Tuelo Reclaims Trauma, South African Roots, And Being Black in Rock n Roll on Debut Album

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Photo Credit: Kevin Wenzel
       

Tuelo Minah (stage name simply Tuelo) was once called “New York’s Best Singer (and the World’s)” by Huff Post while AfroPunk described her performances as “an inspiring and spiritual experience”. And now, the fruits of an over four-year journey that has taken the South African singer across the globe to finish is almost ready to be unleashed on the world – on February 11th Tuelo will release her powerful art-rock debut record ‘The Life of Margaret Cornelius’, a collection that looks to dissect the pitfalls of life and learn to not only crawl out after, but be reborn stronger.

Also out today is new single/video “Canary”, a song of mysterious origins that puts Tuelo’s powerful vocals and left-of-center musical brilliance on full display. Magnet Magazine said the new track is indicative of Tuelo’s “mesmerizing cross-cultural mashup of punk, rock, soul and the Afro strains of her homeland”. Watch HERE.

On the forthcoming album, the alter-ego of the titular Margaret Cornelius is used, in Tuelo’s words, as “a tool through which to relay some of the things I want to unpack.” She adds “the record is a protest, awakening the mind, and trying to uncover the uncomfortable but important things that make us human… it covers the spectrum of feelings possible, but mostly urges you to leave trouble even if it seems impossible, and find a place to start again.”

A mystical, soulful and sometimes haunting rock record, Tuelo’s debut album uses her powerhouse and uniquely stirring vocals to create a soulful wave of art-rock inspired by the great traditions of South African protest music and the polyrhythms and tonalities of her native Tswana and Khoikhoi tribes.

Just listening to “Happier” (a punk-infused reflection on compounded African immigrant

Photo Credit: Tuelo

issues and freeing herself of burdens of conforming), “Trouble” (a beautiful swaying plea for her troubles to leave her), and “Killer” (a spacey slice of psychedelia and also the first full song Tuelo ever wrote) exemplifies the breadth of a powerful new talent injecting the indie rock scene with a fresh, insightful perspective. Tuelo also stares squarely and unafraid in the face of those who don’t see a woman of color inhabiting the current rock landscape, saying “I can’t wait to show the world what music can do, how music can be, that rock can be elevated, and that black people who started it have a place here.”

Growing up on a remote farm amid the political upheaval during the end of apartheid in South Africa, Tuelo had never considered herself a musician until she ventured alone to New York City at age 17, where she worked as a vocalist with appearances on The Late Show with David Letterman and Grammy-winning albums like Angelique Kidjo’s ‘Eve’ and ‘Sings’.

Her debut album was actually conceptualized by Tuelo’s journey upon leaving NYC. In her words, it came to life initially from “my decision to actually leave, not knowing if I’d ever come back. I was on the plane leaving when I conceptualized it – the justice of life, of being in and out of love for the first time, of womanity, of memories, of music dreams, of unnecessary abuse we endure and overcoming it.”

Time spent reflecting and writing in Ireland, composing in Turkey, traveling back to South Africa, and flying to Germany with her musical partner Kevin Wenzel helped Tuelo chisel out the collection that will see the light of day February 11th. She ended up back in NYC to finish writing/composing the album, a fitting bow on a project that encapsulates the ebbs and flows of not just an artist’s creativity, but the never-ending search to find a better sense of being.

Paired with time spent in South Africa recording the record at the start of the pandemic along with creating a conceptual, narrative-driven series of interconnected music videos in Colombia, ‘The Life of Margaret Cornelius’ is in every sense of the word, a global labor of love that will take Tuelo to the next stratosphere of her career and personal journey.

“Canary” single artwork

“Canary” is the second video from the forthcoming collection following “Saint Margaret” (an invigorating ode to the virtues we learn from our parents). With additional entries to come, the videos around Tuelo’s debut album tell the story of a boxing match – the lead up, day-of, and result of the fight which serves as a metaphor for “the inner strength in finding the spirit to keep going and renewal.”

‘The Life of Margaret Cornelius’ 

1. I May Be Lost (intro)

2. Happier

3. Canary

4. Trouble

5. Killer

6. Saint Margaret

7. Queen of Nothing

8. Hilda Hilda

9. I Am A Kingdom

10. Radio Tuelo (interlude)

11. How It Ends

12. How It Really Ends