Nubia Soul regards herself as a child of the world. Originally from the Western Cape, Nubia is very proud of her diverse roots, with some of those being traced all the way up in Egypt. Her strong sense of identity is something that resonates with her music and all her creative endeavours of expression.
The songstress’s style of music and sound is very much like her roots – rather uncategorised and inculcated from a number of origins. Together with her band, Polyrhythmix, they hope to take their sound to the rest of Africa and beyond.
Despite her rather low key and down to earth profile, she has been able to get herself on a number of high profile media platforms. Nubia Soul has been interviewed by CNN International and the SABC News Channel (on DSTV), both features available via her YouTube Channel.
She was happy to avail herself to have a chat with us at Lavatory Records. In this interview she details her experiences within the industry, the circumstances around her latest single Back To Love, upcoming initiatives and other things.
Lavatory Records: Please introduce Nubia Soul to the world.
Nubia Soul: I am a passionate singer, songwriter and poet whose hometown is in Ceres, a little town in the Western Cape. I am adventurous, inquisitive and very protective of my wellbeing and am yet to share my honesty and truth in my music and spoken word.
LR: How did you come up with the name Nubia Soul?
NS: Nubians were depicted as people of dark-skinned colour and Nuba is the name of the place were dark-skinned people dwelled, which is in the South of Egypt and North of Sudan. The word ‘soul’ means being (Hebrew biblical definition according to Genesis). The reason why I chose this particular name is because part of my ancestral lineage is also found in the regions of Nuba, in other words I am one of the few descendants in South Africa who are the Soul (being) of Nuba and its Nubians. Hence I use the name to tell a story about who I truly am.
NS: When I decided to take the music route I was working for an IT company as a consultant and I was depressed and always in a foul mood, yet I was hesitant of being an artist due to fear until 2 years ago. I finally summed up the courage to set my foot on that platform of music and sing my heart out unapologetically. How I decided to go about it was however a mental and spiritual process. I had to align myself holistically, learn to maintain composure and that is acquired through meditation. Secondly I am a lover of physics and mathematics. That helps me understand the art itself and its technical ailments.
LR: How would you describe your music?
NS: My music is poetically soulful causing one to stir up the spirit within (meaning thought provoking and emotionally driven) that does not mean that I shut myself from other genres within the pool of different sounds. A skilful vocalist is able to adjust their vocals to suite any genre and I am capable of that.
LR: People who know you from your earlier music days know you as a rapper and a vocalist. What has steered you into singing rather than rap?
NS: RAP is an acronym for rhythm and poetry. I never steered away from it I simply toned down the tempo and spoke about what is relevant and realistic rather than fantasies. For a while I stopped reciting poems rhythmically so that I find my vocal range and sharpen the skill of vocalising harmonies and choruses. When I realised that RAP works hand in hand with choruses, I began reciting and singing at the same level. What steered me into singing however is the fact that a singer possesses the power to influence the minds of society. To heal and wound the hearts of man and tell stories of what has happened, what is happening and is about to happen (in other words we tell the stories of time).
LR: Who were favourite artists/producers while you were growing up?
NS: My favourite artists/producer were the group Sankomota, Caiphus Semenya and Letta Mbulu, Tu Nokwe, Busi Mhlongo, Miriam Makeba, Jonathan Butler, Whitney Houston, Earth, Wind and Fire, The stylistics, Tina Marie, Smokie, Marvin Gaye, Incognito, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Gladys Knight, Fourplay, Guru Jazzmatazz, Mos Def, Talib Kweli and Tupac just to name a few.
LR: You are an independent artist. Was that always the plan to be indie or was it something you embraced along the way?
NS: I thought I would make a demo and then distribute that to all labels in this country. After days and weeks of researching about the industry and reading about other artists’ experiences, I realised that being independent was the best route to take to prove your worth so I embraced it along the way.
LR: In your interview with SABC you mentioned that making an album as an independent artist is hard. Has this perspective changed?
NS: No it hasn’t. As an independent artist you deal with situations such as finances, theft, not being taken seriously – resulting in shabby work, and having producers not being able to interpret your thought into a beat/song. For instance, I recently had to deal with an engineer who was not respecting my time and space as a recording artist. That ended up with me terminating the working relationship!
