Thando is on a mission to embrace and celebrate her blackness
Thando is one of Australia’s finest new talents.
Born in Zimbabwe, she moved to Canberra with her family as an eight-year-old, and it wasn’t long before her passion for music became evident.
Thando’s musical upbringing will be very familiar to any fellow kids of the 90s. Together with her sisters, they’d dance around to TLC and Destiny’s Child songs and film themselves doing it on the family camcorder.
I felt the best way to fit in was to get rid of anything that set me apart from anyone else and let the only different thing about me be my skin colour.Thando — Double J, 2018
But after finishing school and moving to Melbourne for University, music became a far more serious prospect.
“I didn’t realise it was a thing you could do for a job until I started surrounding myself with people who did the same,” she told Double J’s Zan Rowe.
“When I started doing session work, collaborating with other singers and hanging out with Kylie Auldist, Stella Angelico and just powerful women in the Melbourne music industry. They’ve pretty much helped me find my feet.
“Everyone is so supportive of each other and if one of us makes it we all make it so we all help each out and offer each other opportunities so it’s been fantastic.”
To the general public, Thando will be most familiar as a former contestant on The Voice, or as Effie White in the Australian production of Dreamgirls. But soon it will be her work as one of Australia’s finest neo-soul voices that everyone thinks of when they hear her name.
Earlier this year, Thando released ‘NUMB.’, a song inspired by the recent media coverage of alleged gang violence in Australia among the African Australian community. It’s a powerful piece of music that’s not only timely, but very important to her.
“I kept seeing articles in the media portraying African youths as gangs or terrorising people,” she said. “It kind of made me think of what my place is in this country. I am an African youth, and I’m not involved in anything like that, but I could be walking down the street and someone could be thinking that about me.
“I wanted to find a more positive way to portray the contributions that African Australians make to this country. I thought the only way to start doing that, and do it in the truest way, is to address how assimilated I’ve become by growing up in this country and to try and get back to my roots.
‘Numb’ is just the beginning of this artist learning to embrace and amplify who she really is to the greater public.
“This is the first part of that journey. What comes next is embracing my blackness and being able to celebrate it. Basically, calling out for acceptance versus tolerance. I think that’s what’s important about this particular song.”
Moving to Australia at such a young age meant Thando sought out ways to blend in with her new peers. In hindsight, she wishes she hadn’t.
“Because I came to Australia when I was eight-years-old, I felt the best way to fit in was to get rid of anything that set me apart from anyone else and let the only different thing about me be my skin colour,” she said.
“So, I dropped my accent, I changed the way I dressed and how I spoke. But now that I’m older and I’ve started surrounding myself more with more people of colour, I realise how far gone I am from who I’m supposed to be.”
Thando and her collaborators have been writing solidly for the past 18 months and 'NUMB.' is just the first taste of what’s to come. While Thando admits she’s not sure when we’ll get more new music from her, she promises we won’t have to wait too long.
For now, ‘NUMB.’ is a strong indication of the direction the artist’s music is heading. She’s searching for something deeper, something closer to her heart, when it comes to inspiration.
“I feel like I’m moving on beyond writing just love songs and songs about getting inebriated,” she said. “I want people to know I think about things. I have an opinion and I’m happy to share it, because I feel if people can take a message away from my music, it can help them. That’s why we do it. To give people something that feels good.”
Thando plays the following shows:
Sunday 1 April – Boogie Festival, Tallarook
Thursday 5 April – Beach Hotel, Byron Bay
Friday 6 April – Commonwealth Games Festival Hub, Brisbane (early show)
Friday 6 April – Surfers Paradise Live, Gold Coast
Saturday 7 April – Imperial Hotel, Eumundi
NUMB. is out now