#SYDFEST Review: Nakhane

South African singer Nakhane recently performed at the Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent, creating a powerful, emotive experience for everyone who was in attendance. He is captivating in front of a live crowd performing his unique blend of ethnic pop, African soul and synthetics. All photos by Prudence Upton for Sydney Festival.

South African actor and neo-soul singer Nakhane is one inspiring artist and activist!

After facing death threats and physical violence in his native country due to his queer identity and colour, Nakhane fled to London to further pursue his musical career and LGBTQI advocacy.

His recent second album, “You Will Not Die,” is a sultry synth pop exploration of his identity, queerness and religion that is both deeply moving and inspiring.

His live performance at the Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent was equal parts powerful, moving and seductive.

Dressed in a slinky red satin suit, Nakhane opened his set with ‘Violent Measures’, before delving into a startling collection of songs that drew in the categories of R’n’B, gospel, electronica, pop and house, including ‘Interloper’, ‘Fog’, and ‘You Will Not Die’.

In between songs, we are entertained by Nakhane‘s funny side. As a self-confessed “arrogant bitch,” he keeps daring to start a debate on sexuality with his young male drummer, Keir Adamson, but says he won’t tonight because the tour’s has just begun and he must pace himself. His connection with his young and very accomplished female keyboardist/guitarist/vocalist, Charlotte Hatherley, is just as charged. On stage, throughout his performance, we see him make seductive eye contact with her and dances vigorously, towards her but not actually with her, as if we are not even in the venue with them.

All in all, the intimacy of the Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent provided the perfect backdrop to Nakhane‘s emotionally raw and soulful performance, whether he was crooning above stabbing synths on ‘Teen Prayer,’ Presbyteria and ‘You Will Not Die’ danced along to his beastly drummer as they performed ‘Clairvoyant’ together, or playing fuzzy electric guitar riffs on ‘My Jonathan’. 

I didn’t know much about Nakhane before I went to see him perform, but I have to admit that I too, was spellbound by his performance and was left a little disappointed that he did not come back out for an encore.

18 January 2019
Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent

All photos by Prudence Upton for Sydney Festival.