With nominations in the album of the year, newcomer of the year, male artist of the year and best alternative categories at this year’s SAMAs, Nakhane Toure’s music has been causing waves ever since his debut album Brave Confusion was released late last year.
Nakhane Mahlakahlaka, better known as Nakhane Toure, is a singer, song-writer and composer who hails from the Eastern Cape.
His soulful album titled Brave Confusion was inspired by a quote from a book written by James Baldwin. Toure just so happens to be a big fan of reading and he has books stacked in nearly every corner of his space which I found befitting of the look and feel of his apartment. Baldwin’s book is a semi-autobiographical novel that was published in 1953 titled Go Tell It To The Mountain. Nearly 50 years after it was first published, it still manages to inspire young and ambitious artists such as Nakhane.
“And he dropped his eyes to the mantelpiece, lifting one by one the objects that adorned it. The mantelpiece held, in brave confusion, photographs, greeting cards, flowered mottoes, two silver candlesticks that held no candles, and green metal serpent, poised to strike“, read the quote.
Nakhane was amazed by the use of the words “brave confusion”. He felt that he could relate because it was around the same time he was still keeping his sexuality a very guarded secret. He was also unsure about a lot of things that were happening in his life, he adds.
“At that time I was in the closet, well not in the closet but I wasn’t out to the public. I was really confused about where I was going. I wanted to study literature and become a lecturer at Wits University or any other varsity. I did study but I didn’t finish, so all the plans that I had were falling apart.”
He continues, “I worked at some gospel store which was very depressing. My family life was depressing as well. But at the same time there was these really great things that were happening. People were starting to know my music, who I was because I was really like in the underground scene.”
People would usually assume that the recognition an artist gets for their music can also pay the bills. That was however, not the case with Nakhane. He still had obstacles to overcome while trying to work on his steadily growing career.
“There were all these good things happening but at the same time life SUCKED!“, he states with a facial expression that would best be described as sulky.
His career brought happiness into his life at that time but there was something else that dragged all the confusion. He was around 17-years-old when he first came out to his cousins and his friends about being gay. As he became braver, he made the decision to come out to his ex-girlfriend and his mother about his sexuality. Following that leap of faith, he decided that it’s about time that everyone knew about his sexuality.
“I become really heavy in terms of being gay. I ended up going to church thinking God would save me and change me, but that didn’t happen,” he giggles.
But after six years of jumping back and forth about his sexuality and trying to fight the fact that he was gay, Nakhane just woke up one morning suddenly feeling better about who he was. It was then that he took a conscious decision to stop denying who he was and is.
“That’s it!! I am living my life honestly” he says about the decision.
What followed was Nakhane’s journey to rebuild his life with a newfound focus on his happiness and his music careerl. Toure finds himself grouped in an alternative rock genre where not a lot of people have the bravery to come out as gay.
Stereotypically speaking, the society and the media would box gay people into the fashion industry because of how they have dominated that scene with their talent. However that it’s not the only field that they specialise in. Being gay doesn’t automatically divide you from the average human being nor does it limit your capabilities. Any gay man would be able to contribute the same amount of effort that anyone would put in anything they do, they just tend to do it with their own charisma and drive.
“I think a lot of people who are gay and are in different fields don’t want to come out because it is a rough world out there. I know people who are gay but they are not willing to come out and I respect that, and they are in a whole lot of different fields,” he states.
The various violent acts perpetrated on gay people by homophobic groups for their sexual orientation has raised eyebrows. Family members, friends, and colleagues who are also against it make it hard for their loved ones to be honest about who they are. In spite of that, Nakhane has stood his ground and has made sure that the the public as well as his inner circle accept who he is.
In addition to these displays of bravery, Toure remains a very reserved person. He likes his own space and he seldom lets anyone into his bubble when reading or writing his music. He attributes his inspiration to reading and his own in life experiences. While listening to Brave Confusion, I noticed that Nakhane Toure is not really a fan of collaborating with other artists.
“If I had to collaborate with someone on their song it’s okay. It’s their song, it has nothing to do with me. But when the collaboration is for my album? That’s where we have a problem,” says Nakhane.
“A lot of the times it’s beyond the art of the music, it’s more about bringing a high-profile name on the album. I mean… what the f**k is that?” he adds. And that isn’t even where he ended. He continues by explaining why he specifically avoids collabos in most cases. Taking small bites from the pieces of the nectarine he was nibbling on, he glares deep in thought at his window.
“The reason I don’t do collaborations is because I don’t know how I’ll work with you. I sit here on this mat and write my music. It’s intimate, it’s personal. How do I sit down here with a total stranger and let them into my box? How? It’s not easy…”
His music still glistens, even without any major collaborations. The only exception to Toure’s self-instituted rule is Tshepang Ramoba – a drummer for a band called The Blk Jks – who played the drums on his album.
He has aims of taking his music to the next level and Toure is currently working on his second album, which he hopes will be released this year, if not next. This bookworm who loves chilling in the nude, keeps a small circle of friends and lives an extremely private private life is hoping that his music will speak for anyone and everyone who feels the same way about being gay, afraid or any other similar experience.
“If you keep on reading a book and none of the books talk to you or say what you really feel, write your own book. [The] same applies with my music. I was listening to a whole lot of music that I felt didn’t really speak to me and my heart, hence I made Brave Confusion.”
“Is that your aim? To inspire?” I ask.
“Yes! If my music can have someone saying ‘Ugh, Lord I’ve been talking about this. Finally I’m not alone,’ then I’m okay. Because that’s what it boils down to.”