Purity Zinhle Mkhize bares her soul and her body (and a tapestry of other bodies) in a gentle yet emotionally charged performance. Directed by Kyle Lewis, one of South Africa’s most highly acclaimed music video directors, Purity’s performance on her ‘No Secrets’ video reached in and firmly tugged at something inside me. And that’s just the start of it.
From Punk to Purity
When I began exploring this kind-of quirky, kind-of captivating lady I discovered that she had already made her mark in SA music years ago, but on an entirely different level. Purity was fun and funky as vocalist for the South African punk band The Pranks (previously known as Fruits & Veggies) before her work took a different direction and she went solo. Her idea for her first performance after the re-invention was to create something raw and honest that promotes positive body image. The ‘No Secrets’ video was result of this. The video strips her talent bare, slices off any of the redundant noise that comes with punk performances and leaves something honest and yes, pure
The Solo Journey
Clearly a woman in control of herself, her art and her look, Purity is redefining the stereotype associated with her ‘people’. Whether that can be defined as Zulus, South Africans, or simply Africans, Purity suffered through insults from her community who she claims, ‘don’t understand and aren’t really exposed to alternative individualism’. Purity’s outlook has always been based on honesty, and what can be more honest than self-expression through soulful (and soul-baring) art? She believes that her music and her life are an interconnected force and that she is achieving personal growth through listening to what her heart wants – and following its governance. We could all take a leaf out of Purity’s book.
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What Katy Promised
Katy Perry’s latest album, Witness, is not what Katy promised it would be, but it does succeed in its own terms. At the Grammy Awards ceremony this year, Perry announced that her forthcoming album, Witness, would consist of what she called “purposeful pop.” Perry’s use of that vague but potentially activist tag, taken along with her public endorsements of Hilary Clinton and her description of herself as an “advocate,” naturally led to expectations that Witness would be a politically engaged album that would focus on Perry’s resistance to the Trump administration. You may also recall that these unrealized expectations for Witness led to some, fairly heated discussion about whether Perry was the sort of artist who could credibly make protest pop of this kind. As we listen to the album she actually released, though, we find that none of this came to pass. All of that pre-kerfuffle was therefore a waste of breath and ink!
What Katy DidSo, what has Perry delivered instead? What we have here is a messy, self-centered record of the kind we’re already very used to. This may be a good thing for the artist, because many of her admirers, unsurprisingly, still long for the kind of enjoyable, carefree pop that she has always given us. Presumably, many of these fans won’t exactly be disappointed that Perry hasn’t delivered on her promise to make an album that would be mentally, sexually and spiritually liberating. And that’s quite a lot to promise! Before we judge Perry too harshly, though, it’s important to say that, although it is no masterpiece of political insight, Witness is nevertheless her most daring and provocative album so far. Perry has bravely and cleverly drawn on genres like witch house and future pop, but she has carefully integrated these darker elements into an accessible pop album. This may be mainstream pop, but it’s not any old mainstream pop!