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Canadian Musician Mponda Kalunga Talks His Unique Upbringing and What’s Next For Him as an Artist

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Mponda Kalunga is a Canadian musician, boxer, and artist. He was born in Egypt where he then moved around throughout Africa due to his father’s job as a musician. Mponda lived as a refugee for seven years before being rescued by Red Cross and moving to Canada at a young age. His music is distinct, blending pop, soul, and afro-beats while singing about his unique upbringing and all that he has overcome. He went from being bullied in school and barely speaking English, to creating successful music and winning countless boxing medals. Mponda has since been a finalist in the great Canadian song search competition as well as a finalist for CBC’s Searchlight competition. His mission is to "unite people with music and empower them through his stories."

What made you want to become a musician?

My father was a musician so I was exposed to the idea at a young age. He told stories about touring the world and making music. He played guitar too, which I’ve gotten into.

So your dad clearly introduced you to music at a young age, what age did you start making your own music?

I started writing around 13. I was still learning English at the time, but after a while, I got better at it. I only picked up a guitar for the first time about two years ago, so I haven’t been playing for long. I’m really into it now though. Some shows I play with a band too. It’s just a few other guys that play with me.

I know you’re from Egypt originally. Has this impacted the music you create?

Oh for sure. I’m an immigrant so you can definitely hear that in my songs. I think my background makes my music unique because I have that African influence. I try to mix Swahili into my music to create a different sound then what people are used to. I want my music to be uplifting and just make people feel good and empowered.

So how would you describe your musical sound and style and how has it evolved over time?

Oh, it has evolved a lot. I originally was making hip-hop music because that’s what I was into. Then when I started playing the guitar I switched more to the singer-songwriter path and stopped rapping. Singing lets me really express my lyrics and writing. I would say my music style now is kind of Afro-pop.

Who are some of your musical influences?

Elvis, Michael Jackson, Frank Sinatra, that kind of thing. I really like the classics.

Is there a particular song of yours that holds the most meaning to you?

My song “Searching for Glory” means a lot to me. It’s really about my life story and how far I’ve come. You know, my journey struggling as an immigrant up until where I am now. The song is just about following your dreams, whatever they are. I think everyone’s looking for glory, so different people can relate to the song in different ways.

What would you say has been your biggest accomplishment so far?

Music-wise, I would say the CBC Searchlight competition. I was a regional finalist in the competition in 2016 which was really cool. It just made me really happy that my music was getting positive feedback. I’m also really proud of winning a silver medal in boxing at the Canada Winter Games back in 2007. Boxing is a big part of my life too.

Are you still competing in boxing?

Oh for sure, I love both boxing and music. They let me express myself you know, just in different ways. I’m now a professional boxer, so I have a few matches coming up. Back when I won my silver medal I was still an amateur.

What are some of your future goals?

In the next few years, I want to reach a larger Canadian audience and expand my music more into the US. I’m in the talks with three different labels and publishers at the moment so I’m just going to keep writing and putting my songs out there. Having a hit song is also something I’m hoping for, but I think the main goal is to increase my audience and expose more people to my music.
So what’s next for you? Any upcoming projects or music releases?
I have some shows coming up that I’m looking forward to. You know, right now performances are what I’m focused on. There are seven shows that I’m doing, all the information for those is on my website www.mponda.com. I’ve also been writing a lot, I’m headed to a writing session soon actually.