Queer Music: Pichi Keane, Thandiswa Mazwai, Olly Alexander & Umlilo

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In celebration of queer music, here’s a collection of recent and new releases from South African stars Pichi Keane, Thandiswa Mazwai and Umlilo, and the UK’s Olly Alexander.

Pichi Keane – Came Here To Dance

South African genderqueer AFAB drag queen Pichi Keane has just released their debut single, the euphoric dance floor gem, Came Here To Dance.

Produced by André Scheepers, known for his contributions to many chart-topping songs over the last two decades, the track carries a strong social message in a playful, feisty tone, encouraging the importance of consent when it comes to getting down.

“I wrote Came Here To Dance a couple of years ago and performed it live to a small audience for the first time with just a ukulele as accompaniment early in 2020,” says Pichi Keane. “I’m really excited for listeners to hear it, to feel empowered to take up space and honour their boundaries,” she adds.

A trained vocalist with experience in musical theatre, jazz, pop, and rock, Pichi Keane started performing in drag while living in Hong Kong and sang and MC’d at the official 2021 Hong Kong Pride Party.

No stranger to the spotlight, Pichi Keane has already left their mark on the stage with a Standard Bank Silver Ovation Award from the National Arts Festival under their belt and sold-out performances along the Garden Route during their solo drag cabaret tour, Ripe ‘n Ready.

Thandiswa Mazwai – Kulungile

South African queer music icon Thandiswa Mazwai will be dropping her new album Sankofa in May. The first single from the album, Kulungile, featuring Nduduzo Makhathini, has just been released.

Kulungile carries the profound message of overcoming past wounds and finding peace within. ‘Kulungile’, translating to ‘it is well’ in isiXhosa, reflects on Mazwai’s journey.

Kulungile is about healing some of the traumas that we experience as children. Many of us have faced rejection, abandonment, and sexual violence. This song is for that child within that seeks justice, comfort, and healing,” reveals Mazwai.

The release of Kulungile sets the stage for Thandiswa’s eagerly awaited album, Sankofa, scheduled to launch on May 10, 2024.

Recorded in Johannesburg, Dakar, and New York, the album combines archival Xhosa music, jazz and West African rhythms, and includes songs produced by Meshell Ndegeocello and Nduduzo Makhathini, and collaborations with Thandi Ntuli and Tendai Shoko.

Sankofa in the Ghanaian language Twi means to go back and fetch what’s been left behind – what is important, what honors you, and what needs healing,” says Mazwai.

With Kulungile and the upcoming album ‘Sankofa, Thandiswa continues to push boundaries and inspire audiences with her unique blend of music and message.

Olly Alexander – Dizzy

Released back in March, Olly Alexander’s single, Dizzy is the UK’s official entry for the Eurovision Song Contest, taking place in Malmö, Sweden, on May 11th.

Written by Alexander and seminal electronic producer Danny L Harle, Dizzy is that intoxicating rush you feel with someone new; its heightened-emotions and sense of pop drama as at home on the dancefloor as it is the Eurovision world-stage.

The video to Dizzy explodes the track’s sense of lust and longing into a head-spinning performance from Alexander, with kaleidoscopic set-pieces blurring the line between fantasy and reality. In a celebratory, universal but highly individual expression of queer desire, Olly Alexander’s first solo single is a thrilling artistic statement from one of the UK’s most pioneering modern pop stars.

“The song is about feeling such an intense swell of emotion for someone they totally turn your world upside down and inside out. We were inspired by a lot of music we love from the 80’s like Stock Aitken and Waterman, Erasure, Adamski, and of course Pet Shop Boys,” says Alexander .

Umlilo – Welcome to the Jungle

Multi-talented queer artist and activist, Umlilo, is electrifying the music scene once again with the release of her 15th single, Welcome to the Jungle.

Produced, recorded, and written by Umlilo, the single is a genre-bending experience, blending afro-future electronic dance vibes with elements of house, amapiano, hip hop, and gqom. Welcome to the Jungle is a captivating fusion of spicy lyrics, percussive basslines, syncopated rhythms, and pulsating synths.

This dance track celebrates sexual freedom, embracing dark feminine energy with queer undertones. 

The music video is a psychedelic visual feast where the “Kwaai Diva” showcases her mesmerizing dance moves, both seductive and playful. With colourful graphic details and futuristic landscapes and visual effects, the music video is set to hypnotize any viewer into Umlilo’s “jungle” theme.

With a decade of groundbreaking contributions to the music industry, Umlilo continues to push boundaries and redefine norms. Welcome to the Jungle invites listeners to explore the depths of their desires, embrace diversity, and revel in the power of self-expression.

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