Nichume’s sui­cide: shocked loved ones re­act

Singer Nichume seemed to have her de­pres­sion un­der con­trol – so it came as a huge shock when she jumped to her death

DRUM - - CONTENTS - BY QHAMA DAYILE

EV­ERY­ONE thought she was fine. She seemed to have her de­pres­sion un­der con­trol and was tak­ing her medication. Then the un­think­able hap­pened. Nichume Si­wundla took her own life by jump­ing off the bal­cony of a friend’s sec­ond-floor flat in Green­stone, Johannesbu­rg, dev­as­tat­ing her loved ones and shat­ter­ing her fans.

The singer’s brother, Qa­mani (29), says the fam­ily are tak­ing her death hard and her sis­ters, Buhle (23) and Nisi (5), “aren’t han­dling it well at all”.

“At the mo­ment we’re work­ing on mak­ing sure my sis­ter has a beautiful send-off. My par­ents are try­ing to stay strong but she was their ev­ery­thing.

“All we ask is for peo­ple to give us a bit of time to let the news sink in.”

Then he adds, “I guess we have an­other an­gel watch­ing over us now.”

Nichume (27) was fast be­com­ing a house­hold name fol­low­ing the re­lease of the hit song Bh­u­tiza with Mobi Dixon. The pair also worked to­gether on an­other banger, Visa, and had plans for so much more, says Top Chad Me­dia boss Mobi who’d helped to es­tab­lish Nichume in the mu­sic busi­ness.

He’s gut­ted by her death and will live with a num­ber of re­grets, he tells DRUM.

“Nichume and I were like brother and sis­ter. I didn’t have to speak to her every day [ to feel close to her] and some­times we’d go a month with­out talk­ing. But I thought she was fine.”

Mobi has been rack­ing his brain won­der­ing what hap­pened that day.

“Did she die on the spot? Did she suf­fer? Was she in pain? These are the ques­tions I keep ask­ing my­self.

“All I heard is that she was at a get­to­gether with friends and jumped from the sec­ond floor.”

He knew Nichume had been bat­tling de­pres­sion but, like many close to her, thought she had it un­der con­trol.

How­ever, the demons of dark­ness clearly had her in too tight a grip.

NICHUME at first hid her de­pres­sion from him. “I found out when her par­ents phoned me to say they were wor­ried about her,” Mobi re­calls. “She wasn’t doing well and they

‘She sings about her wor­ries be­ing washed away’

wanted me to check up on her and see if she was tak­ing her meds.”

Af­ter that he tried to check up on her as much as he could.

“But we never spoke much about it,” he ad­mits. “When we did it was al­ways on a pro­fes­sional level, and she seemed like she was doing okay. But that clearly wasn’t the case.”

In her fi­nal days, Mobi says, Nichume be­came dis­tant and closed. He hadn’t seen her since May when they had a meet­ing to plan the re­lease of her al­bum and to put to­gether strate­gies for her brand for the rest of 2019.

“When I asked her about the de­pres­sion she said it was all un­der con­trol. She even went to see her ther­a­pist the same day for her weekly session.”

He took it for granted that she was tak­ing care of her­self, but “right now I’m here wish­ing I’d done more”.

Nichume had been on the bill to per­form at the re­cent South African Mu­sic Awards but her per­for­mance was can­celled with­out ex­pla­na­tion at the last minute, Mobi says.

“She was hacked off that she couldn’t sing there. I think it may have made her feel like she was fail­ing, but that wasn’t the case. She wasn’t fail­ing. We had a plan.”

Once again he laments the fact he didn’t do more for his friend.

“I wish I’d dug deeper and opened up about my de­pres­sion as well and shared my sto­ries.”

Mobi met Nichume in her home­town, East Lon­don, in 2011 at a time when he was on medication for de­pres­sion and seeing a ther­a­pist, so he would’ve been able to re­late to what she was go­ing through.

Now it’s too late.

SHE wanted to heal peo­ple through her mu­sic, Nichume told DRUM’s sis­ter mag­a­zine Move! just days be­fore her death. She worked as an oph­thalmic tech­ni­cian be­fore be­com­ing a full-time mu­si­cian a few years ago. Nichume had to give up her day job when her ca­reer took off, some­thing she thought would never hap­pen so fast.

“I’m truly blessed,” she said. “There are peo­ple who work for many years to be where I am to­day.”

Mobi re­calls how they started work­ing to­gether and recorded their first single, Far Away, in 2011.

“I loved her writ­ing and de­liv­ery. Her writ­ing was deep and had some­thing spir­i­tual about it,” he says.

How­ever the song didn’t do too well on the air­waves and Nichume left East Lon­don to go to Stel­len­bosch Univer­sity. “We didn’t see one an­other again un­til 2017.”

By then his ca­reer had long kicked off and his brand was fully es­tab­lished.

“I wanted her to join my com­pany. I wanted to make her a star be­cause she was very tal­ented.”

She ar­rived at his stu­dio with her cousin, singer Ma Nala, whose brother is singer Anatii.

“We de­cided there and then that we would work to­gether.”

They be­came close. “It turned out that our par­ents were child­hood friends and I was al­ready friends with her brother Qa­mani, so we be­came like fam­ily. But there were things she kept a se­cret from me be­cause she also wanted to seem pro­fes­sional.”

As some­one who suf­fers from de­pres­sion, Mobi un­der­stands what she might’ve been go­ing through. One of the things she was hav­ing trou­ble with was her weight.

“I was on the same medication as her, and I knew it made you gain weight.

“So in­stead of the meds mak­ing her feel bet­ter, she felt worse be­cause she be­came in­se­cure about her body.”

Nichume had al­ready recorded al­most half the songs for her up­com­ing al­bum.

Her lat­est track, Ca­m­agu fea­tur­ing Anga Makubalo aka NaakMusiQ, had started to make waves on so­cial me­dia. In this song Nichume sings about cul­ture and not for­get­ting our roots.

“The irony in that song is so strange for me,” Mobi says.

“She sings about her wor­ries be­ing washed away. Com­ing out of the dark­ness into the light. Hav­ing no more stresses and no more wor­ries. It’s as if she knew.”

They’ll now wait for her fam­ily to de­cide what to do with the al­bum.

“All I know is I have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to keep her name alive. She’s not com­ing back, but her mu­sic will be here for­ever.”

ABOVE: Nichume with her big brother, Qa­mani Si­wundla. BELOW: The singer’s par­ents are dev­as­tated. BOT­TOM: Nichume worked with DJ Mobi Dixon (far right) on her lat­est al­bum, which was set for re­lease in a few months. She re­cently re­leased the song Ca­m­agu with NaakMusiQ (far left).

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