a date to it. I woke up one morning feeling like I needed to jam to some ideas of my own that I had been working on for a while. I approached my producer Mr Luyanda Madope who was just a colleague of mine in the industry at the time and asked him to organize studio time, for me to jam.
We went into the studio then creativity and love for music took over. We found ourselves with music that told a story, it was in that moment when I was convinced by him that going solo would be great with the content we have.
LR: Which artists/ producers would you say have influenced or shaped Hloni as an artist?
HM: As an artist the producers that influenced me are Luyanda Madope and God. (Ha ha)
The artists that shaped me are definitely Thandiswa Mazwai, Jazmine Sullivan, Lala Hathaway, Kim Burell, Brik Liam, Brenda Mtambo & many others. I listened to these people, watched their performance ethic and followed them closely as artists.
LR: You come from a gospel music background; does that foundation still manifest itself in your current musical compositions?
HM: Definitely, gospel is the underlying voice in my music. Hence my music is inspirational. God is my life, gospel means good news and that’s all my music spreads.
LR: You classify your style of music as “World Music”, please elaborate on what this means?
HM: World music to me means, “EVERYONE” can relate. My album consists of soul, jazz, RnB, Rock, Kids Music and so forth. Anyone and everyone can find what they like and relate to in this album, even the story in the lyrical content isn’t an AFRICAN story, it’s a story anyone can relate to world-wide.
LR: What are your thoughts on soul music morphing into electro (EDM) and also becoming more rap orientated?
HM: My thoughts on soul music changing its direction slightly… (Hmmmmm). I think it’s a good idea as long as it maintains what matters which is the soul. It’s also expanding and touching base with other genres and people outside the soul genre.
LR: You recently performed on the Kaya FM Soultember Unplugged nights with Zubz and Relo. How would you describe that whole experience?
HM: In one word – surreal. And Life changing too. (Ha ha)… The experience broke the ice for me.
LR: The song you performed on the Kaya FM Soultember Unplugged nights had “freedom” as the theme. What is the song about as a whole?
HM: Freedom is such a personal song. Every time I have to share the story behind the song I cry, not tears of pain but tears of joy of how far I’ve come.
In 2008 I was a victim of gang rape. I was so trapped and bound from life within myself for so long that all I wanted was FREEDOM for my PEACE to find me and LOVE to be within me. I’m finally at a point now where my FREEDOM has found me. I’ve let go of it all and I’m going forth. The noise inside me has been silenced hence the mellow sound of the music resonates.
LR: Your debut album is set to be released by the end of this year, who have you worked with on it and are there any features that people can expect?
HM: We are still busy on the album, don’t want to give too much away but I will be working with Zubz on the album and a few other surprise features.
LR: If resources and time were perfectly aligned, which artists and/or producers would you like to work with?
HM: Artists: Lala Hathaway and Jazmine Sullivan. Producer: Brik Liam.
LR: Without the backing of a major record label, what kind of support system do you think independent artists need in order to grow?
HM: Sheeeew…that’s a very good question. Firstly they need a very strong team structure, and the support of skilled friends or family. Secondly, independent artists also need an investor who isn’t in the music industry.
LR: Apart from your anticipated debut album, what other projects and/or events can people look forward to from you?
HM: Apart from being an artist I’m a philanthropist and speaker.
Hlo is also a founder and CEO of a women’s foundation called Yellow Diamonds Foundation, so if I’m not singing I’m motivating at a church or school near you. Or even supporting someone at their event or even hosting our own events so you can follow me on my social media pages to keep up with what I’m up to.
Thanks to the marvelous Ms Hloni Mohlala for taking time out to speak with us. If you want to keep up with her moves and latest developments, follow her on Twitter: @Just_Hlo, Instagram: @Just_Hlo and her Facebook page.