December 7, 2023

Solace EP is a meeting point for pristine instrumentals and rich melodies. The project is an ingenious move by Uncle Waffles. With support from some of South Africa’s most skilful creatives,  Uncle Waffles has created songs that would be here for a minute.

By Emmanuel Daraloye

The last three years have been the most impactful for Uncle Waffles. She moved from being a radio presenter to elevating her DJing skills, and then to becoming the first Amapiano artiste to perform at the annual music and arts festival, Coachella, held in the US. Dreams do not get this bigger. In a way to encapsulate some of these successes, the South African-based disc jockey has released her extended play, Solace, with collaborations from some of South African finest artistes.

Uncle Waffles (real name Lungelihle Zwane) was raised by her grandmother in Eswatini. She honed her DJing skills by listening to the likes of Grammy Award-winning disc jockey, Black Coffee, Lebo Mathosa, and a host of others. She grew up listening to Kwaito, Qgom, and other South African house music genres. In the better part of 2020, she found her switching career path.  She had moved from her country of birth to South Africa for her higher education, and while schooling, she started frolicking with the turntable. Months later,  when she began to book gigs, one of her performances caught the attention of the Canadian-born rapper, Drake. Uncle Waffles has performed in the US, the UK, and in other countries across Europe. Her performances are always energy filled, and in her new body of work, Solace, she attempts to transfer this trait.

A thumping beat starts the track “Echoes.” This goes on for over thirty seconds before Manana’s (a featured artiste) vocals come up. The sultry singer starts with infatuation-filled lines “Echoes, but you don’t want to let this go.” The next lyrics are rife with words of assurance, passion, and a stark yearning for a partner. Lusanda, another featured artiste on this song, provides a male perspective as he assures Manana of his undying love for her. What is alluring about “Echoes,” is that the Tony Duarado-produced track is laid on mid-tempo with Manana’s lyrics and flows unhurriedly sitting on the R&B genre. The song is a meeting point for the two genres; the thumping beat at the beginning takes you to a club, but it is a short trip as you are later transported to the R&B world. Here, Uncle Waffles shows her brilliance and her innate ability to mix sounds.

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We finally get the much-recognised Amapiano log drum, kicks, and snares on the invigorating next track, “Peace & Happiness.” The enticing melodies and catchy lyrics lay a sound foundation for the song. It tethers towards a ballad as 2kultured, the featured artiste, gushes about the way a girl makes him feel: “You give me peace and happiness in my soul, in you I have hope,” he announces. The Amapiano elements are more pronounced in this song. Within the eight-minute, thirty-two-second mark of the song, some solo runs are allowed in, and the vocals come up with more refrains. The song naturally gives off a club-like aura.

Solace EP by Uncle Waffles tracklist
Solace EP Tracklist

The three distinct styles of Uncle Waffles, Ice Beats Slide, and Sbuda Maleather get highlighted in “Peacock Revisit.” The production is built on rhythmic piano melodies, with quantum refrain lyrics. Uncle Waffles plays around with the percussion as she allows the drum pattern to mix easily with the piano chord, kicks, and snares, giving a shiny Amapiano sound to listeners. Lyrically, “Peacock Revisit” is a call to action, the audience is excitedly invited to the dance floor by Uncle Waffles and her compatriots.

“Waffles Anthem,” the self-acclaimed song has input from Shakes & Les and Murumba Pitch. The track pays tribute to Uncle Waffle’s wizardry as a deejay. This infectious track gets punctuated by a poignant trumpet. The track may be sung in the Zulu language,  but you can’t help but shake to the song’s fast pace as it sends you straight to a shindig party mode.

The sonorous voice of MaWhoo highlights “Khumbula.” It is an Amapiano track, but this time, with fuller production, and with more instrumentals coming to play. Sometimes, the song gets chaotic as the vocals tend to subdue. That said, a more refined mixing and mastering could have made this less noticeable. Sino Msolo provides some alluring backup on this song, further amplifying  MaWhoo’s vocals. “Khumbula,” has some Jazz music undertone that seeps in and dances around the production. “Khumbula,” is soothing to hear.

Uncle Waffles
Uncle Waffles

“Khula,” finds Uncle Waffles showing off her exemplary DJing skills, her full energy, and her genres mixing with bright input from Optimist Music ZA. The song, which is over six minutes long, is a beautiful mix of sounds. Beyond the known Amapiano elements,  more percussion was allowed, further taking the song to another level. It might be a lyrically watered-down song, but the irresistible sounds make “Khula” difficult to ignore.

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A captivating mix of guitar and piano welcomes you on the last track “Solace.” The titular track is more relaxed, with the percussion allowed to find its way around the song. The lyrics are deliberately minimal. Ice Beats Slide, the featured artiste, skillfully shows off his strength as he manipulates the instrumental to give off a pleasing sound. It is a good closer for the listeners.

Solace EP is a meeting point for pristine instrumentals and rich melodies. The project is an ingenious move by Uncle Waffles. With support from some of South Africa’s most skilful creatives,  Uncle Waffles has created songs that would be here for a minute. It’s a niche-based project with Uncle Waffles expertly exploring Amapiano. To be tagged by Billboard as an Amapiano Queen doesn’t come that often, and Uncle Waffles makes a good attempt to walk the talk.

Lyricism – 1

Tracklisting – 1

Sound Engineering – 2

Vocalisation – 1 

Listening Experience – 2

Rating – 7/10 

Emmanuel Daraloye is Africa’s most prolific freelance music critic. He has over 600 album reviews in his archive.

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