Hello Nakhane and welcome to the pink snout community. We know that you’re an emerging voice in south african music scene. Tell us something about you and your background
I was born in a small town in South Africa, called Alice. I grew up predominantly in Port Elizabeth, which is on the South East coast of South Africa. That’s where I studied classical trombone, sang in choirs, played all instruments available at school (marimba, steel drums, piano, drums etc) and acted in plays. My mother and my aunts all sang in choirs, so my childhood was filled with choral music. I always tagged along to choir practices and festivals, listened to the music my mother liked; which was Marvin Gaye, The O’Jays etc
What inspires your music and who were the first artists that inspired you?
As a child I only listened to soul records. The first album that really moved something in me was Marvin Gaye’s Here My Dear album. I remember the morning my mother brought it home from record shopping. I had chicken pocks, so I stayed home from school. Those first three notes, Marvin Gaye, speaking, not singing, the backing vocals. I remember going to the stereo system to listen to it while reading the liner notes. Over the years, different artists have meant a lot to me: Radiohead, Joni Mitchell, Busi Mhlongo, Fela Kuti, Patti Smith, Allen Ginsberg, Yasunari Kawabata, Ali Farka Toure, Kate Bush, PJ Harvey, Fiona Apple,Rufus Wainwright, Zadie Smith, Don DeLillo, James Baldwin, Zakes Mda, Sello Duiker.
One can never discredit life-experiences. I use those, break them down (joy, embarrassments, humiliations, pain), mix them with literary influences and make art out of them.
You’re South african based. Can you tell me a bit about how the country influences you and your work? How do you describe the alternative scene?
Your background forms you. How I grew up, my mother tongue, the land I grew up in; all of that comes up in my work. The history of the country, its ups and downs,
It’s so easy to be categorized and placed into a particular genre but how would you describe your sound and your lyrics to someone who has not heard it before? Have you any recurring themes in your song?
I describe myself as a multimedia artist. I use and am inspired by different mediums of art. The only reason I would call my music ‘Alternative’ is because of the origin of the term: bands that could not be pigeon-holed. Of course there are some clear references in my music: gospel, literature, soul, cinema
You’re openly gay and your music draw on personal experiences and influences as for example in the songs “In the dark room” and “Christopher” . Let’s talk about this song
‘Christopher’ is about the idea of meeting someone for the first time in a bar, and hopefully getting laid. It also deals with some aspects of self-loathing and knowing that you can live without this, especially if you think that it is wrong. But you know deep down that it is a true reflection of your desires. It was written (and this is the same with the rest of my debut album, Brave Confusion) at a time when I was trying to reconcile my religion with my sexuality, and was finding it very difficult. But couldn’t help but write about it, as a way of dealing.
‘In The Dark Room’ is about doing what you know will make you hate yourself in the morning, but you do it anyway.
Can you tell me a bit about your new EP “The Laughing son” and how it all came together? ? What was the idea behind your latest video for the track “The Plague”?
I’ve been really obsessed recently, with taking things which are banal, and glorifying them, making them interesting. It seemed to me that there was/is more interest in the blown up bits of life, the drama. What I’m interested in are the parts we all share: the anxieties, the worries, the meaningless minutes waiting for the kettle to boil. Also, taking things out of their context has been interesting to me: a facial expression, a scream.
The Laughing Son is a personal reaction to the political. It is about taking what has been issued to maim you, and using that to empower you. In this particular case The Curse of Ham. In the Bible, Ham, Noah’s son, supposedly mocks and laughs at his father’s nakedness. When Noah wakes up from his drunken sleep, he curses Ham’s progeny, and says that they will forever be the servants of his brothers’ progeny. Now, a to of right-winged conservative, Christian sects have called this curse black skin. They have used this curse, over the years, as justification for the subjugation of black people. I wanted to take that, turn it upside down and re-appropriate it.
Who are you listening to at the moment?
DM Stith, Miriam Makeba, Bongo Maffin, TkZee, Perfume Genius, R.E.M (Automatic For the People), Julia Holter, Patti Smith, Laurie Anderson, Elastica,Kraftwerk, Stevie Wonder, Brenda FAssie
What do you get up to when you’re not making music? I know that last year you have debuted as novelist too.
If I’m not writing or reading, I’m watching films. Love the films of Wong Kar-Wai. Like paging through fashion magazines. I also read a lot about photography, and I’ve been using some of the techniques of photography with my music.
Can you describe the type of crowd you love to play to?
The kind that is not afraid to sweat. The kind that is interested in something visceral, something slightly unusual and frightening. Performing is a collaboration between audience and performer.
What are you looking forward to this year? You’re playing at a few festivals aren’t you?
I’m doing a few book festivals. I’m also shooting a film. Can’t divulge what it is about yet, but soon you’ll find out. That is really exciting.
Thanks Nakhane for the kind interview. Give a special regard to the pink snout readers
Thank you very much for having me on your sight. Love the name.