SUN EL MUSICIAN , MS PARTY AND BONGEZIWE MABANDLA TO JOIN NAKHANE ON STAGE AT I AM LIVE BY BASSLINE FEST AT CONSTITUTION HILL 21 MAY
Sun El Musician, Bongeziwe Mabandla, Ms Party and Aurus will join Nakhane on stage at the I Am Live concert by Bassline Fest at Constitution Hill on the 21st of May. This festival in celebration of Africa Month is presented by The Department of Sport Arts and Culture. The I Am Live fest will start at 2pm and end at 10pm. Tickets are R320.00 on Howler
Says I Am Live event promoter Paige Holmes, “The festival is set to be a day of music and celebration of our humanity, resilience and over-all incredible creativity and talent that our beautiful African Continent births. The line-up of award winning artists reflect the inclusivity, diversity and tolerance that the city of Jozi inhabits: Joining Nakhane when they return home to celebrate being live, alive and African will be Bongeziwe Mabandla, known as the ‘enigmatic spirit of African Soul’ and Sun El Musician the multiple hit making Afro-house and electronic fusion producer, as well as Reunionese singer-songwriter Aurus.
Known as “Joburg’s Mainstay of Groove” Ms Party will be there to ensure the flow of the fest stays fluid. Ms Party is a South African DJ Born in Diepkloof, Soweto, and has garnered popularity for his zeal on the decks, playing catchy tunes and every now and then leaving the dance floor to show off his dance moves and party with the crowd.”
“The Bassline Fest is grateful to the Department of Sport Arts & Culture for coming on-board in the support of the live music industry which has been so hard hit by the pandemic.” Adds Bassline Fest’s Brad Holmes. “In celebration of Africa Month we are excited to showcase these incredible, diverse artists from our continent. What this event does is aid the live music industry as a whole as it creates work for the full live music industry eco-system from production, marketing, performing service providers and artists. It also creates a place for festival goers to escape while getting entranced by the artistic talent and of course to have some much needed fun! We are also grateful to our associate partners Castle Lite and BETAfrica for making this concert possible. And to Concerts SA with the Norwegian Government & SAMRO for supporting Nakhane.”
Sun-El Musician (Born Sanele Sithole) is a South African based producer (from the Kwazulu Natal Highlands) who with humility and grace, steadily carved out a reputation for not only having a magic touch with his unmistakable brand of Afro-House and electronic fusion but also for having a pair of ‘golden ears’ -having had a hand in identifying, producing and signing some of the most prolific South African writers and voices under his label El-World Music.
South African house music has become popular not only among local South Africans, pioneers in the space such as Black Coffee (An admirer of Sun-El Musician) often seen to be playing and sharing his releases) have opened up the genre to global audiences by introducing a mesmerizing dreamy brand of traditional African vocals with a distinct production aesthetic.
Some Notable Achievements:
Sun-El Musician’s Debut album ‘Africa to the world’ debuted on the top 200 Electronic Albums WorldWide on Apple Music, and earned him over 50 million streams across platforms.
Sun-El Musician has also been nominated for and won numerous SAMA (South African Music Awards) for his hit single Akanamali with Samthing Soweto, Into Ingawe with Ami Faku, and his Africa to the World album. Categories for nomination and wins include Album of the Year, Best Newcomer, Best Dance Album, Collaborations of the Year, Highest Airplay, Best Music Video.
The El-World performance experience is much beloved not just at Major Festivals and concerts as a headliner, but the label run by Sun-El Musician, brother Sandile and a powerful team has become a noteworthy digital entity with its beloved Red Box Sessions on youtube.
Sun-El has also caught the attention of producers and artists worldwide as far as Swizz Beatz and was invited to collaborate in 2018
In December 2020 Sun-El Musician released his second album with a staggering 31 tracks. The album received high notoriety on all DSP and radio charts with major streaming success not only in SA but worldwide
Ubomi Abumnga featuring Msaki held the #1 position on SA Radio for 7 weeks running, as well as continues to be an Anthem for its poignant lyrics and relatability it held the #2 position as top tracks of 2020 on Apple Music.
