Saturday, February 03, 2018

Nakhane Touré's "Tortured Journey to Clarity"

This evening for music night at The Wild Reed I share "In the Dark Room" by South African musician Nakhane Touré. It's a track from his 2014 debut album Brave Confusion, about which Graham Gremore says the following.

Toure’s debut album, Brave Confusion, couldn’t be more appropriately titled. Here is a black Christian male singing love songs about other men in an environment that hasn’t exactly been welcoming towards gay people. The album is an eclectic hybrid of genres and sounds that work surprisingly well together. Think Frank Ocean meets Radiohead meets Antony and the Johnsons with a little Prince and David Bowie thrown in for good measure.

The subject matter is equally as diverse. Touré sings about everything from love to self-loathing to death to self-acceptance. As one reviewer put it, Brave Confusion is “rife with complexities, swathed in a disarming honesty that holds you captive right through his tortured journey to clarity.” The album received four South African Music Awards in 2013, including nominations for Album Of The Year, Best Alternative Album, Newcomer Of The Year, and Male Artist Of The Year.

Following are excerpts from Graham Gremore's 2014 Queerty interview with singer (and now actor) Nakhane Touré.

Your new music video “In the Dark Room” was shot in a prison cell in Constitution Hill, which used to be a prison in Johannesburg.

We initially wanted a derelict lived-in space. Constitution Hill was a very oppressive, cruel place to be in. The video deals with some form of mental imprisonment, a self-hate so drastic, so ugly that it turns violent within you. And while we shot the video I couldn’t help but see the parallels between the location and what we were going for.

Mental imprisonment and self-hatred. Is that what the song is about as well? More specifically, the hatred some gay people feel towards themselves?

Yes, completely. The song is about a searing self-hate, which took on many different guises over the years before the album was released. It’s a very difficult song for me, even though I see it as a groovy pop song, sometimes when I play it live I catch myself falling and I have to re-balance myself.

To contrast that, the album’s opener "Christopher" is much more upbeat.

I wrote the song after the final demos of the album were finished and recorded, and I was listening to a lot of Dirty Mind-era Prince and Busi Mhlongo.

And Christopher was a guy you were chatting with online.

I had not met him [in person] yet. I was supposed to meet him at some bar, but for some reason that did not happen. I was exercising song-writing, trying to see if I could write a catchy “pop” song in the vein of Prince and when I was stuck on the second verse I thought I’d write about this Christopher as a place-holder until I figured out the proper lyrics. At that point I didn’t think that the song would even be in the album. Little did I know that it would be the first single. After the single was released I finally met Chris and now we’ve been dating for about 11 months. I call it a stalker anthem.

How does he feel about being the subject of your first single?

In the beginning he was slightly embarrassed when people realized that the song was about him, but now he’s very pleased about it. And sometimes when I play the song live I change some of the lyrics just to throw him off a little. Although I try not to look at him when I play the song live.

Is there anything you would like to add?

Thank you for recognizing a South African artist. There are many different musicians and artists in this country who don’t have the confidence to come out. I know for a fact that I’m not the only one. Hopefully with this support, more will find the courage to come out.

Related Off-site Links:
Bravely, Confusingly, Nakhane Touré – Lloyd Gedye (The Con, September 25, 2013).
Nakhane’s Brave ConfusionExpresso (November 1, 2013).
What’s Eating Nakhane Touré? – Charl Blignaut (City Press, April 28 2014).
Nakhane Touré: Working Bravely with WordsBetween Ten and Five (June 23, 2015).
Nakhane Touré: Dreaming the Black Man’s Blues – Kwanele Sosibo (Mail and Guardian, September 4, 2015).
South Africa Musician Nakhane Touré Tackles Gay ThemesBBC News, (April 4, 2016).
Nakhane Touré Fends Off Hate Speech Over Controversial New Film – Carl Collison (Mail and Guardian, March 1, 2017).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
To Be Held and to Hold
It Is Not Good To Be Alone
The Challenge to Become Ourselves
To Know and Be Known
Vessels of the Sacred
The Body: As Sacred and Knowing as a Temple Oracle
The Many Manifestations of God's Loving Embrace
No Altar More Sacred
Lovemaking: Pathway to Truth, Harmony, and Wholeness
The Art of Surrender
Same-Sex Desires: "Immanent and Essential Traits Transcending Time and Culture"
Spirituality and the Gay Experience
The Most Sacred and Simple Mystery of All

Previous featured artists at The Wild Reed:
Dusty Springfield | David Bowie | Kate Bush | Maxwell | Buffy Sainte-Marie | Prince | Frank Ocean | Maria Callas | Loreena McKennitt | Rosanne Cash | Petula Clark | Wendy Matthews | Darren Hayes | Jenny Morris | Gil Scott-Heron | Shirley Bassey | Rufus Wainwright | Kiki Dee | Suede | Marianne Faithfull | Dionne Warwick | Sam Sparro | Wanda Jackson | Engelbert Humperdinck | Pink Floyd | The Church | Enrique Iglesias | Yvonne Elliman | Lenny Kravitz | Helen Reddy | Stephen Gately | Judith Durham | Nat King Cole | Emmylou Harris | Bobbie Gentry | Russell Elliot | BØRNS | Hozier | Enigma | Moby (featuring the Banks Brothers) | Cat Stevens | Chrissy Amphlett | Jon Stevens | Nada Surf | Tom Goss (featuring Matt Alber) | Autoheart | Scissor Sisters | Mavis Staples | Claude Chalhoub | Cass Elliot | Duffy | The Cruel Sea | Wall of Voodoo | Loretta Lynn and Jack White | Foo Fighters | 1927 | Kate Ceberano | Tee Set | Joan Baez | Wet, Wet, Wet | Stephen “Tin Tin” Duffy | Fleetwood Mac | Jane Clifton | Australian Crawl | Pet Shop Boys | Marty Rhone | Josef Salvat | Kiki Dee and Carmelo Luggeri | Aquilo | The Breeders | Tony Enos | Tupac Shakur

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