Episode 10: Musical motivations and motherhood with singer Léa Mondo
Léa Mondo is creating music through a bilingual buffet of Lingala and English, fusing high life, soul, jazz, rock and funk. Forever using her music to deliver messages that challenge the government, slavery, and racism, band, Léa casts a spell through her multidimensional, upbeat sound. Having seen Léa perform with her band, Léa and the Sunflowers, we were hungry to learn more about the political nature of her music. As well as the collective 'Peng Femme Jamm' that she co-founded with two friends last year.
Tune into this episode to hear Léa discuss the creative path that led her to music, with our host Bx Sassy. The duo discusses the reality of struggling with body dysmorphia and how to build a road to self-confidence. While unpicking the inequalities that Léa is intent on changing through education, music, and maternal instincts.
Léa's journey into music has been an amalgamation of creative disciplines. She started off being drawn to acting telling us how "I was sick of not seeing a person like me on telly. I wanted to do acting because I wanted to be that change." This drive to disrupt the whitewashing of media and entertainment led Léa to move from Manchester to Essex to pursue training. However, by the end of her course, she turned down her drama school auditions and instead, let her instinct guide her to the stage in a different capacity.
Léa was a young teenager when she started learning her sister's guitar. Instantly she felt drawn to the sound of the instrument, connecting with a new foundlove for song writing. "The first time I wrote, I was 14 and it was a breakup song, but I'd never had a boyfriend! I remember playing it with my sister, it was jokes!" From there, Léa continued to write more intentionally, explaining how she was influenced by her Dad's jazz collection as well as listening to Nevada and Artic Monkeys. Léa tells us how Alex Turner is "one of my biggest inspirations! Reading his music sheets, the way he rhymes, and the way he makes sense of things, I learned a lot". From jamming with friends, Léa finally gave into her calling as a musician and started to take her music career seriously.
I like to make people laugh but I like to make people think at the same time because my music is quite deep
Alongside gigging and performing on the London jamming scene, Léa also cofounded Peng Femme Jam to put a light on non-binary and female energy. Anyone going to jams knows how male-dominated the space can be, so with PFJ, they were intent on creating a night where everyone could lean into expressing their feminine energy however that sounded to them. In the process, Peng Femme Jam hopes to change the stigma and assumptions that are attached to feminity, artificially placed there by the patriarchy.
Peng Femme Jam is about feminine energy
Having seen Léa host nights with giggles and glee, it is clear how she has developed a magnetic crossover of depth and lightheartedness. Forever striving to make her audience at ease while digesting her meaningful narratives, she explains how "I like to make people laugh but I like to make people think at the same time because my music is quite deep". Deciding to perform in English and Lingala, Léa tells us how her style reflects the nature of Congolese music and lyricism. "The words that they use in Linguala are quite deep and you have all these happy rhythms, everyone's dancing, but most of them are talking about colonialism and very touchy subjects. And I try to put that in my music as well." In this way, Léa forever strives to talk about the history of Congo and narrate stories that are so often hidden or misrepresented.
I've always been quite independent, and it's made me a go-getter in this field that I'm trying to pursue
When talking about the impact moving from Congo to the UK has had on her motivations today, Léa takes us back to her teenage years in Manchester. This was a turbulent time for Léa who faced racism from her peers and struggled with subsequent body dysmorphia. "Race was in place, school was where I developed self-hate. I came into the country when I was 12 and I was taught that being black was not beautiful, my hair was not beautiful. I was called all kinds of names ." This led Léa to stop eating, struggling with body dysmorphia in a way that is not uncommon. "There were times when I couldn't even look in the mirror. But the more I grow up, the more sassy I am about my body, and how I move on stage." It was in 2019 that Léa started to stop "doing the things that made others comfortable and start doing what felt right for me" She gave up shaving, grew her dreads, and started to fall in love with her forehead. These steps to self-adoration is something Léa consciously tries to encourage by talking to herself and remembering that insecurities are normal, natural, and ok.
I decided to stop doing the things that made others comfortable and start doing what felt right for me
When asking Léa about what she hopes her future will look like, she shares how important having a family and home-schooling children is to her. Having witnessed the complete lack of education about the history of colonialism when studying in Manchester, Léa tells us how "I want to school [my children] about life, real things, different situations, racism in the outside world. I want to be that person that my kids come to with any problems because I grew up with the opposite". As always, Léa's resilient mindset shines through as she teaches us to always focus on the positive, to find the silver lining and be the change we with to see. We look forward to witnessing Léa's magical growth as she continues to educate via her own engaging creative spark. Sharing knowledge and joy one story at a time.
LÉA'S QUICKFIRE ROUND
When do u feel most confident?
When I'm around people I can trust and who want the best for me. Because that's when there's no anxiety.
What key experience has shaped you positively?
My life experience, the way I've been brought up. It's made me wiser growing up with no parents, it's set me up for life I'm a good way.
One dream you'd like to come true?
Have kids and make great albums, maybe just two. And then do psychology and then go back to acting.
One cause that's close to your heart?
Racism, get that out the door! And patriarchy.
Best thing about being you?
Keep up to date with Léa Mondo's work via IG @sunfollowerr and watch out for shows and jams for you to join.
Interview by Bx Sassy
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