Alex Mankoo, better known now as his alter-ego Holy ‘57 is a London-based songwriter and producer. He first emerged in the summer of 2015 with the laid-back groove of Island Kids. The song, which charted on Hype Machine and has over 250k streams on Spotify paved the way for his first EP, H released later that year to critical acclaim. The EP was the first in a series of releases: H, O, L and now Y.
Mankoo, whose heritage is part Greek, part Indian, draws his inspiration from deeply personal experiences and the world around him. A visual artist, he has the ability to map out stories through sound and instrumentation, utilising audio clips and voiceovers alongside his own uniquely powerful vocals. The H EP saw significant attention throughout the summer of 2015 and was a perfect introduction to Mankoo’s cinematic pop soundscape. O and L (2016 and 2017) saw him establish his name as one to watch, with support from publications such as DIY and Clash Magazine and several singles picked up on Spotify editorial playlists.
After a two year hiatus following the loss of his Grandmother (his ‘Mamaji’) to dementia in 2017, Holy ‘57 has returned with the final and highly anticipated instalment of the series. Y deals with ‘posthumous memory’ and his coming to terms with his Grandmother’s death. He explores the idea of how a person can live on in our memory, and the ‘echoes’ that remain like ghosts in our thoughts and dreams.
“I wrote most of ‘Y’ in the wake of my Grandmother’s death, so the idea of posthumous memory played a big part in shaping the songs. I find it really interesting how memory operates as a sort of reconstructed version of the past through the lens of our minds in the present. Posthumous memory can sometimes iron out complexities that existed when a person was alive, and it becomes almost like a simulation of the person.”
Many of the songs on Y celebrate the life of Mankoo’s grandmother, the things she taught him, her courage, and her spirit, but it is also a springboard for him to grapple with other ideas of ‘ghostliness’. Throughout the body of work he reflects on the importance of memory, technology and history in shaping our perceptions of ourselves and others. He explores how this impacts our experience of living with ghosts in life as well as in loss.
Debut single Cambridge, MA was released in June during the UK’s lockdown period, and has been described by Holy ‘57 as ‘his way of processing the sense of anxiety and helplessness that I feel about the digital labyrinths of our times’. It was followed withHyper-real – a leftfield alt-pop inspired release through which he confronts hyper-reality and simulation after death. Premiered by Wonderland Magazine, the music video revealed a visual exploration of these themes and the mind’s process of deciphering truth.
With this mini-album Mankoo embraces his affinity for jazz, R&B and hip-hop more than ever before, which is exemplified with next single Diorama. Standout brass and saxophone elements are a nod to the wild free-form fusion playing in his house growing up and to his Grandmother’s joy watching his father’s jazz-funk band. Voice clips and quirky instrumentation blend seamlessly with Holy ‘57’s almost colloquial vocal delivery to express a story which is both immersive and thought-provoking. A History of Violence is the opening track, and sets the scene for the mini-album:
“I wanted to focus on the storytelling so I kept the vocal line fairly simplistic. As a kind of allegory for colonialism, the track is a miniature history that serves as a prologue to the album narrative. The animation is by award winning animator Tom Rourke. I like the track being a bit up to listener interpretation. It’s more of a song where I want the story to draw people in and have them listen to that and interpret it how they wish…”