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Tu Nokwe is a songwriter, singer, composer, teacher, and stage actress. She was born in Kwa-Zulu Natal. Her father, Alfred, was in a jazz swing band and her mother, Patty, was a soprano singer. When her father performed at weddings and other functions he would encourage his daughters to perform with him. All the children in the Nokwe household were taught how to sing by their mother and she introduced them to the music of Miriam Makeba and Letta Mbulu. When Tu failed matric in the late 1970s, she was encouraged to take up music as a career by Bheki Mseleku, who was living with the Nokwes in kwaMashu.
Tu taught herself how to play the guitar by using two chairs, a string strung in between the chairs and a do-it-yourself book. When she finally managed to get a guitar, she wrote her first song Relax and had in the meantime, through her parent’s efforts, managed to complete matric. Together with her sister, Marilyn, and a friend, Nonhlanhla, they formed the Black Angels and recorded an album. Tu also formed the group Amajika Youth Project, which taught children music, dance and drama. This was a successful project and some of the children in her group ended up featuring in Mbongeni Ngema’s Sarafina.
Tu left South Africa for England and, during the filming of Shaka Zulu, returned to act as Shaka’s wife. After this stint in film, she left for New York where she studied music at the Manhattan School of Music. Before her departure for the United States, Tu had recorded her first solo album Mind your own business. During her stay in the States, she recorded her thoughts in three journals that she translated into song that were released in the album Inyakanyaka. In this album Tu paid tribute to Princess Magogo, a great traditional songwriter. She has featured in many plays, has written her mother’s biography and appeared in many television programmes.
Tu Nokwe’s passion and love for children and community is the driving force for her music. This has seen her Album, African Child win ‘Best release from Africa’ on the British world music magazine. In South Africa, she has performed for the corporate, government and commercial audiences. She acted in the movies Shaka Zulu, The Red Scorpion and has mentored actors for Mbongeni Ngema’s Sarafina.
Brought up in a family of six singers, Tu Nokwe initially taught music to township kids in her family's Amajika Youth and Children's Art Project. She eventually travelled to London and New York and took lessons at the famous Manhattan School of Music. When she returned in 1993, she started gathering material for her first album Inyakanyaka which made its maiden debut in 1996. The album redefined Tu Nokwe as a powerful musician with original ideas. Inyakanyaka was followed by African Child (2002).