Heading up our salute to the High Priestess of Soul, Nina Simone is innovative British singer-songwriter and two time MOBO award winner Laura Mvula.
Growing up in Birmingham, Mvula first sang in church and later with all female acapella group Black Voices. By 2008 she had formed and was composing for her own jazz/neo-soul outfit Judyshouse. Mvula has also directed various choirs. She is a graduate of the Birmingham Conservatoire and holds a degree in composition.
Her debut album, Sing to the Moon was released in 2013 and garnered multiple award nominations and critical acclaim. Discussing her follow-up, 2016 album The Dreaming Room, the UK Guardian described how Mvula “pulls the listener along with her through the most serpentine songs: however, winding their routes, the melodies are almost always beautiful; however much the musical scenery shifts, it is always striking.”
Mvula’s songs explore identity, personal dilemmas and social issues. About her hit, Phenomenal Woman, inspired by Maya Angelou, she told the UK Independent: “I try and depend a lot on the women that I surround myself with, the women that through their own vulnerability and ridiculous strength are still moving mountains and doing extraordinary things every day.”