'I know who I am': musician Mx Blouse is beyond gender & beyond genre

10 June 2018 - 00:00
Mx Blouse.
Mx Blouse.
Image: Aart Verrips

'Times they are changing, it's a revolution," declares Mx Blouse over the minimalist and catchy beat of the track Is'phukphuku.

In the video, Blouse, wearing some avant-garde fashion and fabulous headgear, is strutting about while rapping about social issues (such as slut shaming, misogyny and blesser culture), a cool confidence present in each frame.

Is'phukphuku ("idiot" in Zulu) is one of three tracks Blouse has released this year. The other two are Dread Ringer and Love Was a Lie. Is'phukphuku has earned a lot of love online, and even got a shout-out from actress and model Pearl Thusi on Twitter (she has 1.6 million followers, so that's kind of a big deal).

In their Instagram bio, Mx Blouse (born Sandiso Ngubane) writes that they are "beyond gender, beyond genre".

And during our phone conversation, Blouse emphasises this when asked the question, "Who is Mx Blouse?" The first thing they say is that they are gender nonconforming, meaning they don't identify with any singular gender. As such, their gender pronouns are they, them and their.

"In the past couple of years there's been a lot of unlearning and learning about myself. Learning that I just don't identify as a man. I really don't. Learning that about myself has also helped a lot with being able to express myself freely."

And Blouse's current form of expression is music (Blouse is also a writer and has worked as a journalist). Becoming a professional musician at age 30 has been an adventurous ride where the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

"When you are younger you have the benefit of age on your side, and people generally like young people. I've heard that record companies don't even sign people over the age of 30," they laugh.

"But for me, just knowing who I am as an individual, [this is] the best time for me to do it. I know who I am, I know what I want, I know what I want to say, I know how I want to put myself out there. The benefit of age has been great in that way."

Blouse is an independent artist, so on top of making the music, they have to worry about promotion, publicity, marketing and all that other unglamorous stuff.

"Having a cool song is actually just the beginning. There's so much more work that you have to do to make sure the track gets to the ears that it needs to get to," they say.

While music is about self-expression, Mx Blouse also wants to convey important messages through it.

"I care about social issues, I care about the empowerment of women, I care about my LGBTI community and I care about social justice in general ... That's a very important part of the music for me - as much as I want to make music for people to dance to, I also want to make music for people to stop and think about the things that I'm saying."

Between their 2017 EP Believe in Bloom and 2018's Is'phukphuku, Blouse says they have "grown so much sonically".

WATCH | The music video for Is'phukphuku

"When I started it was simply rap music, but now I'm incorporating lots more local influences - there's a little bit of gqom, there's a little bit of kwaito. A website said Is'phukphuku is proof that kwaito will never die - it just lives through other genres. That made me so happy. Kwaito is our cultural heritage ... [and] that sound is something that I want to stick to for a while. My next single is pure unadulterated kwaito."

That next single, title unknown to us at least, should be out by year end because Blouse is in no rush and even has no plans for an album.

"I think the time for albums is done. People's [attention] spans are just different these days. I look at how I listen to music - it's rare to find an album that I can listen to from start to finish ... I really just jump around. I make playlists. Sometimes an artist puts out an album and I only listen to five songs, so I really don't think [a full album] is necessary."

Mentioning Kanye West's seven-track album Ye as an example of where music is going, they say: "I think that's the future. Just drop seven tracks, let people enjoy and move on."

That's an interesting statement, considering that the nature of being an artist is self-indulgence. Mx Blouse doesn't have time for such.

"Artists can be too precious about what they do. Once you put your art out there, it doesn't belong to you anymore. People are going to ... consume it how ever they see fit. You can't dictate that."