Album in Focus: Too Bold by Shingai. The Album Half A Decade In The Making

Once upon a time a member of the indie-rock band "Noisettes" over the past few years Shingai Shoniwa has embarked on a solo journey. A journey that has seen her release singles, an EP, culminating in her first solo album "Too Bold". In theRolling Stone magazine Shingai was described as the living, breathing manifestation of the rock & roll spirit, with a voice that is equal parts Iggy Pop and Billie Holiday. I don't quite know the former or the latter but if they're in the same conversation as Shingai then they're supremely talented.

Because since Shingai did the vocals on Dennis Ferrer's "Hey Hey" in 2010 I've been a fan. "Too Bold" is an album that has been years in the making, it's the product of a journey and through the 14 tracks that are on it I went along on the stories Shingai had to tell. "This record is about using melodic harmony to find balance across all of my cultural reference points," she said. "It's half raw instrumentation -- vibrations of the ancestors who are in my DNA -- and half digital, futuristic sound."

The EP Ancient Futures which came before "Too Bold" was a project of Shingai announcing herself as a solo artist. The EP opened with Coming Home which was infused with the mbira sound and it was filled with that feeling of belonging. The project itself although having pop influences carried an authentic African sound. On "Too Bold" Shingai diverted a little from that part. I would say "Too Bold" is less Afro-pop and more House fusion (Electro house not Southern African house).

Too Bold tracklist:

  1. Intro - Too Dark? 
  2. South London Safari 
  3. Echoes of You 
  4. Turning Heads 
  5. Hey Hey 
  6. We Roll 
  7. Interlude (Living Colour - If I Was a Boy)
  8. Too Bold 
  9. Still Here 
  10. Ghost Town (Battle Scars) 
  11. War Drums 
  12. TsiTsi 
  13. Afterglow 
  14. Outro (God Save the Queens) 

Intro - Too Dark which background sounds from one of Shingai's euphoric concerts. The song is filled with the mbira sound and it poses questions. 

What if I told you that I get low

There might be a Shingai that you don't know. What if I told you that I've been told

I'm TOO DARK, TOO SMART, TOO BOLD. What if I told you that I get low

That s*** was making my blood run cold

South London Safari comes up next and it is a song of escapism. It speaks about a space away from reality and it's a mellow sound punctuated by Shingai's smooth vocals. Echoes of you switches subjects and brings us to conversation about infatuation. The ripple of emotional waves that run through us because of what we feel for someone else. It still has those mbira elements although slightly subdued. It has the effect of dragging you into past memories.

Turning Heads took me back to a JLo song I couldn't quite remember the title off but it was right there on the edge of my mind. It has the vibe of up tempo blues and there's a catchy nature to the tune. It's layered in it's lyricism, there's a lot that's not evident on the surface. Hey Hey is Shingai's fresh twist on the Dennis Ferrer hit of 2010. The electronic sound to the instrumental is reduced, the vocals are a little more soulful and to be honest I couldn't tell which version of the two I loved more.

We roll is the next track off the project and it's probably my favourite song on this album. I can't tell if it's the lyrics that talk about working together, Shingai's vocals or it's that saxophone on the instrumental. But altogether this is a beautiful track and understandable why it was one of the lead singles from the project. Too bold the title track is probably the defining song of this project. It's an ode to life, the experiences, religion, faith, the pain, escapism and a search for identity. It's not my favourite song in rhythm and vibe but it's depth is unmatched.

Still here takes us back to the subject of love as Shingai serenades us in lyrics about the sincerity of love. Ghost town (battle scars) infuses a myriad of themes. It touches on matters of the heart, pain from lived experiences and Zimbabwe's journey pre & post-colonialism. It's intricate in it's sadness yet still hopeful. War Drums is the perfect dance song and it pays homage to the history of African tribesmen. The fusion of sound on the various songs on this  project simply compliment each other. The album together is more than the sum of it's parts. 

TsiTsi ft Kwaye & Chipo has Shingai singing in her mother tongue. She beautiful navigates all the vocal notes in Shona demivering a song that tugs at the strings of our emotions. TsiTsi is Shingai calling out and asking if she's been forgotten. Afterglow takes us to the essence of RnB with a soulful sound and the outro God Save The Queens is the perfect ending for "Too Bold". The album explores sounds from different places but it remains with a distinct identity. It's one project which I believe you'll learn to appreciate more and more over time.

Greedysouth rating: 7.4/10

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