by Silke Hartung

Denel: Kickin’ Ahead

by Silke Hartung

Denel: Kickin’ Ahead

Hoping for a repeat of the promising glimpse of success his 2019 single Let Go enjoyed, Auckland musician and producer Denelle Bhagwandhin, aka Denel, worked on his latest release Kick It, a smooth R&B/pop number, with Tane the Forest Kid and Waazzoo & The Vibes. Aged just 24, he already has some strong international contacts, having worked with blockbuster producers such as ‘Chizzy’ Stephens (Justin Bieber) and Big D Evans, as well as local talent including Jupiter Project, Vince Harder and Rory Noble. Intrigued by his fresh sound and driven personality, Silke Hartung caught up with him to find out more.

Where are you from and how long have you been making music?  

So for those who don’t know, I’m an NZ artist. I was born in South Africa and have had the amazing privilege of growing up in this amazing country! Music has always been a huge passion of mine since the very beginning and it only made sense for me to pursue it intentionally. I started writing and producing my own tunes in high school and it pretty much evolved from there.

You’re still at the beginning of your career yet have already dipped your toes into international music industry waters. What’s the story there? 

I’ve had the amazing privilege of meeting and networking with some great people! It actually started out a few years ago when I travelled with a live band to LA and we played a showcase set for a bunch of songwriters, producers and other industry people. That eventually led to me meeting and working with a great producer and now friend Charles ‘Chizzy’ Stephens who produced two singles of mine, The Lights and All Because Of You. It was epic being in the same room with him and Brittany Barber who have both worked with some prolific artists in the industry like Chris Brown, JLO, Justin Bieber and Eric Bellinger to name a few. An epic learning experience too!

Already you’ve racked up great numbers on socials and all streaming platforms, congratulations.

Thank you, I appreciate that! I think my main strategy so far has been to just be real while at the same time posting quality content. Whether it’s just posting up an encouraging caption or telling a relatable story, I think people can connect with that kind of thing. It’s been important for me to use these platforms in a positive light and that’s ultimately the direction I see my platform taking into the future.

Can you tell us a little about your new single Kick It

For sure! Kick It is about enjoying the time you spend with someone who’s special to you. I wanted it to be a fun, catchy track that everyone can relate to. 

It initially started out as a solo project until one day, I played the track to my friend Jordi Webber (Waazzoo and the Vibes). We talked about doing a cool collab with a bunch of features and a catchy chorus previously and when he heard this he was like, “Bro this would be a sick track to do that collab on.” I was game for it, I loved what Tane was doing so we pulled him in too and it all came together from there.

You recorded the song with Tane The Forest Kid and Wazzoo & The Vibes – what drew you to those guys? 

I really admire their work ethic, overall mentality and outlook towards life. They’re passionate about their work and it comes through in whatever they do. It’s a huge privilege to work with both of them on this and I think in a way having all our talents on this track is a sort of admiration for each other’s skills, and what we can all bring to the table when we collaborate.

You’re no stranger to collaborations, having worked with Jamie McDell, Jupiter Project and Vince Harder, to name a few locals. Got a favourite memory to share?

I think one of my favourite memories was working on a single called Imperfectly Perfect I released a few years ago with Jupiter Project and Jamie McDell. Jamie actually recorded the guitar for the single and I didn’t get a chance to meet her until the music video shoot day, but she came in and surprised me on set! Love the Jupiter Project guys too, they’ve been around since the start of my journey and have helped me navigate different parts of what I do. It’s been cool.

Who would you love to work with in future, and why?

I think from a songwriting standpoint, it would be epic to work with someone like Stan Walker. Just seeing his whole writing process would be pretty amazing. Internationally, working with someone like Khalid would be the dream. I love his music and definitely connect with it. I feel like there are a few similarities there.

What sort of aesthetic were you going for with Kick It

Kick It was definitely inspired by a more urban/R&B sound. It came from a place of what felt good to me and the ideas evolved from that same place. I had the amazing opportunity of co-producing this with a great friend of mine, Emmanuel Ensink. 

What’s coming up next from you? 

Ive got another single to come and an EP on the way later this year. But before that, I’ve got a music video dropping for Kick It later in July. A date for that will be coming soon. I’m super excited to show off the visuals for this new song. We’ve got some dope ideas for this. Stay tuned for more info soon!