Youthful Songstress, ThandoNje, debuted at #1 with her new release “Frequency” on the Apple Music World Charts. ThandoNje is a soulful and breath-taking artist from Pretoria. Over the last years, she has given us decorative and melodic tunes, such as “If I had You” and “Moonshine”. Frequency displays an elegant and smooth feel, the project is easy on the ear, and rather engaging.
Alongside her independent musical projects, ThandoNje has collaborated with a number of local artists such as Espacio Dios, Muzi, Stilo Magolide, A Reece, Flame & Huey. She has also produced magnificent covers on her SoundCloud and created soulful renditions of “Phumakim” by Cassper Nyovest and “Kontrol” by AKA .
The album opens with “Kenny’s Interlude”. This song is an ode to a friend of hers, who passed away from a car accident. The melody is made up of very pleasing guitar strings and passionate runs. The acoustic guitar strings are overtaken by a bass guitar and hi-hats. The lyrics are spiritual and personal. She starts the song with, “Lord, come down and save me.” Thando also quotes a verse from Psalms 23 that reads, “He is my Shepherd”. It’s a strong and beautiful album opener. One that introduces subtle changes in Thando’s style.
Frequency. When asked to explain the album title, Thando explained how she named Frequency translates to energies. For every song the listener should feel a different frequency. “Call Me”, features beautifully layered vocals and a number of instruments merged together to create an astoundingly harmonious tune. “Be Okay” follows, it is easy to assume that the two tracks follow each other because of the similar tunes, and it seems as if the two tracks are particularly telling a story about her friendships. In “Be Okay”, she tells her friend to “hold on a little bit longer”. Thando has a way of making the listener relate to her stories. She expresses heartbreak, pain and loss in a way that can be received by man. It’s as if her her story is also there. A few songs in, there’s only one clear concept – she’s just speaking about herself or people around her. Expressing their trials and tribulations. She does this by integrating spiritual and interpersonal narratives throughout.
ThandoNje’s voice is angelic and breezy. It’s so easy to hear and feel her own emotion in her music with every song in the album. Her layered vocals and use of reverb make her music easy to take in and enjoy. Because her voice is so angelic, she has the ability to conceal the darkness of the lyrics when she sings. In “Take So Long”, she asks why it takes so long to let pain go. With only the keys of a piano, it is one of the most emotional tracks in the album and a clear project highlight. Minimalism isn’t a luxury to many artists. Many lack the vocals or skill to make music compelling without adding more elements to the production. It forces the voice to take centre stage and in doing so, it emphasizes ability and tone. It’s beautiful. The song’s message is – it’s okay not to be okay. Young Boy (interlude) addresses how young boys show their emotions in society. Contrary to what it’s been spoken to men, she tells them that it’s okay to cry, be vulnerable and feel out their emotions. And with that said, with context of how close to home the song is, it makes for an even greater experience.
Young Boy refers to Thando’s family member. A young boy who witnessed and was abused by his parents, so he takes it upon himself to run from his abusive situation.
The continuous theme of Thando’s personal emotions and personal experiences help to drive the album forward as she introduces “Time” as the next song. With a slight electro feel to it, the song explores taking time for one to find healing from pain. Thando tells herself that there will come a time, where everything will be okay. ThandoNje can easily be placed next to the brilliant and soulful artist, Langa Mavuso, similarly they create romantic and simple love songs, which explains what “All Love” is. Thando pours out her heart and tells her love interest that she will give her every part of her. Thando is serenading the listener with her smooth lyrics and acoustical treatment. This seems to be a formula that ultimately works for her and makes her music so authentic and real.
“Pholisa (interlude)” and “Letha Kuwe” take a rather traditional gospel route. “Pholisa” roughly translates to reduce but in the song, Thando asks to be cooled down by a higher power. Thando mentioned in a recent interview on our Instagram how she didn’t want the album to be confined to only the R&B and Soul genres, so one could classify “Pholisa (interlude)” and “Letha Kuwe” as gospel tracks. Placed in between the two tracks comes “When We Were Young”. The song is a slight extension of Pholisa. In the sense that as Thando is cooled down, she reflects on her childhood – a simpler and happier time in her life. She tells the listener that she is still the same young kid, just with dreams that she is now chasing in her adult life. The track ends off with the lower chords of a piano, symbolizing that something is coming. That something is the serenity and deep spiritual awakening that comes in with “Letha Kuwe”.
“Hands Up”, is a beautiful end to the journey of the process of finding oneself, recognizing ones emotion, and finding healing.
“Hands up in the air,
If you felt alone but you’re still here.
Hands up in the air,
If your faith is still strong.
Hands up in the air,
If you understand why God led you here.
Hands up in the air if you believe”.
This track almost feels like Thando telling us ,“We’ve felt all those bad emotions, let’s just smile and be happy”. Short, sweet & simple. The final song, Frequency (outro), is a compilation of the people close to her expressing their love and respect for her over a very subtle piano and saxophone melody. The integration of the two instruments give off a light jazzy feel. A dope ending to a good project.
Thematically, ThandoNje takes us on a journey from hurt, pain, abuse, to spirituality, healing, self-love and love from others portrayed exceptionally in the Frequency (outro). In conlusion, Frequency is easily ThandoNje’s best project – the growth and maturity she shows in Frequency is immaculate and we can only hope to receive visuals for this phenomenal project.
Written by: Naledi de Wee | Twitter @TheoneNaledi
Edited by: Dithekgo Mogadime | @DithekgoM