Moonga K’s ‘GARDEN’ Reinforces That Joy Can Be Found In The Funkiest Of Rhythms
October 25, 2023
Art can be a powerful conduit for self-introspection and improvement – upliftment. We’ve seen this with records like A Seat At The Table, Ctrl., and Lemonade, for instance. In each singer’s candor and vulnerability, audiences are equally inspired to consider being radically honest with themselves, to recognize their own feelings while being entertained. With the release of his second studio album, GARDEN, Moonga K poses the question “Who are you to you,” opening a space for the same self-introspection and honesty to uplift audiences.
As GARDEN plays, Moonga K can be heard affirming himself, acknowledging the less pleasant feelings around romance, and inspiring hope which ultimately translates into an uplifting and joyful listening experience. Likening love to a garden that he tends permeates throughout the 30-minute record, offering a type of golden thread that connects each track. Particularly when the soundscapes of each record span multiple genres, a golden thread like this is key in creating a cohesive listening experience.
Opening with “the revolution”, Moonga K issues a sort of call to action, one concerned with advocating for one’s self. “Who are you to you,” he asks. “Don’t you die for fools,” he demands of his listener. While the chords and tones of the record lean into rock soundscapes, he pivots into a softer and dreamy soundscape while delivering an uplifting message through spoken word.
With “feels like”, Moonga K transitions his listener out of contemplative introspection into a joyous celebration. Leaning into a soul soundscape, the record feels like an upbeat family reunion anthem. In fact, it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine “feels like” as the soundtrack to a graduation ceremony in any popular film production. The same can be said for “i’m gonna make it”, which arguably is a continuation of the message of “feels like”.
At the same time, the use of soul, funk, and rock soundscapes shouldn’t detract from the fact that introspection isn’t exclusively uplifting. So many times, as we look into ourselves, self-interrogation requires we inspect our bad decisions as zealously as we attempt to inspire ourselves into positive action. Posing questions like “Why do I always have to be the strong one,” and “Why do we keep going back to the same place,” Moonga K doesn’t gloss over the painful reality of feeling lonely with “lonely forever”. Quite fittingly, this record leans into the blues we’ve come to appreciate in R&B.
Less forlorn, he croons alongside Nkosilath, both longing for love in “be mine”. The record plays like a conversation lovers have after an intense argument. The live instrumentation, vocal stacking, and simplicity of the lyrics make for a sound that draws you in and begs for submission. Similarly, while not seeking the love of another, with “wallflower” we hear Moonga K looking into himself about feeling like a wallflower and wanting to escape. Breaking from the saxophone and drum patterns, which inspire the same pleasure as iced tea on a hot summer’s day, Moonga rounds off the record with an ardent voice message from a friend.
It must be said, however, that an album that presents both the best and worst feelings for consideration is an emotional journey for both the artist and their listener. As such, much like in the albums mentioned earlier, musical works of a deeply personal nature round off with records that inspire hope. To hope is to believe in the possibility of a brighter tomorrow, of a better day, of more life. The final two tracks of GARDEN, “ritual” and “wave (that’s me)” elicit hope for the listener. The most obvious and generally accepted genre to inspire and uplift has to be gospel music. However, Moonga K makes a solid case for the sound of joy being funk music.
Overall, Moonga joins a long list of artists who require their listeners to do more than sing along absentmindedly. Between his lyrical choices, live instrumentation, and performance style, Moonga K presents a story of self-introspection and rejoicing with his sophomore album, GARDEN.
Photography by Hallie Haller
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