It’s telling that singer Joy Denalane’s social media avatar is the South African flag, but without all the colours you associate it with. Denalane’s is black and white. It is a representation of her physical person, as a German born of a South African father and German mother. She never really lost touch with her paternal roots, and this is clear on her second and third albums, “Born & Raised” and “Maureen”. Her first album, “Mamani” is considered the first German soul album. Denalane gives to the sound of German, that angry and guttural language of the world’s most famous classical music composers, where you don’t have to hear their voices, a soulfulness, a sweetness and an incandescence. When Afro-Germans speak German, something comes alive for us as foreign listeners or would-be interpreters. She sings in this language and makes us want to listen more, and to hear that aching, slightly hoarse beautiful voice.
Watch the video for “Zuhause” (meaning home):
What Denalane sought to do on this latest album, “Gleisdreieck”, is talk about the area where she grew up. To talk about the changes that immigration is bringing to those people she thought she knew so well, and to the German people who are more suspicious and not so welcoming to refugees or other immigrants. Even in a multicultural area. In the song “Zuhause” she sings plaintively of these changes. Of how they affect her and her relationships. Of how she thought she was at home. Watching this video, when she cries it’s such a heartbreaking thing as you can clearly feel the pain.
The style of her new music is Denalane rising up to meet a new vision and new sound. It suits her beautifully. She is still infused in the American soul tradition, yet always brings her own special energy to the sound of the project.
Her voice, as the German weekly Der Spiegel notes, is radiant. In spite of the political and social uncertainties, one thing is for sure, she is aptly named Joy, and her voice radiates with a light that is much needed at the moment.
Watch the video for Alles Leuchtet, which means “everything glows”:
Watch the video for “Hologramm”: