I recently had a coffee with Daniel Nambassi of AnecNote, the winners of SA’s Got Talent 2017. We had a chance to talk about A-Capella, faith and social media.
Xavier: Dan, good to see you again.
Dan: Good to see you again too.
Thanks for giving of your time.
Feels like frantic February. Two jobs now. Two gigs a week. Late nights and early mornings. Living the dream (said laughing).
Congratulations to you and the rest of AnecNote on winning SA’s Got Talent 2017. Has it all sunk in yet or are you still as surprised by the win as you looked on the night?
Thank you. In bits and pieces there is still that surprise. When we look back and put some distance between ourselves and the win, we think, ‘Wow, that happened!’ It does feel a little surreal. But in other ways it all feels very real when we think of all the hours of practice we put in over that time.
In some ways, nothing changes. You still have to go to work on Monday, and then everything is also different and you know something happened, when someone waves at you through a shop window.
Where did it all start for you, firstly getting into A-Capella and then forming AnecNote?
The story goes way back to my parents and how the house was always filled with music. And then the Drakensburg Boys Choir came to town. Watching their performance changed my life. I auditioned, and at eight years old started at the choir school in Kwa-Zulu Natal. I spent six incredible years there for many reasons. It was like a family, I got to travel the country and it was there that I discovered the beauty of close harmony singing and was given opportunities to explore beat boxing.
After my gap year, I come down to Cape Town, joined a choir and it was there that I met the two boys now in AnecNote. Kevin and I both loved the collegiate A-Capella scene, decided to give it a go (with many lists), and that was the beginnings of AnecNote.
From the outset it wasn’t just our goal to be a cool band and get our name out there, our goal was also to share our passion and love for A-Capella, because South Africa has such a rich history with A-Capella. When you look at the Struggle, church music, singing in the mines, it’s all part of the story of how we as South African’s have understood ourselves.
Dan, what would you say to a young person who is discovering their talents?
Well, one thing I say to my drum students, ‘It’s obvious you have a talent, do you want to do something with it?’ The weight behind those words is that it’s going to take more than talent. I like what Nadal’s uncle use to say to him, ‘This is something you have chosen.’ Because you own it then. You take up a sense of responsibility for developing your talent.
AnecNote is pretty active on social media. These platforms are great ways to ‘get your music out there’ but they also give opportunity for criticism to be levelled in a very public way. How do you deal with the negative comments?
I remember the very first video we posted in 2014 was our cover of Titanium. A friend of ours was very encouraging and said something along the lines of ‘step aside Pentatonixs.’ And then someone straight afterwards posted, ‘Said no one ever!’ It was then that I decided to spend as little time as possible focussing on those comments. I am quite sensitive, so I’ve learnt not to engage to much in those forums.
Social media can be such a positive space to communicate a message, as with the #MeToo campaign, but it can also be a damaging space, considering the countless stories of cyber bullying and hate speech. What are some of the guidelines you try to practice in your personal capacity when on social media that would be beneficial for young people as they find their way through this volatile space?
I remind myself that all social media platforms are a public arena with not many filters, so potentially you can come across anything. I try my best not to be naïve to the fact that I might come across something that could be ‘triggering’, or harmful or something that you ought not to see.
So, with that in mind I like to see my social media time as a chance to spread joy and something positive with my friends. I make it a rule (or try too) not to share anything that could be hurtful to another. And then I also like to limit my time. It can be such a vortex.
So, I try to do it when I don’t have much time, to prevent me spending too long in that space. Knowing full well that real relationships are not built online. It can be too easy to hind behind our laptops and phones. Face to face with people is always that much more rewarding and real.
Dan, you volunteered with Scripture Union for a number of years, connecting with thousands of young people from around the country through camps and school’s ministry. What were some of the common issues you discovered that young people were dealing with and what message were you trying to convey?
During my gap year with SUIS I learnt to value the power of story. As Christians, we have the grand narrative of Christ’s redemptive story, and God’s story of our relationship with Him. We had the privilege (and you helped me see my personal story in this Grand Narrative), of helping young people see their personal story within this Grand Narrative. Many young people have stories of pain, and it helps to be vulnerable, to help them share their story and to remind that there is hope for their story to change.
Hardest song to beatbox too?
It’s always the next one.
Favourite song at the moment?
Always interested in songs we as AnecNote are working on at the moment, so ‘Akanamali’ by Samthing Soweto.
What is next on the horizon for AnecNote?
To get our music out as much music as possible and we’re also planning an A-Capella festival.