Thandi Phoenix: The South African-Australian artist with big plans for 2019

Thandi Phoenix: The South African-Australian artist with big plans for 2019

The first three months of 2019 have already been huge for Sydney-based artist Thandi Phoenix.

After releasing the hugely successful hit ‘Say It’, a collaboration with international electronic duo Sigma, Australia fell further in love with Thandi’s powerful, soulful and honest vocals.

The song debuted at #77 on the National Australian airplay chart, and was the seventh most popular track on Triple J in the same week, proving that this is only the beginning for Thandi Phoenix.

The 25-year-old has another huge few months ahead of her, with a debut Australian tour kicking off in June, before she heads over to perform a set at the popular music festival Splendour in the Grass later that month.

We got the chance to hear all about Thandi’s love of music, her South African and Australian influences while growing up, and what she has in store for the rest of the year.

Tell us about your upbringing in Sydney – what was it like having both Australian and South African influences while growing up?
So, my mum’s Australian with Irish heritage and my father is Zulu. For my father, being an African man in Australia and especially coming from Apartheid in South Africa, his culture was something he was very proud of.

He thought it was very important to teach me about my forefathers, our ancestors, and language, but as a kid this was kind of a bore because I was more interested in watching TV or playing games. But, it was very important to him that I knew where our people came from, and I see that now.

My parents separated when I was young so I was raised by my mum, but both my parents are avid music lovers and I was surrounded by music all the time. Mum had an extensive African and Latin CD collection, and dad was in radio so he had a huge record collection of many genres. He particularly loved jazz and the likes of Nina Simone, Keith Jarrett, Hugh Masekela, John Coltrain and Miles Davis.

When did you learn you could sing? What made you want to share your voice with others?
It was just something I’d always done because I enjoyed it – whether or not I sounded good is another story haha. I‘d been involved in choirs since I was in primary school and I started writing songs in high school, but I would always get very nervous when I had to sing by myself in public.

It wasn’t until I left high school that I was able to shake those nerves, purely by forcing myself to sing on stage! I realised it’s what I wanted to do when I would go to gigs and see people on stage – I thought, I want to be on that side.

Have you visited South Africa? If so, how did it feel being there?
I have – but I’m overdue to go back! It was great going there, meeting family and seeing where my dad grew up. It’s a beautiful country.

How much does your South African heritage influence your music?
Not particularly – I listen to a wide range of music and I’m influenced by what I like, what makes me move and what makes me feel.

What is your favourite part about being a musician?
Doing what I love.

You’ve had many amazing opportunities to perform with and collaborate with some huge local and international musicians. What have been your biggest learnings from that and who else would you like to perform and collaborate with in the future?
Work hard, stay humble and love your craft. Too many people to name.

Who do you look up to the most in the music industry?
At 5’11 (without my platforms) usually no one! haha nah in seriousness I’m inspired by anyone in the industry who’s working hard and chasing their dreams because it is a tough industry and requires perseverance and determination.

What’s next for you?
Just putting the final touches on my EP, which will be out mid this year. I’m also very excited for my debut headline tour which is June 🙂 and I’ve got a bunch of exciting festivals coming up, too. Watch this space!

Friday June 7, 2019 – Fat Controller, Adelaide
Friday June 21, 2019 – The Lansdowne Sydney
Friday June 28, 2019 – Workers Club, Melbourne
Saturday June 29, 2019 – Milk Factory, Brisbane

Tickets from:

Anisha Mistry

As the Editor of CulturalPulse, Anisha is passionate about listening to, writing and sharing stories of Australia's multicultural achievement. Got a story to tell? Get in touch: [email protected]