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Who is on our radar? South African singer, actress and poet Naima Mclean. Her star is on the rise. The talented artist will be making her international acting debut alongside Paul Walker in the film Vehicle 19 and her single, Hero (featuring AKA), from her upcoming album is steadily climbing up the local music charts.

ELLE magazine features writer Refilwe Boikanyo went behind the scenes of the Hero video shoot to find out more about the young starlet.

naima mclean hero

Q: Tell us about your musical background

I was born into a musical family with my grandfather (Jackie Mclean) and father (Rene Mclean) being internationally renowned jazz musicians. Music has been the backdrop of my life, and from a young age my dad had me perform my music and poetry with him. Although I was always performing – acting, singing, dancing and writing from childhood through to my tertiary education – I only pursued music full-time five years ago.

Q: What is your creative process for creating a track?

They differ. Sometimes I’ll come up with a basic base line on a guitar, write to that and give it to a producer to develop. Sometimes I’ll be given instrumentals that inspire a melody line, and sometimes the whole track will build in my mind and I’ll go into the studio and work it with an engineer.

Q: Who inspires you musically?

Gosh, so many! My father does, he’s truly a creative genius and encouraged my thinking out the box. Outside of him, I love the likes of Sara Vaughan, Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, Bobby McFerrin, Jill Scott, Adele, Alicia Keys, Lira, Thandiswa Mazwai, Zaki Ibrahim, Tumi, Zubz, RJ Benjamin and Frank Ocean. My list could go on.

Q: How have the past 12 months been for you?

They have been extremely enlightening, both from a creative and business perspective. I’m really defining my sound and music through recording the album I’m about to release, so I’m really excited about that. And from a business perspective, in the past year I signed to a major label and consequently decided to leave them and release my album independently. This has been such an empowering realisation to come to and an eye-opening experience. As artists I think too often we underestimate our capacity. It’s really been a year of coming into my own.

Q: Which modern-day artists do you look up to?

Refer to the list above, and you can include Rihanna and Beyoncé. Their work ethic is truly something to admire.

Q: Is there anyone you would like to collaborate or gig with?

For sure. Hugh Masekela, D’banj, DJ Black Coffee, Mi Casa, Khuli Chana, Simphiwe Dana, Nandi Ngoma, GoodLuck, GoldFish, The Muffins, Nneka. Enough?

Q: Whose songs are you listening to at the moment?

Mine J, Kimbra, Nneka, Janelle Monáe and Kendrick Lamar.

Q: What’s more important, melody or lyrics?

I think they’re equally important, but if I had to choose I would go with lyrics. I’m a poet so words mean the world to me.

 Q: What’s been the highlight of your career so far?

Releasing this album independently, and starring opposite Paul Walker in the film Vehicle 19.

 Q: What are you hoping to achieve in the next 12 months?

I hope to build my brand and carve a niche for myself in the African music industry as someone who is doing things differently and raising the bar.

For her single, Hero, Mclean teamed up with SAMA-award-winning rapper AKA. ‘If you listen to the lyrics, you’ll realise that it’s a call to change. It’s about inspiring the youth to find light in a dark place. It’s all about getting people to mobilise themselves and change the things that they are unhappy about. That’s why the video is set in post-apocalyptic Joburg, a world full of danger, darkness and injustice, and people come together to fight for peace,’ says Mclean.

Watch the video below and tell us what you think:

Like it? Download the track for FREE on sound cloud

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