Besides being an actress, South African born, Tu Nokwe, is a singer, guitarist, composer, lyricist and teacher. Her passion and love for children and community is the driving force behind her music. Tu Nokwe grew up in KwaMashu, and is a member of one of the most famous South African musical families, sometimes referred to as the Jacksons of Africa. Her mother, Patty is a well-known soprano opera singer, while her late father, Alfred, is remembered as an iconic actor of stage and screen.
Growing up in a creative home meant there were often famous names rehearsing at her house and, as a child, Tu watched in awe of their talents. As a young woman, Tu started her life in the arts as an actress and dancer and not as a singer! Although she played musical instruments, she was convinced that she couldn’t sing, as she did not have a good ear. But the talented Busi Mhlongo was the inspiration to try her hand, and voice, at singing.
Her singing career began under the direction of her mother when Tu and her sister formed the Black Angels along with a friend. Later, her home housed an informal shebeen, where a lot of political interactions took place and, while many of her friends and family were forced into exile, she chose to stay in South Africa. Following her belief that art and music were her weapon, she formed the Amajika Youth Project, teaching children of her community music, dance and drama for self-development. This lead to some of these children landing roles in the Broadway Musical, Sarafina. After recording her first solo album, Mind your own business, Tu’s entrepreneurial drive motivated her to start her own recording company under which she released her album Inyakanyaka.
Tu played the role of King Shaka’s wife in the 1980s mini-series, Shaka Zulu. Her skills also extend to writing, both as a playwright and as the non-fiction author of My Voice, My Life, a biography detailing the life of her opera-singer mother. Another book authored by Tu, Journey of my Soul, looks at how people can add balance to their busy lives, something that Tu surely must be a master of by now!
But it’s to the world of music that Tu always returns, with three albums under her belt, her own record label, and a musical in the works that focuses on traditional African values and indigenous musical instruments (Tu first taught herself the guitar by stringing some wire between a set of two chairs). And it shows in the masterful sound that Tu produces in her music – South African spiritual new-age pop, blended with influences of jazz and funk – a mix of everything that’s made Tu Nokwe the incredible, unique talent that she is today!