Jalen Ngonda

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Jalen Ngonda is a student of traditional R&B who puts his spin on the idiom with a soaring tenor voice and personal songwriting. Originally from Maryland and based in London — he has called England home since attending Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts — he debuted in 2016 and after a handful of singles and an EP connected with Daptone Records. Since allying with the Brooklyn-based label, he has issued a 2022 7″ single and the 2023 album Come Around and Love Me, romantic recordings with a strong foundation in late-’60s and early-’70s soul.
Ngonda developed a fascination with soul music as a youngster after he watched The Temptations, the miniseries based on the Motown group of the same name. It set him on a path of buying Motown and Stax releases and absorbing all the information in the liner notes. Ngonda eventually got into classic rock and pop of the same era, and during the same period of discovery learned guitar and piano and started writing songs. After some time at community college, Ngonda moved to England to study at Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, and performed in bands. He made his self-released commercial debut as a solo artist in 2016 with “Holler (When You Call My Name),” and during 2017 and the first half of 2018 released four additional singles. In mid-2018, Ngonda delivered Talking About Mary, an EP comprising two of the preceding singles, an acoustic version of a third one, and the new “Don’t You Remember,” a pleading ballad that became his most popular song to that point. By then, Ngonda had headlined shows in the U.K. and abroad and had opened for the likes of Motown legend Martha Reeves, Lauryn Hill, and Laura Mvula.
Daptone Records became interested in Ngonda when they heard his music by way of Ngonda’s manager, but subsequent plans to record in New York were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ngonda continued to work on new material at his London home base. Daptone received demos Ngonda wrote with Sam Knowles (aka Karma Kid), and with Stateside production from Mike Buckley and Vince Chiarito (both of Ikebe Shakedown), the 2020 demos developed into the fully formed 7” single “What a Difference She Made” b/w “Just Like You Used To,” released by Daptone in 2022. At some point after travel restrictions were lifted, Ngonda connected in-person with the Daptone crew and wrote and recorded enough material to fill out an album. Come Around and Love Me, featuring both sides of the 2022 single among a cohesive set of new material, was issued by the label in September 2023. ~ Andy Kellman