Listening to dJinns, an unassumingly dope two-piece musical project from Jozi, I genuinely struggle with the fact that they’re 18. There’s a maturity and nonchalant coolness to their work that even at my big age, I don’t think I could ever achieve. Francesco Mbele (Vocals and songwriting) and Jesse Elk (Producer and composer) seem to have a surety in their abilities that bleeds through the music and makes them stand out from their peers. I mean, I’m used to lighties being confident, I’m just not used to their work sounding this interesting.
And you know what? After briefly getting to know them, their work sounds interesting because they’re interesting. The duo formed during a serendipitous shroom trip, and the two of them have been exploring together ever since. “Me and Francesco weren’t super close but we had a bunch of mutual friends,” Jesse explains, “One day, we decided to trip shrooms at my place and Francesco came along for the ride.” According to Francesco, he saw a synth on Jesse’s bedroom desk that he wanted to ask about, but was too shy. “Midway through the trip I had this burning desire to work on some new music,” Jesse tells us, “Francesco saw what I was doing and creatively our energies came together.”
“I was about to leave. Jesse placed the small midi synthesizer on his lap and began to play a beautiful melody. I was pretty enamoured.” While Francesco had been singing and writing since primary school, he “felt a spark I had never felt before.” That spark has been burning bright ever since.
“We like to tell stories through our sounds and subject matter, whether personal, figurative or fictional. Our music is for narratives which are not told in conventional media,” Francesco explains when asked about their work, “whether that be the vices of inner city life or queerness in a Muslim home.”
“I am Muslim and that has always influenced my artistry, with my main focus being redefining the 21st century Muslim.” All this whilst studying Urban Design at Wits.
From a musical standpoint, Jesse’s playing and writing is influenced by “a range of genres but my main influences come from jazz, neo-soul, r&b and hip-hop.” Jesse says he’s “super excited for the future,” as he feels he still has much to learn, “which is why next year I will be joining the Wits music department.”
According to Francesco, their latest single, ‘Mountain Coast’, is about “the contrasting experiences felt within South Africa’s mother city.” He wrote most of the lyrics on a flight back from his first Cape Town visit in July this year. “We wanted to juxtapose the contrasting feelings that one feels when going to a new space by themselves and how one learns the beauties and harshness of a city, and the shoegaze atmosphere that Jesse created complimented the content perfectly.”
For Jesse, that “shoegaze atmosphere” came from listening to a bunch of “Mac Demarco-type shoegaze indie rock vibes” when he first lay down the chord progression. Seems apt for a song about Cape Town tbh. Jesse continued to work on it and “brought in some jazzy piano, sax and a funky bass to spice things up a bit.” The end result is indeed spicy and oh-so-groovy.
So, what lies ahead for the young duo? Well, Jesse first needs to put matric behind him for good and then it’s on to Wits and putting all his focus and energy into music. “Francesco and I don’t have anything specific planned in terms of what the new music is going to be, but we know it will happen as soon as we’re back in the studio together.”
“We want to continue pushing what people expect to hear, not conforming to expected noises and songwriting,” Francesco explains. “A project might be on the way soon, but we are not going to rush into anything, and as we are independent, it takes a lot more work to create a significant piece of work.”
Other than that? Well, you’re probably going to hear and see a lot more of dJinns in the near future. According to Jesse, “We do have plans to start organising distribution and label things, though, and to play as many live shows as we can!”