Why Manchester is the new creative epicentre of neo-soul and hip-hop
A short while ago, we premiered the beautiful video for Birmingham-based soul singer Laura Mvula’s debut single She. Just as the track soars and glides with the emotional intensity of a clamour of voices, so the video takes you on an expansive-yet-intimate journey from the wide open roads of South Africa to the warm confines of a choir in a tiny church. Director Damian Weilers and Laura herself took some time this week to share with us exclusive behind the scenes footage and words about their experience on set in the mountainous South African town of Montagu. Watch the video, as well as some exclusive rehearsal footage, and read their insights below.
Laura Mvula – She
Laura Mvula: “I really connected with Damian’s storyboard. I felt like he brought a new dimension to the song. The happy little girl in his story reminded me of myself. His imagery was crystal clear in my imagination. I could see the church and the choir which are profound symbols in my life/history. I just knew that Damian would create something simple and beautiful and not over-prescriptive.”
“Montagu is an incredibly beautiful and mountainous place. We shot the video in a tiny derelict church; such an amazing contrast to it’s vast surroundings. I felt at peace the whole time we were there… like I could just bathe in the heat and the quiet.”
“I had a sense that something incredible and painful was going to happen after we awkwardly shook hands with the choir and we walked into the church together. The women spontaneously broke into song and broke my heart. I wept uncontrollably as they sang over us with loud and weathered voices. They finished and I stared at the ceiling feeling cleansed and embarrassed.”
Rehearsal with the Zolani choir featured in She
Dummy: What initially drew you to She?
Damian: Well that is an easy answer: the song. It is so gentle, soulful and fills me with warmth, it reminded me of home (South Africa).
Dummy: What idea were you hoping to convey with your video?
Damian: When I heard the song for the first time, the visuals I had were very strong, and I knew it had to be shot in Africa. Rich colourful skies, mountains, long roads and then the beauty of African life and culture. I heard the harmonies in the song and it was very clear to me that an African church choir would set the scene correctly. I wanted to make sure that they were real to create the authentic style and feeling. I had found this church a few years ago and have been dying to find the right opportunity to use it. The little girl (Athi Tshangela, who was a gem to work with) also had to be local again to keep the authenticity and realism to the story. All of these factors are what I needed to make my vision come alive and make one feel the feelings I got from the beautiful song She, it was very important to create warmth, nostalgia and timeless visuals.
Dummy: How did your ideas change on set?
Damian: No ideas changed really, in fact if anything the ideas became stronger on set. On the first shoot day the choir arrived at the location and entered the church and they began to sing. We were all floored – I thought it was only me, because I am from South Africa I would be feeling emotional through nostalgia and pride. But when I looked around the entire crew were in pieces from the little Zolani choir. At this point I knew I was on the right track to setting the mood and putting the crew in my vision for the video.
Dummy: What was the experience of shooting like?
Damian: Emotional and an absolute pleasure. I am so proud to be given the opportunity to direct Laura’s music video, she has given us all something special and I have tried to do the same. This is something from the heart which cannot be wrong.