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Ngandu Offers An Instrumental Reprieve From Loneliness 

The Calgary beat conductor channels succinct coping mechanisms on N.Y.M.T.E.

by Danielle Wensley

Photo by Jonard Tan

In the dead cold early-days of the pandemic, Calgary-based producer, dancer, and performer Ngandu’s mother was sick at home in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Being twice removed from family and friends, both by global and social distance, Ngandu quickly fell into loneliness. He turned to the keys of his piano, who received his tender touch in support of a deep dive into instrumental meanderings with isolation, being alone, and cravings for togetherness. His latest release N.Y.M.T.E. (Need You More Than Ever) is the result—a beautiful and cohesive instrumental narration of pandemic-life.

Knowing that the inspiration for this release came out of feeling lonely and isolated, you might expect to be hit with melancholic, angst-inducing ballads, but N.Y.M.T.E. is surprisingly light-hearted. When we spoke with Ngandu, he shared that one valuable lesson learned through conversations with friends about loneliness is that it’s not what you’re going through, it’s how you deal. Ngandu believes that people go through things together, even if it may not feel that way.

Appropriately, N.Y.M.T.E. offers a generous reprieve from loneliness, where we find ourselves in good company and lifted into uninhibited solo-grooving. Music, dancing, and gathering over good food have always been a baseline in Ngandu’s life, and so his music naturally resounds with a sense of upbeat belonging. As a dancer, movement is a focal point of Ngandu’s beat making process. His music is infused with sunny, traditional Soukous and Kwassa Kwassa rhythms that dance hand-in-hand with velvety House-inspired synths and irresistibly funky horn samples. 

Ngandu’s music is proof that the artist need not suffer to produce gold. Instead, the magic is in taking what you’re missing and transforming it into exactly what you need. We connected with the emerging beat maker to learn more about how the album came together and find out how he used music to ease his pandemic blues. 

Does dancing inform the way you put the beats together? 

Dancing does indeed inform how I put the beats together. The upbeat tracks on the project “I Have My Days,” “A Familiar Feeling” and “SAVE ME” all stem from the idea of me dancing to a pattern of a kick drum and snare in my mind. After dancing and hearing it in my mind, I turn on the metronome and record the initial drums and I go from there. Before I begin composing, I usually visualize a time and setting for what I’d like to make. 

Can you share a little about how N.Y.M.T.E. explores feelings of isolations, while also bolstering a sense of togetherness?

When I began working on N.Y.M.T.E. my mom back home was sick. I couldn’t see my sister and her kids, so I quickly began feeling lonely. I picked up playing piano again and explored moody and cinematic sounds. “ICE TEA” and “GETTING DARK” are two of the pieces that came out of that exploration of isolation. As far as exploring the feeling of isolation, one thing that redefined my perspective was the fact that my closest friends were also  feeling lonely. In conversations With my friends a common theme was the idea that “It’s not what you are going through, it is how you deal with it.” This message solidified my belief that people go through things together, although it might not always seem like it. “LIKE A CHILD” and “ALL I EVER WANTED” came out of this inspiration.

What equipment were you using to construct each track? 

A grand piano, Akai MPKmini, and Keystation 61 MK3.

Do you use samples for vocals or are any of the vocals your own?

I featured Black Wednesday on “LIKE A CHILD.” “SAVE ME” is my own vocals and samples. The rest of the vocals on the project are all samples. 

Who would you say are three of your biggest musical influences?

Stevie Wonder, Boddhi Satva, and Kaytranada

What album or albums are you jamming with lately?

Ring My Bell by Anita Ward, Bane by Olivier N’goma, and Donda by Kanye West