Uhuru was selected among NPR’s top 100 sons of 2020
Together with Artist Services company Platoon, Sun-El Musician created a one of a kind virtual album launch which he called the Uhuru Space Force – On the eve of release thousands of fans registered to watch a 45-minute sample of his album shot to an Afro-futuristic setting featuring both established and new vocal talents such as the likes of Msaki, Simmy, Ami Faku and Azana. The album was then released as a Visual Album on Apple Music.
To follow Sun-El Musician co-created You need me with Maxime Ashley on Black Coffee’s latest album Subconsciously
Sun-El continues to release music under his label El-World and has been producing for his own label as well as some African Top tier artists.
Over the past decade, South Africa’s Bongeziwe Mabandla has steadily built a career that has seen him become known as the enigmatic spirit of African Soul whose fanbase extends across the world.
For this award-winning artist, the impulse to create has propelled him to create a trio of critically acclaimed albums, perform on an array of homegrown and international stages, become a sought-after creative collaborator and, in April 2022, join the set of a film being shot in Kinshasa by musician and filmmaker BALOJI.
“Everything I do is measured against how artistic and interesting it is – both for me and my audience,” says Mabandla, and each meticulously calibrated step in his journey is evidence of how seriously he takes that.
Most recently it has been sharing his third album, iimini (“days”) with the world – through the album’s release in March 2020 via London-based Platoon (Princess Nokia, Victoria Monet, Maleek Berry, Samthing Soweto, Sun-El Musician), a series of wonderful remixes and record-setting live shows that take his music into a gratifying communal realm.
Recorded with producer Tiago Correia-Paulo, iimini is a 12-song cycle that untethers Mabandla from the Afro-Folk of his early music and takes his music into a realm of experimentation and creativity that simultaneously roots itself in the deep and fertile soil of his folk instincts and Correia-Paulo’s roving eye for electronic music’s loveliest aspects. Singles like “zange”, “masiziyekelele” and “jikeleza” led the way for music lovers to discover iimini’s beauty and the album earned unstinting critical praise. Writing in New Frame, Rofhiwa Maneta described Iimini as an “exploration of love, its animating power, limitations and its inevitable end” while Butchie Seroto called the album “captivating” in a glowing review for Music in Africa.
Mabandla won his second South African Music Award (SAMA) when iimini was named Best Alternative Album in July 2021 and there were further exploration of his creative boundaries with a series of wonderful remixes including Dwson’s “Ndanele (Dwson Dub Remix)” (nominated for a 2021 SAMA in the category Remix of the Year), Muzi’s wonderful take on “Mini Esadibana Ngayo”, DJ Lag’s propulsive remix of “ndiyakuthanda (12.4.19)” and a lovely remix of “zange” by Guatemalan artist Mose.
On its release in 2020 Iimini joined 2012’s Umlilo and 2017’s Mangaliso as the recorded output of an artist who has been described as a “modern miracle” by Radio France Internationale (RFI) and has been profiled in prestigious UK music magazine, Songlines, among other publications.
Indeed, Mabandla first came to the attention of audiences outside South Africa when he was named one of 10 finalists in the 2011 Radio France Internationale Discoveries Awards. That was on the cusp of the release of Umlilo (“fire”) when Mabandla was refining his performing skills and songwriting – the latter then a gorgeous, understated mix of Xhosa lyrics with traditional music and folk stylings.
Mabandla’s early musical influences had come from his childhood in the rural town of Tsolo in the Eastern Cape where he grew up singing in church, at school and at home. A move to Johannesburg to study drama at AFDA saw him continue exploring expressions of musical storytelling through a range of artists including Tracy Chapman, The Fugees, Jabu Khanyile, Bongo Maffin and Busi Mhlongo.
