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Mistletone proudly presents dazzling South African singer, songwriter, musician, actor and author Nakhane; plus special guests to be announced.
One of the glorious things about pop music is the way that singular talents can come from anywhere – and 2018 is infinitely more interesting, thanks to the arrival of Nakhane. Born 30 years ago in Alice, a small town on the eastern Cape of South Africa, Nakhane has a ravishingly beautiful voice and plenty to express with it. His album You Will Not Die (out now via BMG Australia) excavates his religious upbringing, his need to renounce Christianity after feeling that it was incompatible with his queerness, and his periods of depression and anxiety – but there’s also love, joy and self-acceptance, not least on the title track, in which Nakhane realises that despite the traumatic events he’s been through, he’ll survive. Nakhane tours Australia for the first time in January for Sydney Festival and MONA FOMA.
As an album, You Will Not Die is gorgeous to listen to, Nakhane’s magisterial voice aligned with solid-gold songwriting. Producer Ben Christopher, whose credits include Bat For Lashes, melds choirs, strings and electronic pop into something sumptuous and urgent. From the choral hip-hop of opening track “Violent Measures”, through the anthemic pulse of “Star Red”, to the gorgeously limpid torch song “All Along”, You Will Not Die reveals the measure of Nakhane’s considerable talents.
Nakhane’s achievements are not confined to music and literature. Last year Nakhane starred in The Wound, a film about homosexuality in the Xhosa community which has been shortlisted for the best foreign language film at this year’s Oscars. This January he visited New York for a podcast-based project with the actor and filmmaker John Cameron Mitchell. He’s a polymath, then: but a musician first and foremost, with You Will Not Die showcasing him in full bloom. You Will Not Die ranges from the effervescent glam-tinged stomper “Interloper”, through the abstract blues of “The Dead”, to the meditative piano ballad “Teen Prayer”. There are some sounds which run through the record – for instance choirs, a reference to Nakhane’s upbringing – and of course that glorious voice, delving deep into his experiences.
The shimmering dance tune “Clairvoyant” is a love song, inspired by a line in Jean Cocteau’s Les Enfants Terribles. The lyrics, Nakhane says, are neither euphoric nor despairing, but about that tricky middle ground: “how you can love somebody but you can also resent them.” Its video is a sumptuous portrait of a same-sex couple, stylistically inspired by Wong Kar-Wei’s Happy Together, in which Nakhane appeared naked. “Oh yeah I am, aren’t I?,” he chuckles. “I went to the director and said to him that I wanted to show a same-sex black couple living their normal day to day life. I wanted to showcase banality but make it beautiful and stylise it.” As for the nudity, “I had a very naked family, nudity was never anything that was frowned upon. As an artist, my body is just another tool for me to use to say what I want to say.”