On a visit to South Africa, US singer Goapele spoke to Helen Herimbi about Destiny, dreams and dimming your light
“I haven’t had a haircut since I’ve been here and I need one,” Goapele says as she runs a few metallic finger nails across the side of her head. “So I need to track down a good barber. I’m about to hook up with Cassper (Nyovest) so I need to ask him who his barber is. He always has a clean fade.”
She will meet with Abuti Fill Up for what many are speculating is a music video shoot for one of their two collaborations on Nyovest’s Thuto album. It’ll probably be for Destiny, where Goapele sings the Malaika hit.
About Destiny, Goapele says: “I don’t normally do remixes but it was an idea that Cassper had and it had a strong melody and lyric and I was open to try it in hopes that the artists would feel respected and flattered”.
The American singer from South African lineage is in town with Mission to the Motherland and the Aids Healthcare Foundation (AHF) where she’ll be on a panel with American actors (from Black and Sexy) and healthcare professionals from AHF. They started in Johannesburg before moving to Durban.
“The point (of the panel) is to create a safe space for young women where all the questions and answers can come up on relationship stuff, sex, safety, getting rid of the stigma around HIV and AIDS, what are myths, what is true. There will also be testing on site. And I’m going to share some music.”
On the day that the Closer hitmaker is due to take part in the Joburg town hall, we’re sitting across from each other in a snug booth and she looks radiant and edgy and I want to ask her to give me her earrings – hoops with keys dangling from them. But I don’t. Instead, I ask her about her latest EP, Dreamseeker and unlocking the potential of her power as described on a song called, well, Power.
“When I first started writing Power,” she says, “it felt like sunshine and unconditional love. I was thinking about my daughter and the light and wonder and curiosity and innocence that she was born with”.
“What does it look like to not have to dim your light? I feel like as women, we have to rediscover self-love and self-importance. How to stand in your power. I’m trying, as a mom to not allow her to dim her light and I feel like all of us should not have to dim our light.” The song contains a line about being “as bright as the sun”.
An interlude that appears before Power is called Bright As The Sun. It is one of four interludes on the 10-track project. “The interludes were done at the end of the EP,” Goapele explains.
“I wanted it to flow. I wanted people to be able to let it play and not feel jarred when each song started so Mike Tiger – who co-produced Closer – did all the music for the Interludes and I just sung free-flowing to weave the album together. It was nice. I like when I’m in the studio and I don’t have to over think what I’m doing.”
The interludes ooze an ethereal quality that ebbs between different waves of sounds like the uptempo Take It Over, the blues-meets-neo-soul Cool Breeze, sensual single, $ecret and minimalist fan favourite, Stay. That last song is the only one that boasts a feature on it and BJ The Chicago Kid does not disappoint.
“There had been talks of us working together for a while and the timing just worked out,” Goapele says about Stay. “I felt like a classic, love song type of feeling so it could easily be a duet. And BJ has a great vibe. I love where he fits in between R&B and soul music.”
Dreamseeker is Goapele’s sixth project and her last album, Strong As Glass is top notch. Over the years, she has become a niche artist who should have mainstream acclaim but doesn’t. We pick apart the title of this EP and she talks about the duality of being someone who wants to have a public voice without caring for the limelight.
To be, as she sings on the title track, “a hider and a seeker”.
She says: “It’s part of my personality as a cancer and as an artist and writer. Sometimes I’m more comfortable singing things than saying them. It’s this balance of being vulnerable so you can share something that’s real and authentic and people can feel it when they hear the music against me wanting to be private and feeling shy sometimes.”
“I think the seeker part of me wants to connect with people and uplift them and keep growing as an artist, as a woman and as a mother and with each dream I fulfil, it makes me ready for the next.”
On the Full Circle interlude, Goapele speaks rather than sings. She asks herself a number of questions. One of them is: what’s the dream at this point? “What my dream is,” she repeats the question.
“I think it keeps evolving and I feel like I have to keep evaluating it so I can stay motivated to push myself farther. “The dream changes as I get to reach milestones and now I’m over 15 years and five albums deep and with this Dreamseeker project, I had to re-tap into what I’m doing this all for.”