On its release in 2017, Mangaliso, (meaning “marvel” or “miracle”) signalled Mabandla’s extraordinary musical reach. A significant amount of the album’s success came from his collaboration with producer Correia-Paulo, a Mozambican living in Johannesburg who had established himself as a masterful musician, songwriter and producer through his work with Tumi and the Volume and 340ml.
Mabandla and Correia-Paulo’s working relationship quickly evolved into a true creative collaboration – and it was no surprise when Mangaliso earned unstinting critical praise and won Mabandla the 2018 South African Music Award for Best Alternative Music Album. Among the tracks that resonated with devotees was single “Ndokhulandela”, which is Mabandla’s most streamed songs on Spotify (well over three million streams) as well as “Bawo Wam” a collaboration with Spoek Mathambo that has won two awards – Best Music Video at the Capital City Black Film Awards and at the Jozi Film Fest.
Live, Mabandla is mesmerising – whether solo or with his band – and is every bit the enigmatic spirit of African soul. “To watch Bongeziwe Mabandla step onto stage is to witness the transmutation of the abstract into the physical,” wrote Maneta in New Frame.
In 2022 he’s playing Safiko Festival in Reunion for the sixth time – a measure of his sustained, and growing, appeal for audiences. Before the pandemic, in 2019 alone Mabandla played the Reeperbahn Festival (Germany), Lake of Stars (Malawi), five dates at Afrovibes Festival (Netherlands), Womex (Finland),and the Oslo World Festival (Norway). In November of that year, he performed to a sold-out audience at London’s 100 Club along with eight more dates in France (including sold-out shows in Paris and Strasbourg), and his first sold out show in Zurich, Switzerland.
In spite of pandemic constraints, the past two years have seen Mabandla continue to build his domestic and international live career with the sold out sign put up at shows in the UK, France, the Netherlands and Switzerland in 2021 while his November 2021 SA tour became the among the fastest selling of a solo contemporary South African artist. A highlight of 2020 was a moving performance for the ColorsxStudios’ HOME/BRED series during the global lockdown that was later featured in the Best Of edition of this global platform.
As 2022 gathers pace, Mabandla is shooting Augure, playing the character of Ezra in a film directed by BALOJI, a Congolese-Belgian rapper, artist and filmmaker. He’s also working on music for a new album – all part of the continuing, and singular, expression of the artistic passions of one of Africa’s most important artists.
Nakhane – Youtube Channel https://www.youtube.
Nakhane’s Activity during lockdown:
– Took the self-portraits (including the cover) for Mail & Guardian Friday : https://mg.co.za/friday/
– Acted in Debbie tucker green’s film, ear for eye, which premiered at the BFI LONDON FILM FESTIVAL 2021
– Sang the Siddhartha part of Rachel Fuller-Townshend’s musical, Siddhartha. Set for release this year: https://www.glartent.
– Wrote a personal essay for COVID HQ Africa about living with mental illness during lockdown: https://www.
– Contributed The Fool, a short story to Exhale: Queer African Erotic Fiction : https://
– Contributed an essay to the collection, Touch: Sex, Sexuality and Sensuality: https://mg.co.za/
– Joined The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment for the film recording of Bach’s John Passion: https://www.youtube.
– Wrote an essay in celebration of the vinyl reissue of Busi Mhlongo’s Urban Zulu album: https://www.newframe.
– Modelled for Gucci/The Face for their Guilty fragrance: https://theface.
– Cover star for EXIT newspaper: https://www.
Born 32 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 most recent album You Will Not Die 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.
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.
Born in Alice, Nakhane grew up in Port Elizabeth before moving to Johannesburg aged 15. A umXhosa, the second largest ethnic group in South Africa after the amaZulu, Nakhane was raised in a musical family – his aunt, who brought him up (and who he refers to as his mum), and her sisters sang in choirs. “My first musical memories are voices in a room singing Mozart and South African choral pieces,” he says. “And then when we moved to Port Elizabeth my mum introduced me to Marvin Gaye and the O’Jays. I didn’t really know current pop music until I was in high school.”
