Feli Nandi: Juggling music and fashion

Nandi (FN) spoke about her music journey and fashion designing business when she appeared on the show In Conversation with Trevor, which is hosted by Alpha Media Holdings chairman Trevor Ncube (TN).

Afro-fusion musician and fashion designer Feli Nandi says being a musician and fashion designer  feels like the same thing for as she enjoys both crafts.

Nandi (FN) spoke about her music journey and fashion designing business when she appeared on the show In Conversation with Trevor, which is hosted by Alpha Media Holdings chairman Trevor Ncube (TN).

Below are excerpts from the interview.

TN: Feli Nandi, I am so excited to have you here, welcome to In Conversation With Trevor.

FN: Thank you Trevor. Thank you so much. I am going to make myself at home.


TN: Absolutely. Are you comfortable?

FN: I am. Thank you so much.


TN: I love what you putting on.

FN: Thank you.


TN: Did you make that?

FN: Yes.


TN: So, you are a singer you are a songwriter, you are a afro-fusion musician, you are a fashion designer. Which of these do you enjoy the most?

FN: All of them hey. All of them. They are like one thing. It is like doing the same thing all the time.


TN: Explain that to me, what does it mean?

FN: I get ideas from...ok for example, I like writing. I write about my life, I write about things that are surrounding me, I write about my friends’ lives.

It is the same thing when I make clothes I go on stage I perform.

My supporters like what I am wearing, so that is how I started the business anyway.

They want me to make that, so that is how we introduce designs into the boutiques. So, see it works, in it is like one thing. Yeah.


TN: What came first? Singing or making clothes, designing clothes?

FN: I think...


TN: Or is it a chicken and egg thing?

FN: Yeah. Because I remember from an early age when I was in Grade Two, I used to really fight with my mom because I used to take her skirts and tie them into big doeks, or I would take her pulling socks to make a bonnet. So it has always been in me since I was very young, yeah.


TN: And the singing?

FN: My mama said since I was three [years old].


TN: So it looks like it all just...

FN: Yeah sort of. Yeah.


TN: So the when do you do...Rather let me rephrase this and say, do you remember when you first got the sense ‘I want to sing’?

FN: We are not going to talk about professionally, right? Just singing?


TN: When you started? I mean I think it's a journey isn't it?

FN: Yeah. I started singing when I was very young. I used to sing at church. My mom would really push for that, I had a very forward mom. She really pushed for that.


TN: She pushed for you to sing?

FN: To sing in church, in front of people when I was very young you know Grade One.

I was leading the choir already I remember, the senior choir, because I had run away from Sunday school. Sunday school became a bit boring, so my mom then said come to the senior choir.


TN: So your mom pushed you?

FN: Yes.


TN: To sing in the senior choir. And you are saying the Sunday school was boring?

FN: I had great ideas hahaha. Bigger than the Sunday school kids, yeah.


TN: Right.

FN: So, I then started singing in the senior choir. It was me on vocalis, on the lead vocals.

My little sister as my backing vocalist, my two brothers on conquers, and my other brother on shakers and my mom was the choir instructor.


TN: The entire family?

FN: Entire family, yeah.


TN: Has mom ever shared why she wanted you to sing?

FN: She died when I was 15 [years old].


TN: Okay.

FN: So [at] that time I was now beginning to really embrace the journey.


TN: Yeah.

FN: We never really got to talk about that, but I just knew that she got so emotional whenever I would go in front to sing.


TN: But she was also a musician?

FN: A forced one I guess. Because she sang bass, it was not that good.


TN: And your siblings?

FN: Well no one ever really pursued it.


TN: Ok

FN: But I know that when there is a function at home, and we are all there, then you are going to have a time of your life.

TN: That is fantastic. And when did you start thinking I want to take this thing professionally?

FN: When my mom passed [away] when I was 15 [years old] that really took a bad toll on me, because of family issues and stuff.

So, I then stopped everything that had to do with singing, and 10 years later when I was 25 that is when I became a backing vocalist for  Mbeu Mhodzi Tribe, and then I worked with them for about three years and in 2020 I took my solo journey.


TN: So you took a break for 10 years?

FN: Ten years yes.


TN: And talk to me about what was going through your mind? I mean professionally? You have taken this break for 10 years? That is a long break?

FN: It was not a break, it was a breakdown.


TN: A breakdown?

FN: Yeah.


TN: The impact of you losing your mmom?

FN: Yes.


TN: Wow.

FN: Life happened. A lot of things happened. I think when I was now maturing into becoming a young adult, around 2021 the people around me could see something was not right.

She is always depressed, she's locking herself in the room and she's playing loud music...and I knew what I wanted to do, I knew, but now this was 10 years, and the people in my life [at] that time no one knew I could sing.

