Born 30 years ago on the eastern Cape of South Africa, Nakhane has a beautiful voice and plenty to express with it. His album You Will Not Die excavates his need to renounce Christianity after feeling that it was incompatible with his queerness, and his periods of depression and anxiety. But there is also love, joy and self-acceptance. “My first musical memories are voices in a room singing Mozart and South African choral pieces,” Nakhane says. “With song writing 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.”
Though South Africa is liberal regarding LGBT rights, his family’s Christianity was becoming increasingly hard-line, “the older I got, we became very staunch, more conservative,” he recounts. 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. 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.
Nakhane’s tomorrow is a hugely promising one and he travels to 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. “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.”
Readers also enjoyed this story about Polart 2018.