Photography by Amun Sun

Thoba Ndlovu examines love and life on the ‘Black Moses’ EP

Raised in rural Ndwedwe in KwaZulu-Natal, Johannesburg-based crooner Thoba Ndlovu’s debut release, the “Black Moses” EP, is an exploration of who he is as an artist and person. The title is a reference to Isaac Hayes and how he saw himself as a Black Moses that would lead black people out of the ghetto and disenfranchisement, but who lost his way due to money, drugs and women. On the title song of the EP, he delves into this further, comparing post-colonial and post-apartheid leaders to this lost Black Moses. The critique is not only of others but self-directed as well. “It’s a call out not just to public figures but also to ourselves to say what have we done in all these years to change our own situation and the situation of the people around us. For me as a black, queer person who is trying to find ways to create safer spaces for other queer people, for me it’s a critique on myself, what am I doing to make a difference in people’s lives?”

With a sound that is experimental and soulful, rooted in early hip hop and RnB, the EP sees Thoba explore his powerful voice and vocal range, a nod to his vocal influences such as Freddie Mercury, Gregory Porter and Dwight Trible. Over the course of six tracks, he explores themes such as being in a relationship with someone who is caught between the relationship and their family (“Ungowami”), constantly going back to a toxic relationship (“Buyela”), overcoming the stresses of life (“Thatha”), leaving the toxic relationship (“Hero For Love”) and looking to the future for better times (“Hold On”). With the first songs written in 2013, they represent the beginning of Thoba’s journey of self-acceptance. As such tracks such as “Ungowami”, “Buyela” and “Hero For Love” were written not from experience but imagination. “I hardly write about things I’ve been through, especially with love. I had written [Buyela] as part of a series because I hadn’t really dated much, I was just coming into myself after I decided to be true to myself. So it’s me imagining myself in all these same-sex relationships and how they would play out.”

The EP’s single “Buyela” is supported by a music video shot in Cape Town. Thoba didn’t want it to play out literally and instead chose to focus on the end of the relationship. ”People say when you’re in a toxic relationship it’s because you’ve lost yourself or you haven’t found yourself. At the end, after the toxic relationship, I bump into myself, so I find myself.” He is currently focusing on building an online presence and getting his music heard in anticipation of future shows and is also exploring other avenues of expressing himself and finding ways of reaching the next generation of kids that share similar experiences with him. “I would love to be the person that I didn’t see growing up. When people see themselves in other people they become more of themselves. So for the other queer kids growing up in rural spaces or wherever in South Africa or even the world, I’d love for them to take that away. I try to focus on the difference I can make in people’s lives who are in the same position I was in growing up. Feeling like an outsider, an outcast, not represented.”

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