Rising: Santi wants us to feel
Santi isn’t afraid of his feelings. He’s most comfortable making music from well within his head, in fact. When the Nigeria-based artist writes, he volleys between memories and moments past, readily name checking love, death and teenage heroes as inspiration when we chat about his genre-defying music over the phone. On his debut album Mandy & the Jungle, however, he’s not putting his own emotions front and centre. “I want you to feel,” he insists instead.
In recent years, Santi has garnered attention as one of the forebears of Lagos’ nascent Alté scene, a growing community of artists who have found their way to global audiences through their unique expression of African culture. But part of Santi’s success is his patience. He spent three years fine-tuning Mandy & the Jungle. The result is a coming-of-age album covering ground between Santi’s years spent studying in Dubai up through the tumultuous turns of his 20s.
On the record, moods blend together, fading in and out of focus like figures in a foggy mirror. He brings up his song RX-64, which was inspired by Mike, Og and Lu, a late-90s Cartoon Network series about an 11-year-old girl who is stranded on a tropical island. “That whole world has been in my head,” he explains. The track starts with a quietly contemplative guitar motif before giving way to a dancehall beat that carries the same sense of melancholy across its marimbas and 808 claps.
“It’s that whole thing of creating a safe space where people can hear your music and dream”
More than anything, Santi’s music captures a wistful mood, a lesson he learned from indie musicians. “Santigold, Vampire Weekend… Owl City, funnily enough,” he rattles off before clocking my surprise at the latter addition. “That guy did so much for me, man, he has no idea.”
During the entirety of our phone call, there’s a quiet hum of synths coming from his side of the line. He tells me his producers (and roommates) are downstairs working on a new project. I get the sense it’s similar to what Santi saw in the celestial synth soundscapes of Adam Young’s mid-noughties electronic pop project, Owl City: “It’s that whole thing of creating a safe space where people can hear your music and dream. You hear Fireflies and it just makes you feel like you can dream.”
Sounds like: Music for sad bois to wine to
Soundtrack for: Throwing your windows open
File next to: GAIKA, Jhené Aiko
Our favourite song: Rapid Fire
Where to find him: soundcloud.com/santinosounds
Mandy & the Jungle is out now via Monster Boy