It was Nakhane Touré’s year to shine.
The man with many slashes to his name – musician/composer/songwriter/novelist – had what felt like a moment of transcendence, a realisation of something so bold and grand that we’ll only know how to name it when it approaches its zenith.
His latest EP Laughing Son comes two years after his debut award-winning album Brave Confusion. The EP was a stop-start process. It was supposed to be released much earlier in the year but was delayed. Listening to it now, with its themes and overall flow, it becomes clear that this was essential to achieve the final product. It’s a departure from his debut album but also an embrace of the continuous loop which reveals another side of him in every iteration.
Album opener The Plague has been a staple during his live sets throughout the year. By the time he gets to sing the refrain ‘I will not be drained’, stretching it far and wide, the engineer drenching it in reverb such that the phrase reaches the most hollow corners of your soul, your body’s already started to gyrate. If excessive sweating is your thing, your pores have long opened up and the first drips of sweat have formed. The breakdown towards the end is a reprieve allowing you space to breathe before the next assault.
Fictive Fury treads along traditional rock lines but also not really. It teases the territory, rakes up its ladder while also clocking operatic scales, then descends into noise and near-chaos. Violence! Yes, it’s an instance of violence. We’d spoken earlier in the year, at a time when this EP was to be released under the (tentative) title Violent Measures.
‘A big part of it is actually Concerning Violence by Frantz Fanon,’ he said back in March, in the lead-up to a show where he and kindred spirit Bongeziwe Mabandla shared the bill. He continued: ‘Every song on the EP is entirely focused on, or there’s a line about, acts of violence. I learnt to be okay with a certain violence in me, whereas before I was like ‘no, I’m sweet!’ Which is not true because sometimes you do want to strangle someone. That’s just part of being a human being. I wanted to reflect something that I didn’t reflect in my life in general before.’
The title cut Laughing Son is an instrumental piece. Strings, horns and a steady drumbeat which sounds off on the first track’s dance theme collide to paint the rapturous howl of Ham, he of the Old Testament, upon seeing his father Noah’s naked body. Nakhane explained the title to an interviewer recently, and mentioned how a good bunch of conservative ‘people of the Christian sect’ have interpreted Ham’s curse as black skin, adding that ‘they used that to justify slavery, apartheid and a lot of things done wrong towards black people.’
‘I decided that I was gonna take this, reappropriate it [sic], turn it upside down and instead of using it as a curse, I’d use it as a blessing, as empowerment,’ he said in this interview.
Every moment for Nakhane should be treated as a landmark because people like him – black, gay, from the outskirts (he was born and bred in Port Elizabeth) – are still forced into roles where they have to ‘adjust their behaviour’ so as to fit into some hierarchical framework, or risk being silenced altogether.
And he’s having none of that shit!
Laughing Son is out on iTunes here.