When Zimbabwean singer Donel Mangena found out that Prince Charles had personally invited him to perform at Queen Elizabeth’s recent 92nd birthday bash, he couldn’t quite believe it. After all, he was only 16 years old and he’d only just begun his path to super-stardom.
Aside from him literally stepping on Meghan Markle’s toes, everything went according to plan. “Rehearsals were crisp and everything just went perfectly,” he said shortly after performing at an ITV press briefing in Hyde Park.
“Meeting Prince Harry was insane. They even told me that their money’s on me and stuff like that. Meghan Markle told me that she’s a fan. Imagine, my mom used to watch Suits and I used to see Meghan Markle and now she’s there telling me that she’s a fan. That was crazy.”
Donel’s career has been on the up and up since he participated in and finished as the runner-up on the latest season of The Voice UK.
A few short months later and Donel has a record contract with Polydor Records, a British record label that’s under Universal Music Group and is focusing on pushing his debut single, Bang Like A Drum. Despite being released only six weeks ago, Bang Like A Drum already has over 1.4 million streams on Spotify. “It’s super exciting, but I want to work 10 times harder. I want to be the best. I get irritated when I hear people saying ‘well done’ because Michael Jackson started at the age of 5. I’m 17, so I need to catch up.”
Aside from Michael Jackson, Donel also looks up to the likes of Chris Brown, Usher, Drake, Cassper Nyovest, Nasty C and Wizkid.
When I asked him whether he was working on an album, Donel offered an interesting perspective on the single/album conversation. “I feel like some people focus on an album or single, but I want them to be excited when I’m releasing something, no matter what it is.”
Having spent a little over five years in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, as a child, Donel knows how to speak Ndebele and has made a point of incorporating it into his music.
His father, a musician and cinematographer, has been training him from a young age, pushing him to sing in church and teaching him how to overcome his nerves.
“He’s good at putting me under pressure to bring out the best in me. I’ve done a lot of acting and interviews. Back in the UK, when I was younger, I went to visit a TV station and from that day I told myself that I wanted to be on TV every day. When I went back there for an official interview, as someone from The Voice UK, they played it and you could tell that I started when I was really small.”
He’s used to the limelight now. When he took to the stage to perform a few songs for us, he looked composed and comfortable, like someone who was born to do this.
Despite his early success, Donel has a desire to achieve more. “I feel like I’ve just got to push harder. If I didn’t put as much effort as I did in The Voice, these doors wouldn’t have opened. If I didn’t add the dancing and just sang a basic song, I wouldn’t have been asked to perform for the queen, I wouldn’t have been liked by people. I know I didn’t have the best voice in the competition, but I did well because I was being myself and I was working smart and hard.”
While on The Voice, Donel was mentored by award-winning rapper, songwriter and record producer Will.i.am after all four coaches (Sir Tom Jones, will.i.am, Jennifer Hudson and Olly Murs) battled over who would get to train him.
The Saturday Star