Nipho Hurd wants her genre-defying music to encourage staying true to yourself

Alternative musician Nipho Hurd steps into advocacy when describing the roots behind her eccentric musical style that redefines narrow descriptions of genres.

The 26-year-old describes the nonconformist movement that embodies defying genres – currently underway in many young alternative artists, as breaking away from rigid musical standards especially for artists who don’t fit into the normative expectations.

For her, the nonconformist movement depicts more than just music with blended sounds but staying true to oneself, an ideology she is adamant about reflecting on her audiences. Her debut EP The Ghel, reflects her mirage of sounds and vocals with the title laminating her pride in the non-categorical embodiment of womanhood, colour in sound, and unapologetic fusion of genres.

Hurd’s music typically bears a refreshing blend of jazz, hip hop, and funk. “Over and above, the layers that there are, are just so many to explain and to try and comprehend and put in a box,” said Hurd.

She’s referred to her music as a representation of her interracial upbringing. Being born into a black household and raised by a white family, at an early age Hurd was introduced to a wide array of good music.

“My musical style is a testament to my upbringing, which is a fusion of so many cultures. It’s a fusion of so many racial groups too so that music that each culture and racial group listens to at that time affected me.”

She vividly recalls finding influence in artists who unapologetically stayed true to themselves. “In South Africa, it’s Brenda Fassie and Lebo Mathosa. It’s just those who were like if you refuse to accept my individuality stuff you,” noted Hurd. Her international influences include Amy Winehouse. “Amy Winehouse taught me to just say what I want to say and fearlessly so.”

Hurd unabashedly is not afraid to speak her mind. Whether it is politics of the self or politics of finance, she holds raw societal dialogues across her music. Her track “Freelance to Freedom” deliberates on the nice and not so nice aspects of being a freelancer and is a testament to this.

For Hurd, the nonconformist movement expands further than a representation of a broad musical style but extends to self actualisation. “I don’t want to think about how to sing, or what to say because I feel like that is me being more true to myself.”

Like many artists in her style of music, she finds boxing music into musical genres restricting to the limitless ambiance of artists who tend to adopt inventive musical structures, unusual vocals, and mysterious instruments and sounds.

However, she is concerned about alternative artists – breaking free from mainstream music, and not receiving credit for their influential power in the South African music industry. “Especially in South Africa, alternative music is kind of like taking a back seat – not that we are not coming to the forefront at all cause we are making our way there.”

She remains optimistic about what alternative musicians stand for. ” I have noticed an impact of the up and coming alternative artists, people who don’t conform – they make people wake up a little bit, be fascinated, and be comfortable with their own lives instead of trying to be who they are not. “

Nipho Hurd’s upcoming EP 24, written when she was 24, embodies her limitlessness in genres. The two-song EP will feature a genre she has never explored before. “It’s going to be very different when people hear it. One piece of music I was very obsessed with for two years was trap music, it’s going to be very interesting for people to hear my interpretation of trap.”

She is also challenging mental illness that comes along with the pressure of conforming, with a project she hopes to lift off in 2021. “There’s a lot of compromise and demand of the music industry that is not of us and when we don’t possess that naturally, we feel like we not worthy or talented enough”, explained Nipho Hurd, “I want to build a centre that can equip people with the right amount of mental and emotional help to get into the industry.”

Her mission as a musician reflects accountability to the position that she recognises as important in raising dialogue amongst society.

Whether heading up a center or on stage, Nipho wants to use her music to positively influence society.