Where did the name Nakhane Toure come about?
I was obsessed with Ali Farka Toure. I had written a song called “In The Dark Room” and I sent to a friend of mine who listened and said, ‘They should call you Nakhane Touré. I really liked that. I remember one evening, going to work (I was working at Look & Listen at the time), and just mulling over how it sounded, what it meant: the history of artists naming themselves and their works after their heroes. I wanted to continue that tradition. Also, it was so Pan African
How was it like growing up in the Eastern Cape?
It was a mixture of backgrounds: Alice was rural. Port Elizabeth was both suburban and township. And children know how to move and adapt to surroundings, so as I moved through these spaces it mattered less what the spaces were, and more about who was in these spaces. I spent a lot of my childhood reading, listening to music, learning instruments, so what I remember most was my primary school, which was the source of most of my joy.
What were you like at school?
I was always in productions. I was always carrying an instrument with me. I was always in the hall practicing some instrument. I was also a good sprinter. So, when athletics season was on, I was on the field. But as I hit my early teens I would skip PT and shut myself in the piano room.
When and why did you start making music and writing?
So most of my schooling was spent reciting. Sure I wrote some bad stories and poems, but most was learning pieces written by other people. By the time I was in senior high school and was realising certain things about myself, things that I felt were definitely not felt by my friends I started writing then. It wasn’t music, though. That came later. It was words. It was poems, it was little plays for drama class, it was short stories. Music came when I started getting into “guitar bands”. That’s also when I got a guitar. I liked how easy it was to move around, that I could lock myself in my bedroom and write. When I did pick up the guitar after years of begging my father to buy me one (my mother finally caved in) I was learning the instrument to write. Never to become a virtuoso. I wanted to write songs: melody and words.
How much of your personality is reflected on your work?
It really depends on the work at that particular time. Some works are completely autobiographical, to the point that when they’re out there in the world I feel completely exposed and embarrassed. Whereas other works are very distant.
How do you balance being an author and a musician?
I rarely think about them as different entities. They both come from me. It’s stories. Some are songs, others have to be a book. There’s no balancing that needs to be done.
Where do you find ideas or inspiration for your books?
Life. Living. Being alive. My friends. My family. Things I’ve been through. Strangers. Experience. Innocence. Artists. Other novels. Not seeing what I want to see in literature.
What ambitions do you have for your writing career?
I actually haven’t thought about that. I want it to matter. That’s the same thing I want for my music. It has to mean something. It has to be fucking good.
Do you ever have creative block and if so how do you overcome it?
A bath sometimes helps me too. I get all of my best ideas in the bath. If I roast for long enough I’m bound to think of something. But what works best is leaving the work that’s refusing to bend to your will. Leave it alone for a while, and when you’re not flogging it anymore, it gives itself to you. That might be the next day, the next week, or as I’ve recently seen with a song I’ve been wrestling with; 9 years.
What has been your most memorable moment been yet so far as a musician?
They all matter. It’s so difficult singling one out as some sort of pinnacle. What I’ve realised is that the things that I thought were supposed to be the pinnacles ended having no meaning at all. Whereas the small details ended up being the most important experiences of my life.
What other musician or authors have been inspirational to you as an artist?
James Baldwin,Toni Morrison, Nina Simone, Busi Mhlongo, Miles Davis, Radiohead, David Bowie, Joni Mitchell, Yasunari Kawabata, Sheila Heti, Zakes Mda
Do you have any spiritual practices?
Yes. I’m Xhosa. So my spirituality is steeped in that.
What’s on your playlist at the moment?
Not a lot of current music actually, except for Frank Ocean.
Leonard Cohen, Nina Simone, Tori Amos, Roberta Flack, Miriam Makeba, Brook Benton, Arthur Russell, Fela Kuti
What was your last book that you picked up?
I’ve actually just finished what I think is one of the best novels I’ve ever read in my entire life. It’s called How Should A Person Be? by Sheila Heti. I was so sad when I finished it. I saw so much of myself in it.
What’s your favourite part about making music?
The process. When I’m in the middle of it – when it’s going well of course (the bad days can also be rewarding if the problem gets resolved). You sit down with a guitar, or in front of the piano. You write words. And somehow, almost miraculously, a song comes to life. It’s so much hard work, of course. But every time I finish a song it’s a miracle. That song never existed before and now some spiritual entity has decided to speak through me.
Do you collect anything? (e.g. old records or books)
I’m not that much of a hoarder. Life has taught me to let go. I try not to be nostalgic either. But I buy books. Too many books. My boyfriend complains all the time about how our place is crowded by books.
What’s the weirdest or surprising thing that has happened to you on stage?
Brave Confusion had just come out and I had started playing some shows. Things were still a bit raw and I heard myself saying to the crowd: “Stop looking at me”. People were quite puzzled. I shrugged it off and continued with the set.
What’s your favourite quote you try live by?
I always remind myself to remember certain quotes so that I can just recall them and recite them to myself when I need them. But I always forget them. So, I guess I don’t have any.
What projects is Nakhane working on now?
I’m working on my second album and finishing off work on a feature I’m the lead on. It’s called The Wound.