All yellow: Amanda Black’s fourth studio album From My Soil to Yours has influences from R&B to pandza and hip-hop.
Amanda Black emerges on stage in a yellow ensemble, barefoot, with no make-up on. Just beautiful.
It’s a listening session, in what seems to have been an intimate cinema room, at Artistry in Sandton, in Joburg, for the Afro-pop singer’s latest offering From My Soil to Yours, hosted by Sony Music.
The singer-songwriter, real name Amanda Benedicta Antony, was on South African Idols season 11, and made it to the top seven. A year after that she released her breakout single Amazulu.
She shares the journey to making her fourth studio album, which encapsulates her self-discovery, love and healing after allowing the music industry to make her feel removed from herself, making her conform to popular notions of beauty.
In recent months, Black has been trolled on social media for the way she looks.
A video made rounds of her performing in Maseru, Lesotho, with people attacking her wardrobe — and forgetting her talent.
“From My Soil to Yours has a lot to do with acceptance of myself — all the versions of me till now — and also opening up the space for versions that are yet to come and understanding that, as a human being, I am ever changing because, at some point, we think that this self-love and self-journey has a stop, whereas it does not,” the 30-year-old says.
And, as the invitation promised, we listened to the 11 tracks on the new album.
She shed a tear when the last song on the album, Worth It, was playing. Black says the song encapsulates all that she speaks about in the album — all the different feelings she had when she was making it.
The album has an R&B feel to it, which we hear in the opening track Bettur. There are also notes of the pandza sound, popular in Mozambique, as can be heard on Love My Body. On Isoka Lam, there’s a happy nod to hip-hop.
So, the album carries a fusion of sounds that everyone can enjoy. It is perfectly paced, and the stories flow from one track to the other.
Black says it was difficult to come to the finished product as it was to some degree a project that allowed her to purge what she was feeling and the production teams felt it too.
Producer and Black’s long-time friend Christer Mofenyi Kobedi admits there were a few squabbles when they were making the album because they were both going through personal challenges.
However, for the sake of the music, they had to put that aside and just make music.
Black says navigating the music industry is no joke, as it often demands a separation of personal and public personas.
“I struggled a lot with the separation because the industry calls for you to separate yourself from who you are and the art.”
However, for her Amanda Black and Amanda Benedicta Antony are not distinct entities.
“I found myself in that dilemma of separating myself from Amanda Black and Amanda who are in essence me, they are one and there is no difference between them.”
Rejecting the need for code-switching, she embraces authenticity in all aspects of her life. This resonates so boldly in her music, she has had to go back to her old projects to remind herself of why her new project needed her to be as real as possible.
“I am lucky to have an audio diary that I literally go back to before I start a new project, and I listen to Amazulu, I listen to Power and I listen to Mnyama and it gets me to understand quite a lot.”
Black’s journey is not merely a solo performance; it’s an invitation for listeners to embark on their own odyssey of self-discovery, learning and authenticity.