Nakhane, between pop and art is politik

by | Aug 17, 2022 | African Heritage, CSA Celebrates, Culture, Entertainment, Music, Music From Africa, Talent, The Wire, Trends

  • Providence: South Africa
  • Contemporary pop music as Art
  • Foundations for Politik
  • The short film
  • Of cultural  importance

Contemporary pop music as Art

In the world of contemporary pop music, bloated on consumerism and indulgence, Nakhane is a compass that consistently points to Art. Their latest offering is an unfiltered critique of the politics of sexuality. So much so that they declare sex a political act. The arrival of this project is timely, given that the conversation of gender politics, identity and freedom of expression faces an assault both in international law and GBV.  Just being trans is viewed as an attack on heteronormativity. So, when Nakahane enquires as to what ideology a prospective lover supports before an intimate encounter, the question, friends, is very loaded.

Foundations for Politik

“Tell me your Politik” flows from a long-standing discourse the artist has interrogated. Their debut album SAMA Best Alternative Album 2014 Brave Confusion was an acoustic guitar-driven exposition exploring race, religion, and sexuality. His follow-up, another SAMA Best Alternative Album You will not die, was a critical success. Clash Music called it “an incredibly beautiful document of self-acceptance, a soaring ode to self-worth, a blissful, remarkably assured piece of creativity”. Q magazine wrote that it was a “remarkable’ album; defiantly modern and unashamedly emotional” while Pitchfork wrote that the album was “an instant revelation on its own terms and strikingly intimate.” Queen of pop Madonna would call them out as one of her two favourite artists and said their music influenced her 2019 album “Madame X”. They also won support from Elton John who interviewed Nakhane on his Beats 1 radio show. Both superstars have been instrumental in challenging the status quo in conversations about gender and sexuality.

The short film

“Tell me your Politik” arrives with flair and polish. It features the legendary Nile Rogers (who has worked with Madonna) and Moonchild Sanelly (a seeming Afro-proto-Madonna herself). The track is accompanied by a video directed by Nakhane themself, further amplifying the drama and immediacy of the song they wrote. Its really more of short film and has a cinematic sensibility about it. Inspired by the 1999 French army film Beau Travail, the video is set in a military training camp in training and is  aggressive and brutalist. Caught between the claustrophobia and tension of soldiers performing a count of tight, sharp intense choreography and conforming to a machismo identity, two soldiers fall in love. Chastisement for transgressing gender boundaries and authority ensues. Everyone is suddenly transported into a nightclub where Moonchild Sanelly plays Chanteuse accompanied by Nile Rodgers. Throughout the decoding, Nakhane’s message is clear. There is no point in relationships, even sexual ones, if people’s values do not align.

Of cultural importance

“Tell me you Politik” could have been a novel or a stage play, that it is a gqom and kwaito infused pop song makes it no less Art. That Nakhane is building a body of work of cultural importance is both noticeable and of consequence.

C.S.A.’s monthly cultural portal, The WIRE connects the dots of culture. With concise stories, many with video content, take a premium dive into the world of African entertainment & cultural fluidity. It’s one thing to be hip to what’s happening but it is another to know why.

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