Nakhane Toure is having a great year; between January and December he hasn’t put a foot wrong. Performing across the globe and introducing the world to his once in a generation talent has been the pleasure of this passionate and determined artist who has set himself up for even greater success in 2018. Still riding the wave of success from the critically acclaimed, and potential Academy Award Nominated film, Inxeba, Nakhane will be making a splash when he returns to Europe for another round of touring ahead of the March release of his second album, You Will Not Die.
Words: Tshiamo Seape
Hi Nakhane, we heard you just got back from touring – how are you holding up?
Hi. I’m fine, just a bit tired and slightly overworked. I just came back from France. I was away for about three months in London and Paris preparing for Trans Musicales – it’s a festival I was headlining. It was great, but it meant I was playing every day for about six days. Its been pretty full on and I just got back and I haven’t had the rest I thought I would have so I’m running on a lot of coffee.
Tell us about the experience of headlining Trans Musicales?
I loved it. I loved the idea of waking up every morning and going to sound check, then doing press in the afternoon and then performing in the evening. I did that for about a week or so. It took me back to my childhood when I used to do musicals and everything revolved around “the work”. You don’t have time to think about anything else, which is a blessing in disguise. You’re only thinking about the next performance. Nothing else matters.
You mentioned your childhood briefly, so I want to know what were your first tastes of the arts? Did you come from a musical or otherwise artistic family?
My mom and her sisters were all singing in choirs, so all I knew for a long long time was choral music. Mainstream pop music came to me at a much later time. By the time I had moved to Port Elizabeth from Alice when I was seven I was introduced to people like Marvin Gaye and Diana Ross mixed in with some Mozart.
This album…the way it was written is a departure…It’s much more electronic, much more daring
That’s a nice cocktail?
I think so. It’s a 200-year difference, but its worked out so far. I know it’s cheesy to say, but it’s all connected.
Were you conscious of those influences when you went into making your debut, Brave Confusion?
Not when I was making my debut. When I started working on my second album, which comes out in March next year, I went back to my childhood. My debut was based on what was happening in my life at that time. I didn’t realise it then, but in hindsight, I can see it clearly. This time around although I am writing about myself now, a lot of the material comes from what was happening to me when I was a child: the music I was listening to, the person I was, and who influenced me.
So, is it safe to say the new project is going to be a big departure from Brave Confusion?
A slight departure. its hard to say because I haven’t listened to Brave Confusion in a long long time. I haven’t re-read my book or watched the film (Inxeba). I’ve moved on.
The first album was written on acoustic guitar in my bedroom. This album was written on a laptop with piano, standing up. So, just the way it was written is a departure. And it was produced by someone completely different to who produced the first album. It’s more electronic and much more daring
On The Radar is a collection of 50 artists whom we believe are set to have the biggest impact on the creative sphere in the years to come. With that said
- What does influence mean to you?
I don’t know if I like that word. It sounds a little bit like someone who walks around correcting kids with bad posture. I don’t think I’m really that influential. I don’t see myself as an influencer.
So let me put it to you this way: where would you like to see your power as a creative and a musician used in the future?
I guess I want people to do their own thing. Hopefully what I’ve done through my work will help someone else realise what they want to do. I have no desire for anyone to replicate what I’ve done or see me as some sort of hero. If anything, I want people to see themselves. That’s the thing with art: if you’re coming into my work looking for me, you’re missing the point. But, if you come into the work and see yourself, that’s a good thing.
When I see people online who market themselves as influencers I think “wow, you really think highly of yourself”. They are so sure of people following them and going with what they think is correct, but they don’t have the authority to do that, no one does.
Don’t you think the audience has some people to play in allowing influencers to have that power?
That’s true. It is the public who deify the artist, but artists should not be deified; an artist is a person. They just have a platform and talent to express certain things a little bit better than other people. We all have our station in the world and mine is art, but no station is better than anyone else’s.
stories dictate how they want to be told. I’ve written short stories that have ended up as songs, and I’ve written lyrics that have ended up as stories
That’s a rare insight. A lot of people are quite happy to carry the title of influencer.
That’s just not me. Not to say I don’t have my own ego – I do, I’m a human being, but my ego is based on my work and how it makes me feel. Am I better than I was two months ago? That’s all I care about.
Let’s Talk about Inxeba for a bit. You were originally meant to compose the music for the film but John Trengove decided to cast you after you met. What ideas did you present to him that made him change his mind?
I have no idea; I’ve never asked him. I never asked, but according to what I’ve read in interviews, he said that after we met he felt that he should change the character and write it for me. It’s kind of interesting because he didn’t really know me. I told him that I had done some acting at school, but nothing professional. Beyond that, I don’t know what he saw in me. I think sometimes things are better left unsaid.
With the success of the movie would you say you’ve caught the acting bug?
It would have to be something vastly different and interesting, but I’m not necessarily looking – I’m so busy with my music. I don’t want to spread myself to thin at the moment. The right thing will come when it needs to come.
I’m always curious with multidisciplinary artists (you’re a musician, author and now actor) how much of what they pursue (because you have so much going on) is by design and how much is by chance?
You have to compartmentalise. I’m a storyteller and the stories dictate how they want to be told. I’ve written short stories that have ended up as songs, and I’ve written lyrics that have ended up as stories. I always wanted to be an artist but initially, I wanted to be an academic. I wanted to get my PhD in literature and teach. I started writing the book (Piggy Boy’s Blues) when I was in first year studying literature and when I got my publishing deal I was tired of writing – I had been doing it for about 6 years, but I had to take time off to finish it, and that’s how I do things. When I’m working on music, that’s all I do. When I was working on the film, that’s all I was doing.
Music and film are far more collaborative processes than writing a book, but what are the parallels in the process, or similar lessons learned?
As much as they are different mediums they use the same language. They use tone, they use rhythm they use pacing. Sometime when I’m doing one thing I use the rules of the other, just to make myself a little uncomfortable. For example, I’m really passionate about photography and sometimes when I’m writing a song I’ll think about the rule of thirds, or focus, or shadow. At the end of the day, it’s the same thing: story.
So regardless of the medium, do you have a way of testing your work – an inner circle perhaps?
I have people I bounce ideas off of who understand my intention and they haven’t changed for the past 10 years. When I send my best friend my work I usually write an essay describing what I’m trying to do so she understands the concept.
Like a brief?
Exactly. It’s an artist statement to make sure that when she goes through the work she understands the intention. Sometimes you read a review, not necessarily of my work, and you can tell the person didn’t understand the intention. If you’ve baked a cake but someone is judging it on the criteria of being a quiche, it’s not going to make sense. So once my friends understand what I’m trying to do I can bounce ideas off them. Sometimes they agree with me and other time we have fights. My friends are all artists so sometimes we can be a bit brutal with one another because we take this very seriously. There’s so much noise out there that if I’m going to add something it better be worth it.
What are you most looking forward to in 2018?
I’m releasing my album (You Will Not Die) internationally next year, and I’m going back on tour. I also have a project that’s been confirmed within the last two days that I can’t really speak about yet, but it’s very exciting.
Photography: Nick Boulton