LR: Without the backing of a major label, what kind of support system do you think indie artists need in order to grow?
NS: Indie artists need to easily access funds for their projects, more especially if those artists have taken their craft seriously to a business level. What is the point of wanting funding if you didn’t register your own company, have a business plan or let alone a company profile? Also what is the use of the department of arts and culture if they themselves make it difficult for most young people to access funds needed to propel them forward?
Another thing which I think will help independent artists is opportunities to showcase their work within their spaces. For instance having access to venues to perform in and attending workshops to advance our skill and knowledge. This will stir up the core of their communities to support them.
LR: In 2013 you released the ‘Love Chronicles’ album, what was the main motivation behind the title and theme of that album?
NS: Love Chronicles was not defining love, it was simply an album about the attributes of love in its pure sense. Its theme was the dynamics of relationships even in their political sense.
LR: Your latest single ‘Back To Love’ was triggered from a traumatic experience you recently had. Can you tell us about that?
NS: I was recently hijacked and kidnapped at gunpoint in Soshanguve, a township situated in the east of Pretoria. That left me traumatised and paranoid beyond measure. While that was going on I was being insulted and bullied by a fellow colleague of mine in the arts. I was also being lied to by an indie label I joined, thinking that I had found a home where my dreams and creative work would be protected from exploitation. To top it all my relationship was tempered with. I was defeated and my spirit was severely crushed thinking that I would never rise from the deep night.
I was silent for days, falling deeper and deeper into that cold dark hole. It took a pen and paper with a beautiful humming tune that restored me back to the centre of music, which is its heart, and out of that BACK TO LOVE was birthed and was given a chance to forgive, live and love again.
LR: What’s been the most memorable moment of your career so far?
NS: I have lived a phenomenal life in music and in return I am fulfilled. Every face I look at when performing, every student who was able to study while listening to my songs, every woman who I have inspired to love themselves, all the way to the mother who is proud of me. Every memory has been precious in its own right, just as every experience is unique in its own way.
LR: If time and resources were perfectly aligned, which artists or producers would you like to work with?
NS: I would like to work with Robert Glasper, D’Angelo, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Thandiswa Mazwai, Simphiwe Dana, Carmen Lundy, Dwele, Mos Def, Fred Wesley Maxwell, Black Coffee, Rocco, Rulf Gum, The floecist, Erykah Badu, Somi, Lebo Mashile, Kuli Chana, HHP, Oum, Jimmy Dludlu, Don Laka, Lira and many more…
LR: You are currently making use of the Lavatory Records service. Do you think the solutions that are offered to artists are viable?
NS: Yes they are viable. Artists especially independent ones need independent well-thought ideas that will propel them forward in their career and Lavatory Records provides such services.
LR: Do you have any upcoming projects or events that people should look out for?
NS: I am about to be in studio with one of hip hop’s respected MCs, Proverb is his name. He is featured in my second single.
AmoH and DaPoetician from North West, iRomeo from Ghana, Licious Deep and Chagos from Soshanguve.
I have worked with talented soulful house producers Dr Collins and Kribow Mendez. I have prepared well enough to finally perform my music to the masses; therefore people should be on the lookout for me and my band on stage in a little while.
LR: Away from the music, what other interests and hobbies do you have?
NS: I enjoy reciting my poems, I read, I cook, I go out, I like test driving cars I haven’t driven before. This may sound strange to most but I so enjoy thinking a lot.
LR: Any special shout outs you want to mention?
NS: Shout out to Polyrhythmix (my band), Kribow and AmoH my brothers and great supporters of my art. My family for encouragement, to my sister Carol whose guidance and faith in me is never in vain, to my husband for his understanding and unconditional love. Lastly but not least a special shout out to every independent artist doing things their own way and to the fans that support us by downloading/buying our music.
We thank Nubia Soul for taking out time to speak with us. If you want to keep up with her – follow her on Facebook, Twitter: @Nubia_Soul, Instagram: @NubianWorld, YouTube, SoundCloud and her website to make booking enquiries. Don’t forget to check out her latest single entitled Back To Love.