Lukile’s debut EP Self Portrait is a bold step towards self-discovery

In a candid conversation, Lukile discusses musical vision, explaining how it’s rooted in a commitment to authenticity. He’s nervous in this chat, but he maintains clarity and confidence. Reflecting on the creative process behind Self Portrait, he acknowledges a selfishness that was needed to get the album done, “I’m selfish because I make music I’d like to hear.”

This selfishness is likely what helped this project become something the Pretoria native describes as a sort of healing. “The music was working on me, while I was working on it,” he explains.

Self Portrait is inspired by a diverse range of influences that he describes as “weird music” including Jay Paul, Tame Impala and James Blake. The seven-track EP offers a distinctive take on alternative pop,while taking listeners through some of Lukile’s thoughts and feelings. Beyond its musical intricacies, Self Portrait gives listeners the chance to get to know Lukile through the themes the album navigates. In addressing themes around self-acceptance and individuality, he hopes the album will serve as a reminder to people to be themselves. “I want people to feel like they belong, that they have a place to be strange,” he says. 

The project’s opening track, “Sylo”, is about being retrospective reflections on a past relationship, exploring the difficulty of confronting your own vulnerability. “Candlelight”, themed around doing shadow work, brings R&B pop elements to Self Portrait. Lukile explains, “That was my most ambitious song. I had to learn to put in the bridge and then sing the different parts.” “The dreamer”, ironically follows a dream pop sequence with an edge in the way that Aussie rock band, Alt J often does (think ‘Hunger of the Pine’) with smooth vocals and a break in the song’s tempo to include a more upbeat tempo before going back to the down tempo. “We are given”, an ode to his romantic partner is some of where Lukile’s vocal versatility shines through with his bass voice being used on the song. 

Among the album’s standout tracks “Snakebones”, examines the journey of breaking free from bad habits and self-imposed limitations and learning to love yourself. He reflected on the tune saying, “ The song is a result of realising that the habit I had isn’t a bad thing, but rather figuring out what lies beyond it is where the challenge is.” The earworm contains some lyrical content that can be interpreted in two ways, “You know you’ve got the key to let yourself out but you don’t wanna make your way down from the clouds, could also the challenge of being grounded enough in yourself to have the courage to get over hurdles instead of just sitting in a mess.

The other gem on this album is “Akira”. When speaking about the track, which is a collaborative effort, Lukile discussed his passion for collaboration, “I’d like to be a prolific collaborator after this project. I think there’s so much to be gained from collaboration,” he said. The elements of Japanese city pop, the heavy synth sound and the guitar solo fit like a glove on “Akira”. This makes for a beautiful end to the EP. 

Self Portrait, Lukile’s brave leap over the edge into a whole new world is a feat in many ways. It serves as a testament to his unwavering determination and artistic integrity. As Lukile aptly describes it, “It’s imperfect but it’s beautiful. It’s risk-taking stuff.”