How long is someone an up-and-coming artist for? Probably until they’ve come up? Right? The journey of the ‘come up’ is a treacherous path that few artists manage to navigate to ultimate fruition, with few succeeding as they had initially imagined they would. It takes endurance, willpower, struggle and sacrifice. Something Durban songstress Nipho Hurd knows all too well.
Nipho has been in the music-making game for over 5 years now but this last year saw her take a leap of faith by quitting her job and committing to her calling as a full-time musician. An ambitious task anywhere, but especially tough in Durban. It’s been a struggle but one with regular gigs around the city, festival appearances, putting on her own events under the label, In Your Backyard and picking up Roots Up as their management, Nipho’s profile has steadily risen in her hometown. Risen to the point where she was ready to release her upcoming EP to a pre-sold out audience at a secret venue on the 28th of March. Unfortunately due to these strange times, the artist will have to postpone the live launch. It’s a devastating blow, but you’ll still get to hear The Ghel next Friday (27 March), and once you hear what Nipho’s been working on, she might have to get a bigger venue for the relaunch.
The EP opens up with the line, “this song goes out to all the ladies dating a bag of wet hair”, which is a hilariously brutal way to kick things off. “Money” is the opening track and it seems to be about the difficulties of navigating ambition and finances in a relationship. It’s a slow, soulful number and Nipho somehow makes the line “I’ve got money on my mind” heartbreaking. We then move on to “Very Special” which sees her singing over a dreamy 80s inspired melody before the tempo picks up slightly with the relatable “Freelance to Freedom”. Freelancing has become a way of life for many of us so it’s nice to have a local anthem to sing along to when staring down a deadline. “Cadillac” is a dangerously sexy neo-R&B number in the vein of earlier The Weeknd releases although I also hear a bit of The Internet coming through.
Then it’s on to a song a lot of Durbanites will be familiar with, “Soul Party”. “Soul Party” is the first single off of the EP and has been play-listed on KZN’s biggest radio stations for a couple of months now. It kicks off with an old school hip-hop beat before Nipho starts crooning. It’s a track that transports you back to the 90s, but not in a cheesy way like Bruno Mars. Neo Ndawo and Nipho kinda do the Cardi and Bruno thing but with roles reversed. Neo provides the raps and Nipho lays down the vocal sweetness. “Moulin Rouge” is a romantic number that transports you to summer days, sharing ice-cream on the beach, more than sharing absinthe with a fairy Kylie Minogue. The album closes with a deeply personal number called “Black in White” that deals with how society attempts to box her in and label her based on her upbringing.
Overall, it’s a 7 track offering that I think will win over many new fans for the musician. It’s an EP which demonstrates that if you commit fully to your dreams, you can create something beautiful and heartfelt. As someone who has watched Nipho perform for years, the growth from her earlier work is wonderful to witness. With the release of this EP, she may just lose the ‘up-and-coming’ descriptor. Instead, you can just call her The Ghel.