Soul Saturday: Jalen Ngonda’s soulful journey from violin to Motown vibes

Jalen Ngonda will perform at the The Lager House in Detroit on Tuesday, Sept. 19.

Jalen Ngonda

For fans of the classic Motown sound, the music of Jalen Ngonda is a breath of fresh air. Born outside of Washington D.C., and now making waves in the UK, Ngonda’s debut album, “Come Around and Love Me,” almost sounds like a love letter to classic artists like Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson and David Ruffin.

Ahead of his much-anticipated performance at The Lager House in Detroit, Ngonda sat down with WDET to discuss his profound passion for music and the classic tunes of Motown that resonated through his childhood.

Listen: Singer-songwriter Jalen Ngonda reflects on his childhood inspiration and love for Motown

“I mean, it started out as singing along to the songs. And I thought that was just a normal thing,” Ngonda recalls. It’s this pure, unadulterated love for music that led him from playing violin in school to trying to emulate the guitar parts of iconic Temptations records. By 13, he had his first guitar, and the journey of creating melodies began.

“I’ll be bored in class in middle school. Instead of doing the classwork, I flipped the page and start writing ‘I love you, baby,'” he laughs, joking, “if music was a crime, it would just be like doing lewd acts.”

Perhaps one of the most striking revelations from Ngonda is his approach to music. “I’ve always played by ear,” he admits, highlighting a reliance on innate talent over formal training.

But above all, it’s Detroit’s signature Motown sound that holds a special place in his heart.

“All of those musicians inspired me from a very young age.”

Listen to the entire interview using the media player above.

Jalen Ngonda will perform at the The Lager House in Detroit on Tuesday, Sept. 19.

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  • Nick Austin
    Nick Austin hosts Soul Saturday, merging genres like soul and hip-hop with electronica and funk into a rich tapestry of sound that is uniquely Detroit.