After stealing the hearts of the nation on his stint on The Voice UK, Donel Mangena is poised and ready to make his bid on the UK Music charts as a fully fledged pop star, after being signed to Polydor Records.
Just hours after the release of his infectious debut ‘Bang Like A Drum’, we chatted to the ambitious 16 year old and got the lowdown on his new music and the positivity he plans to spread in his music.
Congratulations on the release of your new single, Can you tell us a bit more about it?
‘Bang Like A Drum’ is something that I wanted to do for a long time, It really expresses my character and where I perform on stage. The fact I co-wrote the song makes it more meaningful to me and the fans and everyone who supports me, because they can also understand what I am talking about, it’s coming from me and those are my words.
The collaboration with Swarmz. How did that come about?
It was pretty cool, we asked him what he could do on the track because I was a fan of his song ‘Lyca’ so we made the decision to bring him on the track because it sounded really good and it was like a different genre but mixed. He’s from a different genre and sort of mixing the soft grime aspect to my afropop style and I was really excited to see how it worked out and it came out really good.
You seem to fuse together really well on the song actually and it does have a different sound in this it makes it unique. I feel like when people hear it straight away, they would know it’s you as opposed to somebody else.
Yeah! That’s exactly what I wanted to bring out. I know there’s loads of music that’s out there right know but loads of people are flowing people that they’ve already seen but for me I’m a fan of Chris Brown but I’m not going to make my music like Chris Brown. I’m going to make my music the way I want to with inspiration from him, I wanted to make something with a different sound, that’s unique so that when people hear it, they go ‘Oh that’s Donel, I want to make music like Donel’ and to actually make something where people look up to me, and not look up to people above me because I want to make something new and fresh for people to love.
We’ve seen that you’ve been rehearsing for the video on social media. Can you tell us a little bit more about what we can expect?
You can expect slickness and choreography, just like some vibes! You can dance to the song, we’ve made it so everyone can dance to this song, everyone can learn the song, everyone can love the song and you can get up and feel like you want to dance. The song says ‘the way you dance will make you bang like a drum’ so I just want to make sure everyone can be involved. I want my fans to be involved in the song, feel part of the song. The choreography is cool, I worked really hard on the choreography and I hope everyone loves it because I spent so much time on it and the one exciting part is we had the idea of dancing with twins and I don’t think much people have done it yet. Like I said I want to bring something different in the music industry so I’ve got two boys who are twins and two twin girls so yeah it’s super exciting and they’ll be performing with me tomorrow night as well.
You have quite a dedicated fan base so early on in your career known as ‘The Donny Squad’. How important is it for you to interact and to keep in touch with them on social media?
It’s super important because I love to have one on one conversation with my fans and get to see what their interests are and I love when they like what I put out because it’s shows that we are engaging and that we’re all on the same page and also putting stuff out that makes them happy. I’ve gotten so much engagement and hype from my release today because they’ve gone into supporting me without knowing what the music is like so they’ve put their trust me in me, so I’ve given them what they wanted but probably exceeded their expectations ’cause I’ve worked so hard on the song.
That’s really nice to have such a relationship with your fans at the start of your career.
It’s not even age I’m specifying. I want my little brother to listen to my music, I want my grandma to listen to my music and I want my parents to listen to my music so it’s one of them ones. I’ve had so much support from my management and family so it was all about making the right single which applies to everyone and something that is so catchy. I’ve had so many people say they’ve had it on repeat the whole morning and that’s what I like. I woke up to so many messages and crazy because i’ve listened to it so many times whilst making it and making it was so much fun but when you actually see the reaction, it’s a whole different experience. It feels like I’m on The Voice again.
What can we expect from your new music?
You can expect something something you’re bound to dance to, something catchy and as good as ‘Bang Like A Drum’ because I want to keep the quality levels really high in my music, something engaging and I don’t want lose any engagement or lose out of potentially being in the charts. So I want to continue to climb and to make more engaging music and more fun music and more music that makes people happy because there’s not much people who are making people really happy right now.
How do you feel about performing at The Voice Kids Final tomorrow?
