“Man was made to hold his head erect in majesty and see the sky, to raise his eyes to the bright stars above,” the Roman poet Ovid wrote in 8AD, in his Latin literary epic Metamorphoses. You don’t need to tell this to Rina Mushonga. The London-based, Dutch-Zimbabwean pop innovator, whose new album In A Galaxy was part inspired by Metamorphoses, is full of reflections on the cosmos and our place in it. “The title refers to how relative space and time are in how we perceive and judge each other,” she explains of her follow-up to 2014 debut The Wild, The Wilderness. “Earth viewed as part of a galaxy binds us in our humanity.” The universe is infinite in its expanse, as Ovid observed. Mushonga’s In A Galaxy weaves into an glittering constellation of warped synths, Afropop rhythms and addictive, soul-lifting vocal harmonies the suggestion that we’re all specks of dust floating through that expanse, whose differences seem insignificant up against that truth.
Describing the album as sounding like “Paul Simon in a sweaty, African dancehall club,” Mushonga explains that the record is a result of four years spent “trying to filter out the noise more, to go with my gut more, trust my instinct and my taste, even if people think it's weird or too much.” Working both in her adopted hometown of Peckham with producer Brett Shaw and with “my musical besty and synth whisperer” Frans Verburg in his Rotterdam basement studio, In A Galaxy buzzes with an eclecticism that might be traced back to heritage and history of moving around: at various points of her life, Mushonga has lived in India, Zimbabwe and the Netherlands before moving to London. “My life always felt very cross-pollinated,” says Mushonga. “My Dad always proudly called us global citizens – we belonged everywhere. I loved that, I identified with that. My music doesn't have to choose to express anything but myself – a little bit of this, a little bit of that. And it's that genre-hopping that best represents me, how I see things and experience the world.”
Given the name MEI by her Mandarin teacher, meaning 'beauty', Mercy Welbeck was introduced to soul and gospel music after joining her church choir at 11 years old. Since finding her love for music, she has performed alongside Brian Eno and Karl Hyde on Later... with Jools Holland and supported Little Simz with Bad Honey at the Roundhouse Rising Festival. MEI also features on the FIFA 19 soundtrack alongside collaborators Husky Loops and Count Counsellor .
Previously supported by the likes of Clash, gal-dem, EARMILK, and hotly tipped by hip-hop artist Kojey Radical, MEI's soulful sound is capturing the attention of some of the best industry heads. Recently being awarded the Do It Differently Fund by Help Musicians UK, MEI is now making her own unique mark on the UK music scene.