Nakhane performed in musicals at school, including the lead role in Joseph and his Amazing Techni-coloured Dreamcoat, and loved singing harmony with this aunt on car journeys. Everyone in the family could sing, he says, “but for some reason I could see that singing was something I got validation from a lot more than anyone else around me.” Nakhane didn’t realise as a youngster that he had an extraordinary voice, at once triumphant and tender. “With songwriting there was a lightbulb moment where I thought ‘Yeah, I can do this!’ But with singing it was like learning how to speak, you don’t realise you’re learning and then you suddenly can.”
More difficult was Nakhane’s growing awareness of his sexuality. Though South Africa is liberal regarding LGBT rights, his family’s Christianity was becoming increasingly hardline: “the older I got, we became very staunch, more conservative”. At the age of 19 he came out, to the consternation of his church and family, who decided that his “sin” could be prayed away – “like if you have Jesus in your heart this is a temptation that you can learn to live without”. For six years until the age of 25, Nakhane was a poster boy for fundamentalism, preaching about the way God had taken away his attraction to men, “a testament that ‘look, it can happen, someone can think that they are homosexual but if they just accept Jesus into their heart and fight this temptation they can be good Christians’.”
Inevitably however, Nakhane realised that his sexuality could not – and should not – be denied. He renounced his Christian faith after a dream which inspired You Will Not Die. “One night, I dreamt a voice gave me a date, that of my death,” he remembers. “Suddenly, having forever lived in fear of divine punishment, I was certain I wasn’t to die the next day, or even 10 years later. It was incredibly freeing. I decided to catch up on lost time, to finally live my life.”
Along with his sexuality, Nakhane embraced his artistic identity. Inspired by mould-shattering musicians including Anohni, Busi Mhlongo, David Bowie, Mbongwana Star and Nina Simone, Nakhane started to write songs on his acoustic guitar and play them on the folk circuit in Johannesburg: “grungy little pubs where everyone would talk over you”. He was spotted performing in an acoustic competition in Johannesburg by the boss of a record label who signed him, then in 2013 released his first album Brave Confusion which, he says, “took a while to catch on.” In 2015 Nakhane published his first novel, Piggy Boy’s Blues, about a relationship between a young man and an uncle whom he discovers is in a same-sex relationship. The same year Nakhane collaborated with the South African DJ Black Coffee; their addictive, pulsing dance record We Dance Again was a hit and gave the singer a wide audience in the country.
His achievements are not confined to music and literature. In 2017 Nakhane starred in The Wound, a film about homosexuality in the Xhosa community which was shortlisted, but didn’t win, for the best foreign language film at that year’s Oscars. In January 2018 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.
Nakhane wanted it to be an electronic album, partly a reaction to his early experiences as a musician. “The folk scene is so fucked up,” he says. “It purports to be authentic which is a word I fucking hate, because it normally means white guy with a beard and an acoustic guitar. I don’t tick those boxes.” In fact, 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 ominous waltz Fog is about suffering what Nakhane’s doctor says is chronic depression and generalised anxiety disorder. “Six years ago it was difficult to talk about mental illness without people rolling their eyes at you,” says Nakhane. “It affects every facet of my life, unfortunately. But I’m on good medication now.”
The shimmering dance tune Clairvoyant is a love song, inspired by a line in Jean Cocteau’s Les Enfants Terribles. “There’s a line there that goes ‘love had made them clairvoyant’ and I remember thinking ‘Jesus, love doesn’t make me clairvoyant – if anything I become more of an idiot when I’m in love’.” 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.”
Teen Prayer was inspired by a visit to a tarot card reader who recommended that Nakhane went back to the places in which he grew up – advice he took. A kind of anti-gospel record, Teen Prayer is “about letting go of the fear that I’m going to hell. I also wanted to queer that Biblical language and gospel sound. There’s a line ‘He moves in me’ which is a double entendre. One could read it as the Holy Spirit moving in you, or one could read it as anal sex.”
