Interview with Nonku Phiri


It has been a busy year for Nonku Phiri. She recently released her second single,’Regrettables’ and she is preparing to perform at Smoking Dragon. We caught up with her to chat about her international success and her upcoming EP.

nonku phiri

What did you do before joining the exciting world of music?

I was a junior art director while finishing up my Honours in Brand Leadership and Management at Vega.

It took you over a year to release your latest single, ‘Regrettables’ since your debut ‘Things We Do on The Weekend’ in April last year. Why did you take that long?

I don’t think it was that long; I mean I’ve got a whole lot of music. Plus, I don’t believe in rushing things and I don’t release work to please anyone; I do music for myself. It’s also about the right timing and the sequence of events. I would have released the project a whole lot earlier, but it definitely wouldn’t have been something that I would have been happy with now. So it’s more about being able to pinpoint what it is that I feel happy with putting out.

We love the electronic sound with a house feel on ‘Regrettables’ and the trance-like and hazy beats on ‘Things We Do On The Weekend’ are great too. We are interesting in finding out from what you call your genre.

It is no specific genre; I make what I like. The stuff that I listen to and the stuff that I want to make is probably not necessarily what everybody else wants to hear. I think having worked with all the people that I worked with has kind of helped me get in tune with what’s relevant and what makes sense. I guess it’s just dance music for now. It could be future kwaito but that’s also quite vague. I just make spiritual shit and I guess people have to come and catch the live sets and wait for the project to come out to finally understand what genre it is.

You have been featured on several tracks by other artists since your debut single. Please tell us about some of them and how they came about.

I have been very fortunate to be able to work and collaborate with other artists. In a way, I think, it has been a very fundamental part in terms of being able to define what I do because I also don’t really know what I do. I’ve had stuff on the airwaves for the past three to five years with people like Crazy White Boy, PHFat, Jack Parow and whole bunch of other people. So I think it has just been a matter of timing everything. It all happened fatefully and things just come out when they need to.

We believe you are preparing to release an EP. Please tell us a bit about it.

The EP was supposed to come out two years ago. It’s definitely coming out next year before June and there are a couple of videos that will coming out with it. I have stuff coming out in January but that is linked to the material that has been already released.

What inspires you to make music?

I think a lot of the stuff that I get inspired by is the stuff that I observe or stuff that I feel. There is no specific point of inspiration and there is no specific thing that guides the process; it quite organic. I could be driven by my mood at the time, it could be the state of affairs, a look that somebody gives me, something that looks interesting or just a comment made by somebody.

How do you plan on winning international audiences with your music?

My reality is not the same as everybody else’s; I am not motivated by international success. I make music that I think appeals to everyone. There’s no goal insight. I think, as an artist, my worry is not how to get internationally recognised. For me, there is no set formula; I am just intrigued by the journey and the response. My biggest response so far has been from South Africa.

You can catch Nonku Phiri performing ‘Regrettables’ at Smoking Dragon Festival on Friday 29 December in Drakensberg.


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