Ahead of his performance at the Arts Alive Johannesburg Festival, we interview Nakhane Toure to catch up on what’s been a progressively formative year for the award-winning musician and published author.
How did you relationship with the arts begin? More specifically, what was it you hoped to achieve when you started creating art?
It started at home with me. It started with going to choir practice with my mother every night of the week, then it continued at school. I sang, I acted, I played a number of instruments.
I’ve never really been a great speaker, so art was a way for me to communicate with people, to make them think, and more importantly to engage with themselves. To know that they are not alone.
A cause close to your heart is the realisation of a safer and more accepting environment for the LGBT community with a key vehicle for its realisation being the arts. Who are some of your favourite artists leading this cause?
As much as an accepting environment for the LGBT community is important, it isn’t just that that I’m passionate about. I care about my sisters being taken as seriously as I am, and not less because they’re women. I care about my trans friends, and the list goes on.
I love the subversive work that FAKA does. I find it hilarious and serious at the same time. It teaches without being didactic.
You’ve been working on a follow up to your SAMA Award winning debut album, Brave Confusion. Do you feel any kind of pressure considering the recognition received for your debut album?
I decided to take my time with the album. More than pressure, it’s excitement. Excitement for the world to hear the new music. I believe I’ve really grown as a singer and as a songwriter. And that growth has not been easy. There have been some growing pains.
Also, Brave Confusion was such a slow-burner that I didn’t quite know the effect it had on people. I still don’t know how to measure it actually. What makes me happy about it though, is that after over three years, there are still people who are discovering the album as if it came out yesterday.
Are you able to share any details on the upcoming album? When can we expect its release?
I’ll be recording it in London with a British producer. I can’t share anything about the content as yet unfortunately.
Your collaboration with Black Coffee on “We Dance Again” was received well and saw you reach an entirely new audience. How was it working with Black Coffee?
We – well at least I – never expected the song to be so popular. We worked on it in such a natural and organic manner. It was hard work, but it was so seamless. Things fell into place really nicely on that track. And I really think that was because we allowed each other freedom to share any ideas, whether they were used or not. No one was laughed at and no one was undermined
Are there any plans to explore other genres of music even if it’s through collaboration?
At the moment I’m so engrossed in my second album that I haven’t had time to think about possible collaborations. The only thing on my mind is getting the album right. So perhaps after I’ve finished work on it, I’ll think about collaborations.
You’ve also published a book titled, Piggy Boy’s Blues. Tell us a little about the book and how the themes in your writing overlap with those in your music?
It’s a novel about a young man who leaves Johannesburg and goes to live with his uncle in a house in a small town in the Eastern Cape called Alice. When he arrives, he realises that his uncle lives with another man. He and this other man have an obsessive tug of war relationship that ends in a tragedy. It’s an exploration of family, boundaries and sexuality.
Being musical has helped me in prose in terms of rhythm and use of cadence in language. Whereas my love of literature has always been a big part in how I write lyrics. There’s always been a cross-pollination between the two mediums.
Are there any plans to dive into any other art forms or mediums?
I’m the lead in a film called The Wound that will be coming out next year.
Your knowledge and experience in acting, music and writing translates to extremely engrossing live performance. How would you describe your live performance to someone who’d be seeing you for the first time at Arts Alive this weekend?
Recently, my performances have been very energetic and flamboyant, while not forgetting the music. My show at Arts Alive is going to be much quieter though. Sometimes I miss the stillness in a show, where you can zone in on a phrase of a song, a melody or a guitar line without being distracted.
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