The title track You Will Not Die delves into a subject Nakhane had previously thought was too tender to write about – the fact that his biological parents had not brought him up. “For the first five years of my life I was moved around a lot,” he says. “My father was never on the scene really, I’ve met him twice. I lived with my mother for a year when I was six, it didn’t work out, and then my aunt and her husband adopted me and they, for all intents and purposes, became my parents for the remainder of my life. It was never forethought, but life made it that way and as traumatic as it became when I was growing up, now when I look back I’m so much happier – I prefer that I was raised by my aunt.”
The song is about this hard-won acceptance of painful aspects of the past, and a hymn to Nakhane’s resilience. “That line ‘And when I woke up in the morning I knew that I wouldn’t die’. So your parents left, did you die? No. There’s always tomorrow – hopefully.”
Nakhane’s tomorrow is a hugely promising one – he now lives in the UK with his family’s blessing, despite the complexities of religion and sexuality. “It took a long time and a lot of complicated conversations, but over time I think the ice thaws,” the singer says. His experiences have turned him into a vibrantly creative artist destined to push pop’s boundaries. “I remember being young, black and queer and having no-one representing me in the world ever, you know?,” he says. “I discovered James Baldwin when I was 19 and I was never the same person ever again. So if my album can do something like that for someone, then my work is done.”
AURUS is a modern mirage. The incarnation of our contradictions.
After the transgressive polyphony of his last project 3SOMESISTERS, AURUS aka Bastien Picot evokes the Maloya of his roots (traditional music from Reunion Island) in an orchestral Pop and percussive shell, at the crossroads of Nakhane, Peter Gabriel or Woodkid. After remarkable performances at MaMa, SAKIFO, Bars en Trans and Francofolies de la Réunion, AURUS has become Revelation artist of the Chantier des Francofolies for the year 2021 and Coup de cœur of the Confédération des Francofolies.
His first album is a chimera, a hybrid album. Conceived between Paris and Réunion, this opus is an intuitive and tribal journey in which what may seem irreconcilable meets and merges: atmospheric melancholy and tribal or even sometimes military rhythms, stellar ballads and the tonic light of songs inviting to trance, all this articulated in English and Creole from Réunion.
The origin of both the album and the artist’s pseudonym is the eye of Horus, an Egyptian divinity half-man, half-hawk, symbol of intuition and spiritual antenna allowing one to see beyond what is palpable.
After the musical adventure of the 3somesisters (of which Bastien Picot was one of the founders), AURUS was born as a vertiginous drive to focus back on his desires. After an intense and hectic collective adventure, came a deep questioning on his relationship to the world, to the other, to society. It was in the twists and turns of its own melancholy and bright hopes that Chimera was born, like a vertical woven thread going from his roots to the heavens.
AURUS has a keen eye on the society in which we live. He questions our relationship to animals (in a duet with
Sandra Nkaké), to time, to mental load or even the distortion of our perception of the world created by the screens that surround us … Chimera is like a hypnotic vigil, from dawn to dusk, where madness sometimes comes to tickle the hooks, riffs and vocalizations of this polymorphous singer.
Creole came back naturally into the music, just like the traditional instruments of Reunion Island’s « Maloya », but also the English-speaking pop which watered his childhood to reconnect with the forgotten teenager and his “American dream. “, to the traveler-backpacker and his thirst for adventure, to the vacationer in need of rest or to the entrepreneur and his myriad of ideas.
Musically, it was Anthony Winzenrieth, who produced the 3SOMESISTERS’ EPs, who was the essential partner in the birth of this album. After helping AURUS to clarify his vision, he mixed and produced this album by sublimating this chimera inspired by The Knife, Woodkid, Peter Gabriel, Tune-Yards, James Blake or even Ry X …