This was just something that had been swept under the rug.

TN: Wow.

FN: So I just became very sad, and I knew what I wanted to do.


TN: You knew what you wanted to do?

FN: I knew, but I did not know where to start.


TN: Tell me, because there [are] going to be a lot of young people out there who are watching you.

FN: Yeah.


TN: Now, that 10-year journey? What got you through it? Do you remember what got you through it? Where are the places?

What I mean when I am saying places, where did you find your strength? How did you survive those 10 years?

FN: Well it is not easy. Like I said, life happened, yeah. I gave birth to two beautiful kids.

There was also the other forces that made me survive. Going through life because I became a mother.

And you know when you become a mother there are just things that you are not going to focus on.


TN: No.

FN: You now have these two little beautiful humans looking at you, and they want you to be their strength.

So to me that felt like I cannot continue crying for a long time.

I have mourned my mother in the best way I know.

I need to heal and be a mother to these beautiful little humans.

So, my kids got me through it, but all I know is I worked. I went to  do jobs that I did not like. I hated everything that I tried to do.

I tried selling everything, and I hated it, but like I said I now had a bigger mission, the kids.  So, I would say that got me through.

TN: What are the names of the kids?

FN: Malik and Kyle.


TN: Oh, beautiful names. So you say you knew what you wanted to do?

FN: I knew.


TN: Everybody else did not know what you wanted to do. When did you then get this strength to say to everybody this is what I want to do?

FN: Well there was never strength. We went for a wedding yeah. My sister-in-law then invited me to a wedding, and I am not really good with weddings.


TN: You are like me, I just do not like weddings.

FN: I do not enjoy [them]. I don't like weddings.


TN: Weddings and funerals, I am not good. Do not get me to weddings and funerals!

FN: Exactly! So that is me. Because you know people had started talking about oh she is just locking herself in her room, she is just sad, she is boring.

It was the norm for me to just spend the day in my room, or with my kids.

So my sister-in-law then said you need to get out and today we are going for a wedding [of] a friend of mine.

I did not even know these people. I still do not know who they were.

So, we then went to that wedding and of course I was not enjoying it, like I said I wanted to leave, and then my sister-in-law just said oh wait I need you to...

There is this young man that I want you to hear singing, and I did not want but I then stayed.

About a few minutes later a young man walked to the stage with his guitar, and I think for the first time in 10 years I felt what I had last felt 10 years ago when my mom was still alive.

My heart just...I just went to this place that I cannot even describe, and I was like yes this is what I want to do.

And I walked straight to him when he finished performing and I said hi my name is Feli, I'd like to sing with you.

TN: She closes herself in the house.

FN: And she does not want to go out. She does not associate with people. She just likes being in her own space yeah.

And he was shocked and he just said oh there is my manager, you can go and talk to him. I went straight to the manager...

TN: Who was this young man?

FN: Mbeu.


TN: Mbeu.

FN: Yes. So I went straight to the manager. And when I was walking to the manager my sister-in-law looked and said oh wait let me arrange some people that can go to the manager, because he is quite a tough man. And I said nah do not worry. I went straight to him; his name is Eugene. I went straight to him and said hi. And remember, I had my baby on my back.


TN: Yes.

FN: And I said hi my name is Feli, I would like to sing with Mbeu. And he said hi how can I help? And I said I would like to sing with you guys. I saw that you do not have a female backing vocalist and I would like to work for you guys. You do not have to pay me, I just want to sing with him. And he said okay sorry I am busy, here is my card get in touch. This was [in] 2017 around December. For two months I stalked them, I called him, he would not pick up my calls. I think he blocked me at some point because when I talk to him now he says I had never experienced something like that. You had your family there, you have a child on your back and you just come straight to us and you say you want to sing.


TN: You are bulldozing your way in.

FN: So he said I was afraid of you. I thought you were...I did not know what you wanted from my artist. And then eventually, after I think he had actually gotten tired of me, he then said okay come for auditions. And remember, in these two months that I had spent talking them I was busy listening to his music, every lyric, everything. So, when he just got into the audition he was shocked.


TN: Wow.

FN: He was shocked.


TN: You blew him away?

FN: Yes. And he just said you know what, I am sorry for... Oh my God we should have hired you a long time ago. You are hired.


TN: Wow.

FN: That is how I came through.


TN: What a story? But I want to go back? Did you get any treatment for the depression? The 10 years? When you were you know indoors and that kind of stuff?

FN: No. Did I even know that the term depression? I now know, that oh my God I was depressed then. But that time? No, I did not even know. No one knew. I do not know how to put it. No one ever mentioned depression. They just knew she she wants to be alone. These days she is boring.

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