Nakhane Touré is a well known musician with published albums and SAMA award to his name. Following the sing-songwriter’s success, Nakhane decided to dabble in writing, and has now released a novel called Piggy Boy’s Blues. The novel has a strong creative writing feel while being anything but a simple story. The fascinating story is about an emotionally burdened character who struggles with his memory and expressing himself. Faced with unfamiliarity and major changes, the story follows his compelling life journey in South Africa. We chatted with Nakhane about his novel, music and inspiration.
GLAMOUR: Your song lyrics seem to be quite personal, is your novel the same?
Nakhane: The novel is different in that these are created characters, and I, like a puppeteer, have given them life, emotions, things to love, things to hate, bad and good habits, etc. But as much as that is true, I wanted the story to be quite intimate, and in that respect, one could say that it is personal.
GLAMOUR: Is your inspiration drawn from your personal experiences, or do they have external roots?
Nakhane: Both. Personal experiences play a huge role in my understanding of emotions. If I lived a cushy life and had grown up with no pain or conflict, then I would not even begin to understand certain experiences. And so I use my own experiences, and imbue my characters with believable characteristics, emotions and events in their lives. Other roots are vast: other literature, music, films, watching people.
GLAMOUR: What gave you the idea or inspiration to write a novel?
Nakhane: I actually started writing fiction before I even knew how to write a song. In high school, my English teacher, after marking our essays, called me up to her desk after class and told me that what I had written was not an essay, but a short story. She told me that I wanted to write a book, and that she would read it. That really planted a seed in my mind. And so I began. I even studied literature in varsity.
GLAMOUR: What is the biggest difference between writing lyrics to a song and writing a novel?
Nakhane: One is poetry and the other is prose. So by virtue of those distinctions, they are different. The poetry/lyrics are also tied to the idea of melody and metre when they are attached to song. The prose is looser, more concerned with the language of speech and thought etc. The biggest difference though is that in a song, I have about 4-5 minutes to say what I need to say, whereas in a novel I have more than a hundred pages.
GLAMOUR: How often do you agree with the critiques of your music and books?
Nakhane: I don’t necessarily read my reviews to find out if I agree with them or not. It’s more to see what that person felt. By that point I’m away from the work, it’s not mine anymore. And the truth is that no one will ever completely get my intentions, because we are separate. But if they felt something, whether it is positive or negative, it’s the beginning of something. Have I disagreed with a review and thought, ‘No no no. That is so far from what I was doing, or from what I drew from’? Absolutely.
GLAMOUR: You’ve said that you want Piggy Boy’s Blues to make as big an impact on people as your music does. What impact are you hoping your novel will have on its readers?
Nakhane: In saying that, I meant that I want the novel to touch people. I want people to read the last page and not just say, “Oh. That was nice.” I would rather they love it or hate it. But those who love it, I want them to leave with something, some sort of understanding of either themselves or someone else.
GLAMOUR: What’s your cure for writer’s block?
Nakhane: If I’m writing music and struggling, I read. And vice versa. If both are proving difficult, then I leave them for a while. I watch a film, watch some live music, interviews and documentaries of artists I love on YouTube. I do anything to take my mind off the fact that I’m blocked.
GLAMOUR: What are you reading at the moment?
Nakhane: Two books: No Longer At Ease by Chinua Achebe and Americana by Don Delillo.
GLAMOUR: Who is your favourite author?
Nakhane: Am I forced to choose one? I can’t, so: Don Delillo, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Zakes Mda, Colm Toibin and Zadie Smith.
GLAMOUR: What is your advice for emerging authors hoping to get published?
Nakhane: Read read read. Write write write. Expose yourself to all the art that you can. Be passionate.
How would you like to meet Nakhane Touré in real life? Well, he’ll be at this year’s Open Book Festival! Find out more here.
For more interviews and book reviews, be sure to check out our Book Club.