How fate brought Nothende to the right people
21 August 2015
You can also listen to these podcasts directly from the Old Mutual app, which is available here.
Aphiwe Nono: Welcome to Old Mutual Live Radio, my name is Aphiwe Nono. Today I am in conversation with soulful songstress Nothende. Paulo Coelho said, “Once you start working towards your destiny, the universe conspires with you.” Nothende is the perfect example of this. As she takes us through her journey as a musician, and how fate brought her into contact with just the right people.
Nothende: I did meet a guy there at the audition. I don’t know what he was there to do, and he was completely excited about me, and my voice, and my talent, and so forth. A few months later, after we met, he happened to be in the studio with Kaybee, the producer. The guy who produced Zola’s first album.
He was the producer of Ghetto Ruff back in the day. They were in the studio together, Kaybee had just made this beat, and he was busy telling this guy, Andy that I wish I could find a nice female voice to sing over this beat.
Instantly Andy felt I know just the person. He called me. I was on my way. I used to work at Musica at that time, and he said, “Listen, you can work the next shift. Kaybee needs you in the studio now.” I literally went to the studio. I recorded my first single ever, obviously then I didn’t know it was going to be a song that would be played on radio, even today…
AN: What was the single titled again, Nothende?
N: It was called “Ooh.”
N: Yes, and it ended up being on the soundtrack for Gaz’lam.
AN: But will you look at the universe. There was a reason why you were at that audition. It obviously wasn’t for the acting.
AN: But you were there to meet this person, who you know…
N: Of course, definitely.
AN: Please carry on.
Everything happens for a reason
N: Everything happens for a reason.
AN: I agree.
N: You know, so yeah man, that’s basically when everything started jumping off for me, for lack of a better phrase. Things really started happening for me. That song started playing on radio. I had absolutely no expectations. I was just in the studio to sing for this producer, who was looking for a female singer.
So a few weeks later he said, “No man, this song is going on the soundtrack. Are you going by the name Nothende? Do you know what your stage name is, because we are putting it on radio next week?” I’m like ‘what’. Everything seemed to be happening so fast, you know.
But yeah man that’s when, that was like in 2003, so it was made in 2002, that the song then started playing on radio stations and then the rest is history, I guess.
AN: Hold that thought. Now, Nothende’s music is a fresh blend of urban and soul sounds. Enriched with great, smooth melodies and catchy lyrics. Her vast experience in the industry has prepared her to set new boundaries through powerful vocals and high energy, groundbreaking performances. Now this lady has been an opening act to some quite big names. To name a few, Tamia, Kanye West, India Arie – how was that experience for you Nothende?
Great experience working with international artists
N: It is always interesting being in that kind of environment, when an international artist is going to perform. You sort of see things on a different scale, on a different level. Or you see things completely differently because a lot of them do things very differently, to how we do.
A lot of them are very, very strict about certain things. About the kind of environment, they want to be surrounded in. Even a temperature point of view, you know. They are very, very strict. At first, you think they are just being divas. Of course, some of them are really just being outlandish. They are just really going ahead of themselves.
But sometimes, over time anyway, I’ve come to realise that a lot of time they are because, can you imagine being away from home for 6, 8, to 10 months, a whole year. You are away from family. You are away from friends. You are constantly working. You are seeing new faces, new people all the time, every day. People need to take pictures. It’s a lot of energy that you constantly need to upkeep.
You need to have the same energy level every day, you know, just to keep up with everything. The very few moments where you have alone, are the moments maybe just before you go on stage or when you’re at your hotel room. You can imagine just before you go on stage, obviously the nerves have kicked in, so you kind of need an environment that works with you.
Some people, yes, request white sheets, white everything because the colour white, maybe brings peace and they can calm down after a hectic day. Some of them need a specific kind of tea. They need a specific kind of candle. Those little things that I have come to understand, over time, because you have to keep that space sacred, so that you can continue to give your best and not kind of sink into the pressures of living up to whether it’s your schedule, or your image, or your reputation.
