Behind the veil of an evolving icon in the making

Moroetsana Serame

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Desire Marea talks love, loss and identity

There is music that is invasive, makes you set yourself on fire but doesn’t quite have the decency to watch you burn and then there’s music that heals you, takes your tongue out of your mouth and gives a name to your pain turning collective amnesia into muscle memory. Desire Marea’s recently released debut album is the latter.

I was nervous when tasked with the heavy burden of documenting the creative genius that is Desire Marea in a way that does them justice. How do you find the right words to capture the essence of someone who cannot be contained or defined? And in the words of Frank Ocean “man, what’s a king to a god?” But, in between nervous giggles and innocent child-like stutters, I’m drawn even more to all the hidden layers that make up Desire, that we often don’t give ourselves the chance to see.

“Being seen as a god is something that I do embrace but not in a hierarchical sense. I don’t see myself and my audience on different planes. If my audience interprets my performance as godly then it’s a reflection of something they see in themselves. It’s a mutual stanning,” said Desire bashfully.

Image result for desire marea
Image shot by Zanele Muholi

“I see Desire as a character that I harbor, a role that I play as a performance artist, and as much as I operate as Desire, the dynamic of Buyani Duma being the vehicle that drives Desire remains the same,” the performance artist added.

Identity is a large part of what they unpack in the 9-track healing manifesto that is a medley of dark and broody 80s arcade electronica, ancestral percussion, choral gospel music and techno-funk with a garnish of disjointed grunge and jazz.

Singing ‘Why should I try so hard to make sense…It’s so lonely in this city,’ in the lead single, You Think I’m Horny, Desire Marea not only addresses expectations of hypersexuality but also delves into the tragic stories of love, loss and displacement.

“I do in a lot of ways address the expectation of hypersexuality in the queer community. A lot of our identities for the longest time pivoted around sexuality which limits us. Sexuality is that central thing that has defined a lot of us but the more I grew out of using that as my primary identifying language I re-defined my identity which enabled me to discover more about myself,” explains Desire.

Compiling a vulnerable body of work as a solo artist gives weight to the saying, heavy is the head that wears the crown. However, for Desire the preparation began a long time ago. “Touring with FAKA helped me a lot and gave me the preparation I needed. A lot of the singles on the album are songs I’ve been working on for years and many of the collaborations are with my friends and happened organically,” they remarked.

The album features the likes of Sanele Ngubane, Pasja Sneijde, Nonku Phiri, Hlasko, Simon Wolfson, Gabriel Wolfson and Gyre. Desire explained that they’ve always had talented people in their life, but never thought that they could work together. “Nonku was in the bathroom and one of my friends started playing You Think I’m Horny, as soon as she heard it, she excitedly jumped on the song adding vocals and adlibs . A lot of it was really organic and I’m grateful for it” Desire reflected.

“I am forever evolving. I could be Desire Marea today and be someone else tomorrow” they concluded. Desire’s sincerity and honesty is laying on of hands. An exorcism giving us the opportunity to be intimate with our many selves. Witnessing the layers that make up Desire’s fabric gives us permission to explore our own and lives up to the ideals of being a disruption to the mainstream.