The Mixtape Vol. 61

Loui Lvndn presents his Hikari EP

East London-born musician Loui Lvndn (real name Lutho Mtyamde) is driven by an unrelenting passion for creation and experimentation with untamed sounds, aiming to champion a fearless future for African music.

He recently dropped a free EP, Hikari, which is the Japanese word for “light”, and in case you’re yet to hear the EP, we’d like to use this opportunity to introduce both the music and the man behind the music.

Graduating cum laude from AAA School of Advertising with a degree in creative brand communications, Lutho has been nominated for two Loerie Awards, and won the Brand Council SA trophy for top design student 2015, the Newcast Trophy for top creative student and the AON Excellence Award for top overall creative student in SA. 

As a singer, songwriter, rapper, performing artist, visual artist and writer, Loui began his musical career performing hip-hop and has since evolved into the genre-defying musician he is today. From his salient vocals to intricate rhyme schemes, his debut is a kaleidoscope of bespoke musical brilliance which features the likes of Petite Noir and Spoek Mathambo.

How does a kid from East London come up with a sound like this?

Well, I’m from East London, but I’m also from a lot of other places because we moved around a lot, from King William's Town to Boksburg and everywhere in between. I guess you could attribute the expansive sound to the vast and scurrying influences I’ve had from playing home hot potato. But I would say I’m someone who explores and traverses the depths of art externally and internally, always trying to shock my existence out of complacency.

Tell us how you got into music and your journey so far.

I have always been an admirer of the arts – Be it visual arts or poetry and writing – and so delving into music was very natural, and when I did, it was a raging affair. My first recorded song had a simple acoustic guitar progression, which I rapped over and then had a Tsonga musician sing beseeching lyrics about a lost girl. A precursor to years later, perhaps? Thereafter I really came to harness lyricism and poetry through hip-hop and recorded an unofficial album, “je ne sais quoi”, selling 200 copies of it by hand when I was in high school. After that I moved around some more and began to really indulge in a multi-disciplinarian school of thought, which translated into a multi-genre exploration of my music. I didn’t necessarily purposefully blend genres but rather began to disobey and ignore rules and create what came naturally. This is how my sound became.

Why the name Loui Lvndn?

My real name is Lulutho, “Lou” was my nickname, which then became Loui. Lvndn is where I was born. So the name pays homage to that provident scene somewhere in East London. I abstracted the name London to Lundon initially, then, from a design perspective, the “V” replaced the “U” with inspiration from the ancient Roman carvings and treatment of their alphabet – from whence word forms like ILIVS (Julius) came. I then dropped the letter “O” completely to create an edgy aesthetic of the word that is now “LVNDN”. The final layer in this word is the phrase that comes from saying the word with phonetic attention to each letter, “LoVe uNDoNe”.

You have Petite Noir and Spoek featuring on your EP. What’s your relationship with these artists and what did each of them bring to the project?

Both of these artists are real inspirations and sensations in South African music. I have a real admiration for these guys. We met through the music and it's been about the music ever since. I’m very excited about our continued collaborations, even though we are skating the edge respectively, when we come together the edge gets redefined and pushed further. Petite Noir jumped on the EP during a time when Yannick and I were looking to begin working together. He heard "Religion" and was excited enough to jump on various sections of its composition ranging from drums to guitar. He really gave it a unique African essence. Spoek’s remix of “Drugs” was the first track of many we have done together since. Look out for that on his next project. Really heavy stuff.

Both artists are appreciated more overseas than back home. Do you think the same will go for you and your sound?

I have a deep devotion towards South Africa’s musical and cultural landscape and I aspire to becoming a champion in its revolution into a fearless creative future. I want to expand and broaden the ear, however huge that task may be. I do, though, aspire to reaching the rest of the world with my music so overseas is something I definitely want to explore. I want to fly the South African flag while doing it.

How much work went into the E.P and what would you like it to achieve?

An incredible amount of me went into Hikari. Mind and soul. The writing is autobiographic and explores many corners of my being. Blending that with pertinent compositions was a really intricate process where I had to harness a blend of layered themes and funk. As you listen, you’ll find that you can pick apart the song’s messages from the different levels on which they exist each time you listen. Sonically, I collaborated with really talented composers and instrumentalist to create a live sound. A lot of the instruments are played live to minimise looping monotony and to capture authentic live renditions of the compositions with real feeling. The EP in its entirety represents to people the diverse world I exist in musically and prepares them for what’s coming. Beyond that, I really wanted to give South Africa a glimpse into a new sound. A new possibility. Light. 

You’re an accomplished and highly awarded creative. Will you end up using what you learned in your studies or would you rather focus on a musical career for now?

I’m already in the creative industry as a designer and art director and I do find ways of applying my more academic creative self to my musical self. In terms of visual communications and branding, sure, it’s all one thing I believe, but there definitely is a special, sacred place for my music where at the very center and beginning of it lies honesty and a childlike adoration for sound. 

You do freelance music journalism. What are your thoughts on the current state of music writing in the country?

I’ll admit we are experiencing a kind of death in creativity. Music reviews and write-ups become press release-esque and all appear to follow a template construct from some stock stanza archive on the deep web. With that said, there are really incredibly talented writers in our country and I really believe in our ability to tell stories. We just have to realise the stature of the responsibility. 

Now that you’re on the other side, do you think you can still write about other musicians?

Yes and no. I think I’m too excited about music to write objective and disconnected/true reviews. But at the same time, that excitement would allow me to connect with the music more than the next person and explicitly write up an account of my experience with it. Anyway, I have not written about a musician in a while. Maybe soon. 

Anything to add, please do so here… 

Well, I've started working on my debut album, which I’ll try get out in the fourth quarter of the year. The title for it at the moment is Your princess is in another castle. Also look out for my work with Spoek Mathambo in the near future, and look out for my official debut music video for my debut single “UnlovingYouLand”. We just got the video today and will be dropping it in a week so please look out for that. Also for the readers please get the Hikari EP while we still have it up for free.