When it comes to vocal range, Vusic Nova is up there with Donald and Maxwell. And, if you listen to his rendition of Ettta James’s I’d Rather Go Blind then, you’ll know that he has serious pipes.
Further evidence can be found on his new album, Naninina, which is making waves on the radio
.“This feels like my first album. I’ve never done an album that is so personal. It represents who I am. All the tracks are about me and what I went through. I did other songs with Nathi, The Soil and Sifiso Ncwane which were supposed to be on this album, but I realised at some point that this is a personal project and I could not use those songs. This album in some ways is helping me heal and I hope that it can help other people going through the same things,” said the singer.
He opened up about the source of his pain which he turned into the inspiration he needed to pen the songs for this album.
“The healing I am talking about in, for example, the title track, Naninina, is really about my parents. Mostly my mom because my dad died when I was 2. Somewhere along the road you are always reminded that you do not have a father. When other kids were growing up there were obvious differences and I kept thinking, ‘if my father was alive then I would have grown up differently’. I grew up with my grandmother and was not under any illusion that she was my mother. I knew that my mother was in Joburg studying and whenever she could, she would visit us. We were extremely close and she was a mom, father and a friend,” he said.
“I moved to Joburg when my mother could live with me. She was done studying and had found a job and a place for us to stay. I am talking about my mother because I put that woman through hell. I got to Joburg and made new friends and started experimenting with drugs. She had me when she was young and we did not live together until I was 14. So at that point she was suddenly raising a young man so Naninina is my prayer to God to say from now on I’m asking for guidance that I do not disappoint my parents again because I feel that I have done so much of that. I never want to go back on that path again,” he added. That said, there was another source of pain that had the singer lock himself up and ease his pain through music.
“The rest of the album is about my three-and-a-half year relationship which ended two months ago. This album is helping me heal all of that,” he revealed. While all of this gloom is reminiscent of an Adele album, Vusi Nova had some feel-good music which he co-wrote with another creative.
“Yana Imvula is the only song I co-wrote with Nsika from The Soil. It is about Berita, the singer. Nsika met Berita at some gig in the Eastern Cape and she told him a story about the day she was born. Nsika then called me saying he dreamt of me singing a song about Berita. We met and co-wrote the song and I connected to it. Berita had tears in her eyes when I told her about it,” he said.
Naninina is as traditional as albums get and this is not typical Vusi Nova, yet it is authentic and represents his Xhosa roots.
“On my first album I was trying to do the Afro-pop thing. People think that the album with I’d Rather Go Blind is my first album. I had another album before that called Ndimfumene. It was a good album. Naninina is actually my fourth album. I think Nathi had a lot to do with the direction I took on this album. He reminded me how beautiful our Xhosa language is. We talk a lot because we are close, but I think that a lot of what we feel is best said in our mother tongue. I won’t lie, I was raised on R&B greats like Motown who inspired me, but when I think of Nathi, and the things we talked about, I realised that I needed to have an album that represented me. When he started out, he was worried about his English during interviews and I was the one telling him to address people in Xhosa. Before making this album, he reminded me of that and I decided to record in Xhosa all the way,” he explained.
What most people do not know is that Vusi Nova actually heard of Nathi actually heard of Vusi Nova heard of him before the multi-platinum Buyelekhaya album and was instrumental in getting him signed. The two are now close friends.
“I heard Nathi’s song at the Muthaland offices a few years ago and asked who it was. I was told it was some guy from the Eastern Cape and I asked that he be brought to Joburg because I wanted to record with him. He came through, we recorded Nomakanjani which he went on to put on his album. The rest is history,” he said.
So will Naninina surpass Buyelekhaya?
“I don’t want to sound arrogant, and Nathi and I are not competing, but I think I did good so these albums will be on par or Naninina might just do better. At the end of the day we are not competing.”
BY MUNYA VOMO