Mahalia Presents… is an R&B showcase event hosted by Mahalia respawned from an event she used to run when she was younger. Last year’s run saw the likes of Ojerime, Debbie and FLO and this year is off to a stellar start after Nnenna King, BINA. and Kali Claire graced the stage at Moth Club. The intimate settings of the pub’s booth seats and smaller stage make it the perfect home to discover new R&B artists. The night kicked off with their resident DJ, Janelle Wynter playing a variety of tunes from Sean Paul to City Girls, killing it with each transition. Mahalia is such a wonderful host, she’s always got jokes and all-round positive vibes.
Nnenna King’s soulful vocals were accompanied by Kome on double bass, Sam on the keys and Patrick on drums. The live band helped give her music more dimension as her powerful voice filled the room. She begins with her song ‘Light In Your Eyes’. Her voice is rich and powerful as it vibrates through the mic, the crowd in awe of her soothing tone. She covers ‘What You Won’t Do For Love’ by Bobby Caldwell and she sings those first lyrics – “I guess you wonder where I’ve been” – smoother than ever. The crowd joins in at the chorus, creating a beautiful harmony between her and the audience. Her next song, ‘Good Guy’ was a fiery track about a guy who contrary to the title wasn’t a good guy. The combination of emotion and vocal projection made the performance of this song unforgettable. She got the crowd involved as they sang some of the lyrics back to her. ‘Why’ started with Kome plucking the double bass as the crowd cheered in amazement. ‘What You Need’ was ushered in by Sam’s gentle keys. Finishing the set with two covers, ‘Ex-Factor’ by Lauryn Hill and ‘Be Your Girl’ by Teedra Moses, she evoked nostalgia in the room, flooding it with the sounds of 90’s R&B.
BINA. stepped out in an intricately designed brown bodycon dress. The vulnerability of her music translated through her stage presence. She started off her set with an unreleased tune called ‘My New Room Mate’ in which she metaphorically mortalises her depression. Next, she performs her most recent single, ‘Blackjack’ reimagined on piano. As she belts her heart out with her eyes closed, the piano gives the song a more solemn feel. ‘Boundaries’ has a bit more of a bounce to it, lying in the way she repeats every last word of each bar like an echo. Kicking the tempo up a notch, she performs the first song she ever put it out, titled ‘Summer Breeze’ – it’s got a really carefree vibe to it that she demonstrated in her movement on stage, finishing off the song with a gorgeous, deep vocalisation. The Bossanova bounce of ‘Do Not Disturb’ carried the sunny atmosphere through her performance. Performing another unreleased track called ‘Just Like Her Father’, the bass guitar on the track worked so well with her lower register. Seeing ‘Just A Sec’ live was such a serotonin-producing moment – this was the first song of hers I’d discovered and it’s been on repeat ever since. With Jazco on the keys again, she covers ‘Don’t You Wait’ by Solange, the familiarity of the song caused the audience to cheer. BINA.’s vocal range is really demonstrated here, she hits these solid high notes after transitioning seamlessly from her deeper tone. She covers ‘Love and Happiness’ by First Choice before segueing into her final song ‘Dark Cloud’. Her Jazz and Neo-soul fused R&B is such a refreshing take on the genre and her performance was filled with glorious runs and impressive scat singing.
Kali Claire and her guitarist Elijah took to the stage for a charming acoustic set. She looked like such an it girl with her slicked back ponytail and her racing jacket. She started off with ‘Disrespect’, hitting feathery runs. She mentioned how when she wrote it, it sort of just flew out of her mouth after a bad situation. Next, she asked “Who loves R&B here?” and everyone in the room started cheering before she began to sing ‘Temporary Feels’, she was super gassed to see the crowd knew the words. She introduced her song ‘Bad Habits’ as a song about dealing with people with bad habits but on reflection she realised she was the problem as the other person was “perfect”. She elicited crowd participation to welcome the track into the room by making the crowd repeat a beautiful run, followed by the raw emotion in her voice projecting through the mic. ‘So Sweet’ was next on the setlist, she talks about how she’s addicted to Millions and one of her fans actually brought her some. Her vocals were sugary sweet and she also performed Not3s’ verse, mimicking his cadence as the crowd chuckled. Mahalia personally requested ‘Real Man’, so she sang it acapella until her guitarist picked up what she was putting down. She finished her set with a song she wrote during lockdown that’s due to come out soon called ‘Before The World Ends’.
When all of the acts were finished, Mahalia had a surprise in store for us. There were cheers all around when she announced her album was on the way. Second order of business, a couple had travelled all the way from France to be in the front row so she asked them what their favourite song was and did an acapella of ‘Hide Out’. Her sweet, angelic tone filled the room as her fans sang along with her. The surprise was that she was going to play a song from her upcoming album. She co-wrote the song with Raye and also encouraged the audience to buy Raye’s new album as she has a shot at being Number 1 on the charts as an independent artist and that it’s on iTunes for just under a fiver – in her words, that’s “less than a Big Mac on a night out.” It worked because I bought her album on my way home and what I adore about Mahalia is how much of a champion of women she is – she mentioned how when men in music want a Number 1, the industry backs it but it’s never the same for women.
‘TERMSANDCONDITIONS’ has been teased on TikTok and it’s safe to say the song sounds just as good as the soundbite. A powerful R&B song about knowing yourself worth, definitely a great lead single for her next album.
Mahalia Presents… is such an important showcase in the live music space as it gives a platform to UK R&B artists on the rise and we love to see a vetted R&B artist like Mahalia to provide a space for these artists to be discovered.