Tu Nokwe grew up in KwaMashu, and is a member of one of the most famous South African musical families, sometimes referred to as the Jacksons of Africa. Her mother, Patty is a well-known soprano opera singer, while her late father Alfred, is remembered as an iconic actor of stage and screen, both of whom are also recipients of the eThekwini Living Legends Award.
Growing up in a musical home meant there were often famous names rehearsing at her house, and as a child Tu watched in awe of their talents. As a young woman though, Tu started her life in the arts as an actress and dancer; and not as a singer! Although she played musical instruments, but was convinced she couldn’t sing, as she did not have a good ear, but the talented Busi Mhlongo was the inspiration who convinced her to try singing.
Her singing career began under the direction of her mother, when Tu and her sister formed the Black Angels along with a friend of theirs. Later, her home housed an informal shebeen, where a lot of political interactions took place; and while many of her friends and family were forced into exile, she chose to stay in South Africa and work. Following her belief that art and music were her weapon, she formed the Amajika Youth Project, teaching children of the community music, dance and drama for self-development; leading some of these children to feature in the Broadway Musical, Sarafina. After recording her first solo album, ‘Mind your own business’, Tu’s entrepreneurial drive motivated her to start her own recording company, under which she released her album Inyakanyaka, which won best African release.
As an actress, singer, guitarist, composer and lyricist for over four decades, Tu Nokwe has performed to great acclaim both locally and abroad. She has featured in many plays, has written her mother’s biography, ‘My Voice, My Life’ and has appeared in many television programmes. She is currently busy with another theatre piece, having written a musical about traditional values and indigenous instruments. She has also written a self-management tool in the form of a book, entitled ‘Journey of my Soul’ –to help readers manage and balance busy lives.