A man of many talents, Eastern Cape born singer and writer Nakhane Toure catapulted into the South African music scene after winning a SAMA for Best Alternative Album in 2013 for his debut album ‘Brave Confusion’. Determined and stern on making a success of himself, not just as a singer but an artist, Nakhane Toure would let nothing deter him. Now with a successful album and book Piggy Boy's Blues, the singer has broken into the main stream of the South African music scene and is proving to be a talent of note.
With the release of his upcoming EP, ‘The Laughing Son’ on November 20th and an album on the works for 2016, Nakhane took time to answer a few questions for Unlabelled.
How were you introduced to the prospects of being a musician and who were your childhood idols?
When I grew up everyone in my family sang in choirs and they took it seriously. Almost every night my mother, her sisters and cousins would be at choir practice. I usually tagged along and learnt some of the songs they sang. My mother also always had played soul records in our house, the likes of Marvin Gaye, The O’Jays, Manhattans, Diana Ross etc. Those musicians – including Brenda Fassie – were and still are my idols.
Parents are notorious for having a path set for their kids; how did you convince your parents to let you pursue your passion?
It wasn’t so difficult convincing my mother as she was artistically inclined and encouraged my interest in all things art. But my father on the other hand was trickier to convince. In the end it was my passion, cheekiness and unwillingness to give up what I loved that made them understand. I was always involved in artistic things in school and they saw that I was talented so that softened them up.
Having performed both international and locally, is there a difference in the way audiences receive your music?
Local audiences know me more intimately so that changes dynamics incredibly. I can also speak to them in isiZulu or isiXhosa which makes the show more intimate. Overseas there is a slight disconnect as sometimes most of the audience is experiencing me for the first time so it takes a while for them to get into the rhythm of things. But all in all an audience is an audience and you as a performer play it by ear.
You have a novel out, ‘Piggy Boy’s Blues’, what encouraged you to write a book and was it always something that you aspired to doing?
I studied literature at WITS, so yes it was definitely something I always wanted to do. I actually started writing stories way before I started writing my own songs. Before then, I was just covering other people’s songs.
The term “openly gay musician” is often used in reference to you, do you ever wish to be seen just as a musician rather than have your sexuality ascribed to what you do?
In the beginning (two and a half years ago) when my career was just beginning I didn’t mind answering those questions. Now it’s starting to get under my skin. It’s not even the topic of being queer that gets to me; it’s how the question is posed. The questions are by default othering and therefore problematic.
How did your feature on Black Coffee's 'Dance again' come about?
Two mutual friends of ours had told him about my debut album, Brave Confusion, and apparently he was on his way to play a festival in Zimbabwe and he listened to the album repeatedly. When he returned home, he tweeted me and we met. The writing of the song was fragmented as a result of our conflicting schedules but we exchanged ideas via email and WhatsApp and met at his studio when we were both free.
If you had to imagine a world where you were not a musician, what would you be doing?
I would be writing. My initial plan was to become an academic at some university, teaching literature.