Nomisupasta, born Nomsa Mazwai, is one beautiful and gifted songbird. She shared with us elements that have formed the foundation through which her talents where moulded and took flight. She set it off, speaking to Vuka Darkie, “I have always been somebody who enjoys life and someone who enjoys the little surprises that you get out of music. I think every song that I ever liked, in my life, has been a song were there was just a little bit of magic in it. The magic could be through the sound or through the lyrics.”
“I have been brought up in a very black conscious household, so my insights and how I view the world is in a way different to many people because I really think about the world in a way that I am comfortable and confident in who I am as a young black woman, but at the same time I do see what happens in South Africa,” she said, “I do see how we are affected as people and I think that comes from me being exposed to different environments.”
Nomisupasta grew up in Soweto and in her early teens moved to Little falls. Her life, as she describes it, has been in a sort of juxtaposition, because when she was living in Soweto she was going to a ‘whites’ school in Parktown and was exposed to two different worlds. And later moved to Kokstad, in the Eastern Cape Province, where she went to another ‘whites’ school, St. Patricks. “I was always seeing different ways in which South Africans were living,” she said, “People lived differently in South Africa and sometimes it was because of the colour of their skin, sometimes it was because of their particular experience, but I think a lot of the time it was because of the colour of their skin that the experience would be different.”
On her style of music she said, “because I love whimsical sounds, whimsical surprises in songs such that the melody or the beat I choose from producers is always whimsical, fun, something you can dance to, music that when you listen to you like wow who is playing the guitar, or the horn section or who is playing this or that on that beat.
“Some of my music is political because of how I see South Africa and how I see the world and some of it is just my experience as a young person and my perspective of the world. Like Maybe I which is a song about why women are relegated to some kind of role in society and that is why in the lyrics I am like ‘what in life makes it all up to he, why can’t I be the one to pick him up this time’. It is whimsical, playful but it is also a song for women to go after their own dreams, to go after what they want to do. Overall it is about going after the things you want and not just those handed to you, or those ones you are told you can access.”
Her musical influences include, amongst other, Erykah Badu, Michael Jackson, Letta Mbuli, Brenda Fassie, Thandiswa Mazwai (her sister). “I listened to different genres growing up from Soul to Jazz to Rock to Hip Hop to trance; different artists just making different sounds,” said Nomisupasta.
For her it is very important what you identify yourself as. She thinks identity has more to do with how you see yourself in this world and what that means and that it is important to see yourself as important in the world. She thinks it is good to see yourself as somebody who can define their own destiny; that you should see that the choices you make are for your future and have an effect on you. The actions that you take have an effect on your immediate environment and where you end up is based on how you see yourself.
She said, “If you are not conscious as a black person then how you see yourself can be otherwise, because over the years people have tried to dehumanise and dismantle the black identity, it is important to see yourself as black conscious because it talks to self-acceptance and understanding of where you are and the power you have in defining your destiny.”
Growing up she recalls how she was always told that what she was was beautiful, what she was was important and, to her, identity is something that you are taught from a young age, it is an experience.
“If you treat your children like they are not important they will not assign self-importance to themselves; they won’t see themselves as meaningful people that can do something in the world.”
According to her identity is really something that you experience and from her growing up she was always reminded about how special she was, how important she was and why her opinions mattered. She went to whites schools so, according to her, that was not happening at those schools, “in fact there are things where I have regret where I feel like I was actually good in this and that and if somebody had celebrated that I am good at this or that I would have been very far with this or thing right now,” said the supasta.
“If you choose, as a parent, to live in an environment or find yourself in a position where you feel you may be forced to live in an environment where your children are not empowered in the ways that you would want them to be then you have a responsible to do something about those conditions.”
“Identity is something that you get over the years and the lessons of identity or how you see yourself you never stop learning them. You can be somebody who has been socialized in an environment that oppresses you or makes you not important but if somebody introduces the idea that you are, no matter what age you are at, you will let that shape part of your identity, unless psychological damage has been done, but I still feel even then there is still hope.”
Through her experiences; being exposed to different cultures as well as travelling the world, she, accordingly, can identify as somebody who has an important message to share with people. “I feel like how I see myself can be of benefit to how South Africans should begin to see themselves that is why I write the songs that I write; it is a way of giving a part of me to the people.”
“Sometime in life how you change the world is by teaching people that the world can be changed, that your existence can be changed, you can change your world. Sometimes people are trapped by their own minds, by psychology, or by systems, or by socialization that they might be trapped in a particular way of thinking about the world. In my music I try to change the world by showing people that the world can be changed and that everything is not as it is, everything is not what people say it is,” she said, “We make these constructs as humans living together.”
She said, “even if you live in a country such as South Africa and you have been robbed of your existence and your ability to have what you want; you’ll find that black people have this construct where it’s like okay we can’t dismantle that because that is a construct; white peoples’ roles are these and those of black people are that. That is actually bullshit, and is convenient for people in power. The foundations of this construct where very discriminatory and disadvantaged a lot of people. It is important to understand that actually this situation wasn’t always going to be like it is. So I must do things and I must say things and I must treat people in a way that lets them know that I understand that there is an experience that people are having that is not okay and if I don’t do something about it and if I don’t add my energy in enabling other people to access a positive livelihood then I would be acting out of touch.”
She believes it is important that we conspire to create a space that we all want to live in. In the brand that is Nomisupasta is a caricature that she is grooming into a character, a timeless character, where it is that girl who never saw no. “You mustn’t see no when you do things, you don’t have to see a yes but you don’t have to see a no. You can actually do what you want. And that you should be honest in the things that you choose to do and the things that you choose to say. And just do you,” said Nomisupasta. That is what the music belches out and hopefully it echoes in the minds and hearts of many more at the receiving end.
A brand that speaks to possibilities and makes great music with great musicians is Nomisupasta. Catch her stuff and other content on www.nomisupasta.com, and her twitter handle is @nomisupasta
By Themba Ka Mhlanga