I think it’s going to be cool because I want to be an inspiration to all the kids that are going to be there. Also, I want to show the world that I haven’t gone quiet and I want to be best and hopefully ‘Bang Like A Drum’ can reach millions of people who will all be watching tomorrow. It’s exciting but I have to keep my excitement on a certain level so that I can concentrate.
Whilst you were competing on The Voice, you seemed to turn each performance into your own version of the song…
That’s why I was so excited to go into the studio because I knew what I wanted and I got what I wanted from the studio and recording, especially the team I work with. I found the right people and the right blend. Honestly if I was to go into the studio today, I know I’d write something that I would love and that everybody would love. It’s just a matter of who is around you.
How do you have so much confidence at such a young age?
I actually don’t know. I pray a lot whilst going on stage and you always get nerves but I enjoy the rush. If you enjoy something that you do then there is nothing that’s going to stop you from selling it.
What’s the best piece of advice you were given by your coach will.i.am and can we see a collaboration in the future?
I think you can see a collaboration in the future and that’s going to be a mad one. Also, he’s given me loads of tips like ‘don’t change who you are’, ‘always keep yourself to be who you are’ and ‘keep your family around you. Like personal tips that will keep me rooted as an artist and amongst all the attention and also to be the best I can be and that’s what I want to be. I don’t feel like I’m competing against anyone but I’m competing against myself.
Talking of collaborations, we’ve heard that you’re planning on working with Craig David soon?
Yeah, end of the summer! With Craig David, I met him at the Queen’s birthday but it was crazy because I didn’t know he would perform. We were just talking and he’s from Southampton and so I am I and we’re from the same town. He mentioned the town I am from and I’d say it’s made up of like 100 or 200 people. I told him I liked one of his songs called ‘For The Gram’ on his album and he had the singles out which I loved but I told him I was a fan of that because it was ‘young’ and ‘current’. He was like ‘Yo, we should get into the studio and do more like this’ and that’s how it kicked off and that the fact we both live in Southampton, I think it’d mean a lot more to us and everyone back home.
How has the reaction to everything been from your family in Zimbabwe?
Crazy! The family group chat! Listen I’m getting missed calls on Whatsapp, that’s how you know it’s from Zimbabwe. It’s just been so much love, articles from Zimbabwe are going out and that’s crazy and I’ve even had people from Zimbabwe contact me that I don’t even know saying ‘I can’t believe I’ve met you, I never thought I’d meet you’ and that’s a crazy one. One of that happened this morning and a couple of weeks ago I was at a youth event for my church and someone who is visiting, I didn’t know who he was, a grown man came and he said ‘I can’t believe I’ve actually met you, I never thought I’d get the chance to meet you’ and that meant a lot, and it’s crazy that people of any age can like me.
Can we expect your grandma to make a cameo in one of your next video’s?
Haha, it depends if she can fly over one time! I think from now on, it’s about making the best music and showing everyone who I am as an artist and who I am as a performer.
What do you hope to achieve in the next few years?
In the next few years, I’d like to be doing tours and selling out arenas ’cause I’ve seen the likes of Shawn Mendes do it and I want to push myself to the limit to do bigger and better. It’s a lot of hard work but I want it do it because I can see what you reap out of it.
Do you have any advice for young performers hoping to follow in your footsteps?
I would say, just enjoy it! I’ve been watching The Voice Kids this week and I’ve seen some people that got good confidence and it’s crazy to see young people do it. I want to inspire young performers to be like ‘Yo, this is what I want to do, let me do it’ because that is how I felt. I auditioned for The Voice when I was 15 and now I am doing it, it’s crazy. I never thought I would get signed straight after The Voice!
Lastly, what message do you have for CelebMix readers and your supporters?
I would say stay happy, stay positive and keep it banged like a drum!
A big thank you to Donel, and his team for taking the time out to talk to CelebMix, and we of course will be supporting him every step of the way, as we have been.
‘Bang Like A Drum’ is out now and you can be kept up to date on all things Donel by following his Twitter and Instagram accounts. Don’t forget to watch him perform on The Voice UK Kids Live Final this Saturday on ITV at 8pm.