By Basma Humadi, Assistant Lifestyle Editor
Mannywellz, a 24-year-old Nigerian-American musician and Maryland native, is making moves in his career. He recently came out with his new EP “Soulfro,” which combines different musical genres, and will perform his first headlining show on March 5 at Union Market in D.C. at 7 p.m. Mannywellz will also stop by Mason at Volition and House Studio’s Open Mic Night on March 8 at 7 p.m. in the JC Bistro. Check out our interview with him below:
You describe your music as ‘soulfro’- what is that to you? Is that something you see being its own genre?
Soulfro is music from the soul with afro elements. So I don’t know if it’ll become its own genre. I don’t think I want it to. I want it to be free. It’s a style of music that allows me to touch various genres from hip-hop to r&b to soul to whatever I want to do. I think I prefer the idea of having soulfro as a freelancer. Something that just navigates and maneuvers through various genres.
Favorite song off the album?
It has to be “No I don’t.” I like because it’s the fusion of numerous genres. I like fusining genres and sounds together, so I liked how I was able to mix jazz, hip-hop, scatting, and r&b in one song. I think that’s my favorite song. I just like the way it feels, the way it makes me feel.
What first sparked your interest in music?
I was born into music and it was something that was always around me. I just fell in love with it. I came to a realization that music has power. Art has power. If you use music in the right way you can impact lives – and as soon I realized that I was like, “maybe I should try to do that because I want to make an impact on this earth”.
How does being Nigerian influence your music?
One, is my accent. The way I speak and the way I sing is very Nigerian, I think. My tone is very Afro and African and that’s always a first thing. So when I get on a hip-hop beat, it always sounds like a Nigerian kid on a hip-hop beat. I use a lot of percussive elements in my songs. I use the Talking Drum, which is a native drum in my language– Yoruba. And I use congos and a lot of percussions. Africans love percussions and they love to move and dance.
How did you end up touring with Jidenna and what was that experience like?
A friend of mine was playing my music for his camp and they loved it. When it was time to tour my management was talking to his and they decided they would make it happen. It was a dope experience because his team and his whole situation is pretty awesome. So like everyone was really chill and we all treated each other like family on tour. And we just had a lot of fun together. It was dope to be on the road together with another Nigerian artist in the states doing his thing. It was pretty inspiring too to know that other people could do it. People like myself and whatever artist that come from Africa want to do what he’s doing.
How has your family responded to your music?
My family is definitely supportive. I think it’s been interesting for them to watch me grow and grind. Set goals for myself and meet them. I hope it’s inspiring to them to be able to do whatever they want. Not just my immediate family, but cousins and family friends, they’re all happy and excited for me. They know all the lyrics to the songs and they enjoy the songs, so it’s dope to have the support of family.
You also talk a lot about being a DACA recipient – How has that affected you?
It’s affected me tremendously. On tour I couldn’t go to Canada with Jidenna and that’s because of my status. It’s tough for people like me who need to travel and who need to move around at the moment. I can’t leave the United States and we have a lot of plans to touch other parts of the world but I can’t leave. So we’re praying that gets fixed and we could make something happen in South Africa or wherever you wanna go.
What do you have coming up?
Our first headlining show is March 5th. I’m really excited for it because we’ve been rehearsing and working really hard to create and give people an experience. We want to see everyone there and for everyone to come out and support. The goal of this is to inspire people and make an impact.
Photo by Sam Burchfield