Whatever it is, you are living up too, on a daily basis. Yes, it was interesting to see that and also from a performance aspect, obviously, there’s the, I supposed, the never-ending argument the South African’s have about the way they are treated when international artists –
AN: I was coming to that. I actually, have a huge problem with that, okay.
We need to support South African music
AN: I feel like, first of all I probably shouldn’t say this and my editor is probably going to cut this out but I do not buy international music, okay. I’m sorry. John Legend, Tamia, they don’t need my R150 or R160. What I would rather do with my money is support Nothende with her R90 or R100 CD. I know that Nothende is going to appreciate that work. It’s going to feed her. It’s going to feed her family. Do you know what I mean?
Not to say that we don’t appreciate international artists. We don’t appreciate the music they make for us. But I think it is high time South Africa, you know, they say ‘charity begins at home’. Let’s first support our own and then branch out and try and, you know, be a part of the world. This is a conversation actually, I was having yesterday, with someone who is so passionate about it. She just feels like it’s just such an injustice that South African artists.
If you were to make demands for white sheets and champagne and an entourage, you know, that would never happen but you know the kind of work you prepare for your shows. You know the kind of, you know you have to pay your backing vocalists. You need to do this. You need to do that, and sometimes it is not even…
N: Yes, I think, look…
N: I think you know number one music is only seen as entertainment in this country, unfortunately. It is thought as mere entertainment. It is not seen as an art form. It is not seen as a business. It is not seen as a craft. As something, that one should respect, so to speak, so it is always treated as such. In the case of the country or the nation, needing to support local artists a bit more and showing much more love and appreciation for national artists. It’s really because of what they have been said, in terms of what they should consume.
You know, a lot of times there’s certain aspects where we can point at the artist to say they could do more here and there. We could point at the audience and say, ‘audience you could do more here and there to get involved or to be more supportive, but it is also up to media. A lot of these guys watch television. Half the time it is really like international songs, visuals, voices that are being shown to them. Obviously because talent seems like a spotlight, so to speak because a lot of people are watching you at the same time, in this little box.
A lot of people then aspire to that. They aspire to be what do they see in this box, so under the spotlight. They aspire to be, even if it’s a doctor. Whatever kind of a doctor they see on TV, they want to be that doctor. Whatever musician they see on television, they want to be that musician. They feel like what they see is cool and if they don’t see it – it’s not cool.
So it becomes that, it’s a vicious cycle and there’s a lot of reasons why it is the way that it is, and it is very difficult to point fingers at just one group of people. I really feel like we have these three pieces. There’s the artist, there’s the audience, and then there’s the media. Because the media is the people that are then transmitting the music to the people, you know.
Local media needs to support local artists more
So I think it is really important also for media to, really and truthfully support local musicians by playing, not just their music videos or their songs, but also paying them for their songs to be used in TV shows. Doing little interviews on them. Just really giving them that time and, also when they have the big award ceremonies. Putting money behind local artists instead of booking internationals who performs for 5 minutes, and you’re paying them R2 million.
You could spare that R2 million and pay 10 artists from here, and they could give you an incredible show and really, sort of almost manipulate because that is how a lot of media works. Not in a bad sense but almost make people see why they should fill up a stadium for a local act. Why they should show up at the Dome for instance, for a number of acts, you know, and still pay R500. The same R500 they would pay for Lil Wayne, or Neo or whoever will come from here.
Why they should, they shouldn’t even complain. It shouldn’t even be a thing that they are paying R500 to see this incredible line up of local acts because then the money and the energy is kept here. It becomes South Africa that’s happy because the artists are happy. The audience are happy. People around here are happy. The families in S.A. are happy.
You know, the money is generated here and it really creates, I think anyway, a better environment. But it is something that needs a lot more people to just admit that okay look, I’m also wrong here, you know.