Honey at the core
A mere twelve months ago, Emmanuelle Shoniwa was just another unemployed local musician. Now, Paul Oakenfold and Soul II Soul are queueing up to offer him their services. Craig Mclean charts the rise and rise of the phenomenon that is Yo Yo Honey.
Emmanuelle Shoniwa is the name, soft soul’s the game. Mani — that’s the seven-inch edit moniker—
-and collaborating chanteuse Anita Jarrett
together make Yo Yo Honey. And Yo Yo Honey make sweetly mellifluous music of the ilk that sways across the dancefloor and drifts across the mind. Cast an ear over their debut single, ‘Get It On’, and you’ll catch the emotion behind the pose of the prose.
Scarcely a year ago, Yo Yo Honey didn’t exist. Last summer, Mani was just another Zimbabwean-born, Edinburgh-based musician, once of Win but back then, of no-one. Scouting around for the perfect foil for his emerging repertoire of slinky, groovy little numbers, he bumped into a skinhead singer from London on his doorstep one morning. Yo Yo Honey ‘became‘.
‘It was a simple process’, says Mani a year on from his search for a like-minded musical partner. ‘I knew what I wanted, I wanted someone who was fresh, who understood what I was gonna be doing. When you’ve got something as raw as what I’m trying to do — and when I say raw, there’s an emotional side to it as well — it’s dead easy’. So even at the outset Yo Yo Honey had a guiding definition shaping the moves? ‘Oh yeah, definitely.’ And what is that definition? ‘In two words? Something good!’ he laughs. No, more than that please, so I’ve got less to write. Mani obliges.
‘Basically I’d like to try and get back to something really rooty. On the record I’m using things like real strings, orchestras, all that stuff. That was part of the plan, the gameplan, to get a sound that was close — no, not close — but akin to what was being done twenty years ago’. What, a kind of Philly-stroke-Stax urbanly soulful quality? ‘No, I’m talking about now. I’m talking about sounds that are gonna be up tomorrow. I’m not
retro, I hate that regressive chain of thought ’cos you never go any further. Marvin Gaye’s stuff that was coming out in '69 - I want to get that magic onto my vinyl. It’s gonna be different though because now everything’s changed; different
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YoYo Honey approach, different attitude, different state of mind. But I still want to get that essence. And part and parcel of that involves using live things.’
‘I work in moods and feelings‘, he says of his songwriting stylee. ‘If something feels good, feels right, I go with it. I’m quite dogmatic! In a lot of respects Anita’s like that as well. It’s dead new and it’s dead uncomfortable, but at the same time, really reassuring and comfortable. The whole
thing’s really intriguing. I like strong women!’
Before talk degenerates to details of Mani’s sexual foibles, we rap remixers. ‘Get It On’, released this week on Jive (the record company who signed the duo earlier this year after only six months, two live performances, and one NB appearance), comes in a troika of shades: a ‘Perfecto Mix’ courtesy of Messrs Oakenfold and Osbourne, a ‘Lovers Mix’ from the twiddled knobs of Chimes man Mike Peden, and a Jamaican jam ‘Ragga Mix’ by Steely and Clevie. The results may be diversely divine, but is there not a worry that any attention the single gets — and already the Radio One plays appear to be racking up - will be as a result of the names in brackets after the record title rather than from the grooves contained therein? That is, let’s get the big boy remixers in and watch the sales mount.
‘No, no, Oakenfold accepted the original record, he came up to me, which is actually really good because he was One of the guys I’d wanted to work with before. Oakenfold’s bringing something to the table that I want, it’s as simple as that’. Yeah he’s bringing commercial viability. . . ‘Undoubtedly. I’d be a liar ifI turned round and said no. But I like the total objectivity that he’s bringing to it. And the Steely and Clevie thing that came about semi by accident. They work with Shabba Ranks, and I was working with one of the guys from his band, and Steely and Clevie got to hear about the stuff that way. And they said they wanted to do a mix for me. I thought, ‘Great, I’ll get a trip to Jamaica for this one!’ .
He didn’t. What he did get though was an
' ensemble of rare grooves, calmly showcasing the
cool might ofJarrett’s voice and the rhythmic ease ofShoniwa’s songwriting. ‘I like it when something can wash over you,’ he says, ‘that’s when it’s working.’
To be called ‘Voodoo Soul’ and released this autumn, Yo Yo Honey’s album will be what Mani variously calls ‘freestyle’ and ‘loose’. As much as anything, the divergent sounds on offer will be a product of the partners Mani has chosen to work with. Aside from Mike Peden’s production, appearances are made by assorted engineers, producers and musos previously associated with the likes ofAl Green, The Jacksons, Freddie MacGregor, The KLF, Nomad, Shabba Ranks, and the ubiquitous Soul II Soul ensemble.
‘Ultimately what I’m doing is pretty one-directional. Those people have all got things that I like, and that was the hardest part, getting people who could do certain things that I wanted. It’s like putting together building blocks. And you name it, they’re fallingin. We’ve got nice . . . funky people,’ he laughs. ‘They’ll not thank me for that one!’
Still, it must be mildly disconcerting to think that barely a year ago, Yo Yo I-Ioney just existed in Mani’s head: now, the single‘s out, the album’s imminent, and all these luminaries have been roped in to stir the mix. ‘Aye, it’s a good buzz!’ Mani admits. ‘But time is nothing, doesn’t mean anything to me. It’s how you do it’.
Yo Yo Honey’s debutsingle, “Get It On’, is out now on Jive Records.
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