A walk through the Humboldthain. Suddenly a panic attack hits – and no friend picks up the phone. Keep walking, keep breathing, up to the platform. It’s slowly getting better, back down from the hill. “When I was walking through the park, my fear suddenly came at me, I could really see it in my mind’s eye,” Achan Malonda remembers that violent day a few years ago.
But he also brought a song to the singer, who only uses her last name as the stage name – a tip from Stefan Raab. Immediately after the walk, she wrote down the text in a café. In it, fear then sits down next to her on a bench and says that she missed her. “Scheißangst” is the name of the haunting pop song on Malonda’s recently released debut album.
It’s the piece on “My heart is a dark continent” that comes closest to reality, she says during a conversation in her favorite restaurant in Mitte. Regarding the observation that her singing is a bit reminiscent of Balbina, she says that she listened to a lot of music by her Berlin colleague at the time.
Another comparison that the former musical singer, who was born in Essen in 1988 and has been living in Berlin for ten years, heard early on was with Hildegard Knef. “After that I spent a lot of time with her and her eyelashes. Her language is just great and she was so authentic in everything she did – without being very personal or even approachable,” says Malonda, who also counts Grace Jones among her role models.
The chanson-like quality of her singing, reminiscent of Knef, is a trademark of Malonda, with which she makes the song “Hedy Lamarr” shine at the opening of the album. It is a homage to the Austrian actress and inventor, who made a career in Hollywood from the 1930s, but also received a patent for “secret communication systems using carrier waves of different frequencies”. A technique that helped make torpedo controls safer – and is still used today in WiFi and GPS protocols.
In the stanzas of the piece, which was written together with Jens Friebe and driven by a fast techno beat, Malonda outlines Lamarr’s eventful biography and asks in the chorus – accompanied only by a piano – with a voice reaching for heaven: “Hedy, how many lives go into one life?/ Hedy , how much of yourself have you given the world?” The fact that Malonda has given herself the nickname Electric Diva is immediately apparent in this contrasting piece.
The same when you see her on stage, such as recently at Crack Bellmer in Friedrichshain, where she celebrated the album release with a concert. Although the technology had conspired against the singer on this full moon night, causing delays and overloads, Malonda – as befits a real diva – was not upset, but instead ensured movement and a good mood with an energetic performance in the little shop. For example with the dance track “Disco im Kopf”, which has immense catchy tunes, or with “Personal”, whose sexy house groove makes it irresistible.
Malonda describes “My heart is a dark continent” as her “charted heart” because it is all about “feelings and relationships – romantic and platonic, inner and outer”. She negotiates them with wit and verve, charm and melancholy. However, the album isn’t just about love, as the title suggests. It also touches on “The Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad and with it the themes of colonialism and racism. They also sat down at the lunch table in Mitte. Malonda says: “It is the tragedy of us Black artists* that we can’t just talk about ourselves, but are always related to racism, whether we want it or not.”
For a long time, she successfully persuaded herself that she was not experiencing any racism. “Until six or seven years ago I noticed about 200 meters as the crow flies from here with my face on the asphalt that I am experiencing it very strongly.” Police officers had stopped the driving singer, claiming her car had been reported as stolen. Although Malonda had the papers with her, she had to get out and was finally pushed to the ground with her hands tied behind her back.
Experiences that white Germans don’t know, but still like to claim that they can have a say. That’s what Malonda’s song “German sovereignty” is about, in which she sings: “They’re on the air and they tell / Again something about individual cases / Because they don’t know that a police officer / For me and for them is something different.”
She shot the video with an all-Black crew at locations that are significant to Berlin’s Black history. Among other things, the group walked past the building where Josephine Baker had once performed in a banana skirt while eating bananas. Soon someone called the police, personal details were found, and a complaint was filed. Still, it was a day of self-empowerment for Malonda and her team.
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