Lundi Mlonyeni, a Design Indaba Emerging Creative for 2022, is putting his personal stamp on the music scene. A singer, musician and sound engineer, the Johannesburg-based creative – who was born in the Eastern Cape and is a snappy dresser of note – is ready for the big time. He told Design Indaba about his musical influences, his ambitions, and his not-so-secret love of jazz.
1. I’m guessing that your stage name, Dave Monday, comes from your name Lundi (which means ‘Monday’ in French)… But what about Dave?
Yes, Lundi is from Monday! Not many people get that. The ‘Dave’ part is derived from the biblical David, who was a musician. So I’m Lundi the musician!
2. Tell us a little bit about how you got started – you’ve spoken about your church upbringing and the influence of your dad?
I grew up in a musical home, which meant I was exposed to music by my mom and dad. My mom was a singer in college and my dad was a pianist. I’ve always had music around me, which influenced me – I was never pushed into it. We belonged to a Seventh-Day Adventist church, where music is taken very, very seriously – just going there was a musical experience for me and really influenced my musicality. I used to imitate what I saw and heard, but started to take music more seriously as I got older.
My dad didn’t actually teach me the piano or anything like that – we both had a love of music, and he encouraged me when I wanted to learn to play an instrument. I wanted to play the piano like my dad, but I didn’t have access to one at boarding school, so I picked up a guitar. I started with nylon strings, but now I play acoustic steel-string and electric guitars. They provide me with two different alter egos that I can switch between since I have different styles when I play each one. I’d also love to play bass, or play the saxophone, but am too intimidated at the moment!
3. So you’ve had no formal musician training?
No. I did apply to the University of Cape Town to become a jazz musician, but I had no experience so I didn’t get in. Jazz has been one of my biggest influences since I was a kid. I really love Oscar Peterson, Moses Taiwa Molelekwa, Dave Grusin… Jimmy Dludlu and Judith Sephuma were students when I first heard them perform, when I was about eight – they gave me chills and goose bumps! Everything starts from jazz. I’ve picked up what I’ve learnt as I’ve gone along – but I did study sound engineering at the Academy of Sound Engineering in Cape Town.
4. What appeals to you about Afro-soul in particular?
I’ve been categorised as an Afro-soul performer, partly because I sing a lot of songs in vernac, and partly because of the R&B and jazzy elements to my music. But it’s a bit of a rough identification, and I do try to add the personal touch to whatever I do. Even if a song is R&B or hip-hop, it’s the personal essence that will make it stand out.
5. Are you a full-time singer and musician, or is it still early days?
I work as a music teacher – I teach both kids and adults at two special needs schools. I’m contracted to a music school, so I can be a bit flexible, and I have different clients. I’ve been teaching for about a year. I’m lucky to have been able to teach in person without getting Covid! It’s taken me a while to get to the place where I can pursue what I love. I was worried I’d have to work at something that would keep me away from my passion – I didn’t want music to just be a side hustle, so I’m really lucky. The universe has provided! I also work as a sessionist sometimes, so I’m always around music.
6. Who are some of your influences and who would you love to collaborate with?
There are so many – Robert Glasper, Gretchen Parlato – and I love how pop is written, so Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber and Given Morrison. Also Jordan Rakei, Tom Misch, Chris Botti on the trumpet, and Christian Scott with Kendrick Lamar. At home, I love Sisonke Xonti, Hugh Masekela and Jonathan Butler.
I’ve been lucky enough to open for Ringo Madlingozi and Tshego (of Pink Panther fame), and I’ve also shared platforms and stages with Manana and Zoë Modiga. And I’ve worked on a few productions, like ‘Stripped Down’ on Channel O. I took part in ‘Idols’ when I was in matric and auditioned for ‘The Voice’ but didn’t make it! I try to push my own gigs as much as possible, though.
7. What does creativity mean to you?
Creativity means expression, freedom, authenticity and being true to yourself because it’s basically a reflection of everything that’s within you. When you’re In a creative space, you can harness what is within and express it outwardly.
8. What are you working on at the moment?
I’m finishing my EP, which is going to drop in winter. I’m also focused on being a Design Indaba Emerging Creative. It’s my aim to put together a solid body of work.
9. Where do you see yourself within the next few years?
To be honest, I would like my EP to serve as a springboard for a lot of things I want to manifest and achieve musically. I’d like my brand, Dave Monday, to go international – some local musicians do become well known overseas, even if they’re not that well known here. Even if you don’t understand a language, you can feel the energy behind someone’s music – and I hope my music will take me to a lot more places.
Credits: Lundi Mlonyeni