NAKHANE

Sum­mon­ing the prow­ess of Grace Jones, the oth­er­world­li­ness of David Bowie and the sex­ual en­ergy of Prince, Nakhane is an enig­matic per­former that you must get to know

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - THE TAKE CRITICS’ CHOICE -

Walk­ing on to the tiny stage in St James’s Church, Din­gle, a stage that’s broad­cast to the world via the RTÉ show Other Voices, Nakhane sum­mons the prow­ess of Grace Jones, the oth­er­world­li­ness of David Bowie and the sex­ual en­ergy of Prince. The South African singer, ac­tor and nov­el­ist re­leased their de­but al­bum You Will Not Die

ear­lier this year and, like the mu­sic of Jones, Bowie and Prince, it’s an al­bum that makes you want to dance, cry and ed­u­cate your­self. Nakhane’s set at Other Voices

achieved all of those things.

Iden­ti­fy­ing as gen­der neu­tral on their Face­book page and wear­ing Blade sun­glasses, a 1980s power suit with a leather har­ness on over a bare chest un­der­neath, the 30-year-old doesn’t shy away from be­ing them­selves. This self-as­sur­ance is some­thing that en­raged a lot of peo­ple in their home­town, con­tribut­ing to the artist’s move from South Africa to Lon­don. With mu­sic so trag­i­cally sad and rhythms so deeply mov­ing, if you over­looked

You Will Not Die this year, now is your chance to make amends and to make Nakhane your VBF.

Us­ing reli­gious, an­cient Ro­man and mythic ref­er­ences in songs about sex­ual de­sire, love, sur­vival, pain and iso­la­tion, Nakhane’s lyri­cism is heavy but its de­liv­ery is so straight­for­ward that there’s no doubt­ing the sin­cer­ity. Work­ing a gui­tar with fren­zied bursts like St Vin­cent, the song’s “glad­i­a­to­rial” nar­ra­tor finds strength in love on

Clair­voy­ant, even if this love makes them do risky things. “Love does not make me clair­voy­ant, all I know is how to be your ser­vant,” goes the cho­rus, lay­ing it all down be­fore com­par­ing them­selves to a “gam­bling lamb” act­ing in their love’s hon­our. Nakhane paints the strug­gle of stand­ing up for love so elo­quently even when the world you live in re­jects you for who you are.

Nakhane’s por­trayal of a gay man – a gay man who is a mem­ber of the Xhosa tribe – in John Tren­gove’s The Wound re­sulted in some near-vi­o­lent back­lash in South Africa. As seen in an in­ter­view with the Guardian’s Tshepo Mokoena, up against this im­me­di­ate threat to their life, Nakhane dis­plays an in­cred­i­ble re­silience and strength of char­ac­ter. “It was in­ter­est­ing for my own peo­ple to de­scribe in great de­tail how they wanted to kill me,” they told Mokoena. “But some of the de­scrip­tions were so po­etic that I was like: ‘Hey, peo­ple can write. They can write, eh?’” This role won Nakhane the Palm Springs In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val and South African Film and Tele­vi­sion Awards for best ac­tor this year.

Now liv­ing in east Lon­don’s trendy neigh­bour­hood of Dal­ston, Nakhane ex­udes in in­ter­views an air that is warm, invit­ing and bub­bly. On­stage, they are soft spo­ken but in­sanely grate­ful for hav­ing such a cap­tive au­di­ence but . . . sit­ting at the pi­ano for You Will Not Die, they hold the stark­est of emo­tions in one long, pierc­ing note and it’s im­pos­si­ble to break your tear­ful gaze with this enig­matic per­former. In­tro­duc­ing the band, we meet drum­mer Keir Adam­son and gui­tarist Char­lotte Hather­ley, who some peo­ple might re­mem­ber from play­ing with the North­ern Ir­ish band Ash. Hather­ley is now Nakhane’s mu­si­cal di­rec­tor. As an artist, Nakhane has a pro­found way with words – they pub­lished their de­but novel Piggy Boy’s Blues in 2015 – but just like Jones, Bowie and Prince, they don’t give it all away at once. They are an artist with so much to say and so much to ex­plore. You Will Not Die is just the start and hope­fully their Other Voices per­for­mance isn’t their last visit to Ire­land. ■ Nakhane’sOtherVoices per­for­mancewil­l­beaire­donRTÉTwo ear­lyin2019.

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