Glastonbury Review: Jalen Ngonda

June 30, 2024

Plain white text upon a black background. A spare stage set up. Unassuming. Modest, even. Everything about Jalen Ngonda’s set screams vintage, retro vibes. His traffic-halting alto soared over the Sunday lunchtime breeze, providing a much-needed analgesic to hungover, sleep-depleted minds at the start of Glastonbury’s final day on the West Holts stage.

What’s good for the crowd might not have been so good for the artist, as Ngonda’s laidback, gentle grooves had to navigate the crowd’s gossamer-thin attention. It meant that his expertly crafted tunes were hit and miss out front in an hour long set that was at least fifteen minutes too long for an artist with such a slim catalogue.

There’s no doubting that the best cuts from his stellar 2023 debut work in any setting. The likes of its title track, ‘Come Around and Love Me’, ‘That’s All I Wanted From You’, and the closing ‘If You Don’t Want My Love’ were undeniable.

Discovering Jalen Ngonda is not unlike the feeling we had hearing Black Keys when they released their lo-fi debut or Alabama Shakes, Thee Sacred Souls or any number of blues and soul revivalists. The worn-in, scratchy sonics and epic sweep of his voice feels like the discovery of a forgotten gem from decades past. This is what you get when you meld post-Motown Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield into one delicious mix. If that sounds like hyperbole, then you haven’t listened. BBC6 Music has been right to champion him.

Ngonda’s beautiful set was warmer than a heated blanket. He is starting to make waves, and it’s hard not to picture a soul storm coming from this massive, generational talent in the future.

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