Nathi Bantu, the artist formerly known as reggae star – Nathi B, has a voice who’s unique texture and intonation brims with so much sincerity that it immediately draws you in. This undeniable quality, invoking memories of early Bob Marley & the Wailers and Dennis Brown, was on full display on his debut album, Ilanga (2009).
Born in the late 1970s and hailing from Mdantsane in the Eastern Cape, Nathi grew up to become a professional boxer in the late 1990s. But the call of music was too strong, and soon he would hand over his gloves to pursue his passion for song.
He started as a songwriter in 2003, writing in English, after a short stint at Radio CKI. It wasn’t until he started writing songs in his mother tongue, isiXhosa, that he found his voice in the music world (2005).
Fast forward to 2009 and the artist’s debut offering, Ilanga, was getting high rotation on radio, garnering him the title of YFM’s Best Local Radio Artist (2010). In 2012, he received a South African Traditional Music Award (SATMA) in the Best Reggae Album category for his debut.
Heavily influenced by the viewpoints of Marcus Garvey and Steve Biko, the lessons he learned as a boxer still shape the man he is, as an artist today. “The will to fight in the ring makes me fight for people’s rights in my music,” says Bantu.
Now the ever-evolving artist is on a musical quest to explore the sounds of African soul, fusion and folk music, while staying true to his reggae roots – a sound he has coined “nyuvadem.” The conscious spirit of his sound is clearly articulated in his new musical offerings.
With his first single, Novatshula, Nathi Bantu’s sings an emotional plea to his life partner, a heartening conversation between two deeply interlinked hearts. Novatshula, a warm, starry-eyed Afro folk tune laced with colourful lead guitar melodies over Nathi’s rare and croaky vocals, is the embodiment of Nathi Bantu’s rebirth into an artist embracing his African roots.
His second single Norah – an intricate chronicle of township life – takes listeners through a journey that touches on the topical plight of South African women being used as drug mules. Norah warns the public about the dangers of drug trafficking and is an ode to South African women who are currently serving time in foreign jails.
Always one to remind us of our identity and our rights, with Mdantsane in his pocket, the talented singer-songwriter is certainly one to watch.