The star of Inxeba - The Wound has had to deal with the award-winning movie he stars in go through court battles, receive hate but just as much, if not more love from fans.
After its X18 rating, the movie was removed from cinemas, but it returned after a ruling by the North Gauteng High Court and then went on to win a Safta last month.
However, my talk with Toure isn’t about the controversy that has plagued him since the movie’s release, but about his latest album, You Will Not Die. An album that Sir Elton John recently spoke of his love for.
When did you start working on You Will Not Die?
As soon as I walked out the studio sessions of Brave Confusion.
I was proud of those songs. But I was already starting to dislike how I was being positioned and with whom I was being positioned. This included “black boy, playing ‘white music’’, or, “Folk musician”. So as soon as I finished recording that album, I knew I needed to do something to burn off some of the negative energy that was linked with the notion of who I was and what I was making. I started writing.
This was in 2013. The songs from that first year didn’t make the cut for the album, but it was the kind of extreme reactionary behaviour I needed in order to see myself differently. And to be excited again.
How long did it take to put together?
For it to be written, recorded, mixed and mastered, I’d say it took about four-and-a-half years. And I never thought that I’d be the kind of artist who took that long.
I actually thought that my new album would come out the following year. Little did I know
Did you have a specific vision for this album and what was it?
In the beginning it had more to do with what I didn’t want to do than what I wanted to do. In 2014, that changed. I knew what I wanted.
But I also knew that it was going to take time. I was writing all the time. And I was leaving songs behind. The good ones, though.
They were turned over and over until they were the best possible versions of themselves.
Before we stepped into the studio, the craft had to have done its job. The songs had to be strong.
What sort of mental space were you in when you were writing the material for this album?
Looking back I realise that I was in extreme states of joy and melancholy. And I wanted the album to reflect that.
On my wall, there was a phrase: “The artistic, not the cosmetic”. I read that phrase somewhere and it really moved me.
When you’re creating a piece of art there’s no time for your nonsense. What matters is the work.
How would you describe this album?
I choose not to describe my albums. That’s the job of the label and the journalists.
And each review/feature is always interesting to read because of how different they can be.
Why name it You Will Not Die?
I had the title for about 8-9 years. It came to me while I was at a Bible study. It’s Proverbs 23:13: “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.” I really liked how that looked and sounded. I took it, recontextualised it and then I personalised it. If life beats you, you will not die, Nakhane. I kept in my mind for years, ignoring it.
But good ideas don’t let you go. One day I was in the bath and the first two lines of the song ‘You Will Not Die’ came to me. I jumped out of the bath and went to write the song. It was one of the few songs that were written that easily.
Tell me about the sound. How would you describe it?
I didn’t want any acoustic guitars on the album. I wanted synthesisers and drum machines and lots of voices, including choirs.
Which song on the album is your favourite and why?
Star Red has always been my favourite. It’s a song I wrote about and for my grandmother.
It was also the first song we recorded and it set the tone of what the album was going to sound like.
What is the message with this album?
I’m not sure that I do messages. I worry that can be misconstrued as me elevating myself to some sort of teacher or priest. I’m not teaching.
I’m not a politician. And I’m definitely not proselytising. My music is personal. But in it being personal and unafraid of baring itself, it lets people in. Then they see themselves in. That way they feel less alone in this scary world. At least that’s what art does for me.
How does it compare to your previous offerings?
It’s better and more mature. I wanted to be a better writer, a better singer, a better lyricist. Growing was very important to me.
Clairvoyant received a stamp of approval from Elton John, how does that feel?
So surreal. How do things like that even happen? I allow the excitement to settle in. Then I look down and get back to work.
What else can we expect from you this year?
I’m touring this year. I love performing. I have a great band and we are going to rip those stages apart.
* You Will Not Die is available on Apple Music and you can catch a recording of Elton John’s Rocket Hour, where he plays Clairvoyant on Apple Music’s Beats 1 Radio.