By BRUCE DENNILL
Martinique du Toit, who uses the stage name Matinino for her solo project, started playing piano at the age of five and started writing music for vocals and piano at the age of 10.
“Influence” is a loaded, often misunderstood concept. An artist may sound similar to another but have no knowledge of them, or be a super-fan of someone whose output is completely different to their own. Who or what was the artist, album, song, era or scene that initially mapped out the road to you becoming a musician?
The way that question was put is exceptionally applicable to me and my music. In my teens, people used to compare my music to Regina Spektor, Florence and the Machine and Kate Bush, while I was listening to the likes of Linkin Park, Rammstein and Pendulum. My music taste has always been broad and, to be honest, I don’t think there is a genre I wouldn’t listen to or consider. As long as its palatable and not horribly distasteful, I will listen!
But If we’re going to talk about where it all began, we would have to go waaaay back, because my road to becoming a musician started around the age of five. I started playing piano then, and at that stage, I was really listening to my parents’ music. The first song I taught myself by ear around that age was Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield. Since then I was pretty much fused to the piano and insisted on writing my own music.
My dad was feeding us Pink Floyd, The Strawbs, Cream and Amon Dul, while my mom would wake us up to dance with her on a Saturday night to Marko (a Dutch musician), Mike Batt, The Mamas and the Papas and Abba. Besides that, we were also exposed to classical music from an early age, listening to tapes like Mr Beethoven Lives Upstairs and work by other influential Romantic and classical composers.
To be honest, when I started buying my own CDs around age eight, there was no shame, and I wasn’t even trying to be “edgy” or “quirky.” My first CD was Shania Twain, and from there I went down the a rabbit hole of Britney Spears, Aqua, Backstreet Boys and Spice Girls. No shame. Seriously feel for my parents through that phase!
Has that changed over the years? If so, how and why, and what are you currently exploring?
I change around once a month! I’m always exploring new genres. At the moment, I’m actually quite addicted to electronic music… especially those with great music videos! I’m talking abot Moderat, Weval, The Blaze, Jon Hopkins, Bob Moses and Christian Loffler, while not ignoring the fact that I stray away from that terrain to treat my sweet tooth with the likes of Aurora, Billie Eilish, Eivor and Tash Sultana.
My mood depicts the music I choose, and I like to turn my life into a mini music video. As much as I’m fused to the piano, I’m fused to my headphones. When I run, it’s drum and bass, and when I’m angry there’s nothing like the old angsty rock to get my world in sync. I’ll never let go of my Nirvana and Linkin Park itch. Although that’s now started including Grandson and Nothing but Thieves.
Name one song you wish you’d written. What makes that song so important?
Nothing But Thieves – Amsterdam. I have a lot of respect for Conor Mason. He’s been through the trenches and his anxiety and emancipation is prevalent in not only his lyrics, but also in the way he sings them. I’ve spent a lot of time in Amsterdam and I can honestly say it would make sense for me to have written the words “I left my heart in Amsterdam, where I could dream and nights were long”.
Beyond that, I’ve always been jealous of a catchy chorus and a neatly put-together song. I feel like I always want to do too much. Like the icing on a cake at a Greek wedding, sometimes less is more. And done with passion and valour, it makes for the perfect combination of flavours.
Which aspects of your music do you prioritise? For you, would you rather have that your lyrics, your melodies, or your vocals or instrumental work are the are the most memorable parts of your songs?
Am I allowed to choose all of the above? The reason being, I write everything at once. Always have. I basically vomit my emotions on the piano all at once. I feel something and my fingers and words marry each other throughout the entire process and I become a vessel for the ceremony. I can’t choose, because every part of the song has its own purpose. They work together as one machine, and if one of the parts doesn’t work as well as the other parts, you’re sitting with a mechanism that doesn’t run smoothly and an artwork with an expiry date, like the warranty on a 2019 vacuum machine…
The music industry is no longer a single-narrative operation. For you, what is the best way to get your music from your head to potential listeners? Please comment on digital means (from social media to full streaming and download distribution), playing live (how often; where; to whom), being a cottage industry (e.g. selling CDs from a box in your car) and any other creative channels you’ve explored.
Let’s just say that I’m still figuring that one out. Digitally, I do what I can to put my music everywhere. The easiest way to do so thus far has been through Distrokid, as you pay one fee and they distribute everywhere. But with that said, I am a creator, and sometimes I think solely so. I know this doesn’t help me at all, since to be a success in the industry nowadays, you have to be a creator, an advertiser, an influencer, a fast talker, an analyst, a social butterfly and so many other things that I just am not.
I struggle to maintain an online presence because I always seem to fall back into my studio or in front of my piano and just want to create. I feel like the persona I try to present online does not necessarily reflect my true self. To be honest, sometimes I just don’t have time to call out to people and try and prove I’m worth listening to and sell myself online while I’m trying to juggle all the creative fields I am involved in as well.
I’ve seen what happens when I play my music live to a small room of people. They approach me with tears in their eyes begging me to never stop. But I’ve never quite figured out how to approach the masses, and maybe that’s because I’ve never quite understood group mentality or what “the masses” want. Mostly, I have organised my own events and tried to make them as interesting as possible – events like my recent project Biorhythm, where we combined live digital art with live music and the screening of unreleased music videos. I’ve done numerous events like these where we combine different art forms into one show; kind of always to the same audience.
The live scene in Cape Town has always been a bit of a mystery to me as approaching venues and media isn’t the same as my experience in Europe. People don’t really budget for art and music culture here. I feel like there is a major lack in South Africa of platforms for alternative music and solid support thereof. We as musicians need to eat. And I know a very small handful of musicians in this country that are able to support themselves financially with music alone.
With all this said, the channels I’ve explored so far have come down to trying to find alternative platforms online that promote or at least encourage alternative music. These are international platforms that actually fund artists and musicians. I’m still looking into a bunch of these, but I like the idea of Hit Record, Daisie, Steam, Patreon and sites like those. I would like my music to be a gift, not a burden. And often, when I am selling myself, the words don’t come out right and I almost feel like I’m “bothering” people with my self-promotion. So I’m hoping that, through utilising these alternative platforms, my music – my children – will find their appropriate foster parents to bring joy and inspiration to, without me having to try and sell them through a flawed system.
In terms of the above, is there a gap between what you envisioned and what you are experiencing now? Does it matter, and if so, how do you close that gap?
There is a gap, yes. I am still figuring out how to stitch that wound.
What is your most recent release? What is the story behind it – the genesis of the song, the people involved, the muse behind its creation?
I’d like to speak of two releases – related to each other and addressing some serious issues: Dear White Man and Woman. Dear White Man hasn’t actually been put online yet as it’s still in the production process, however it goes hand in hand with Woman, which was released in August 2018. The songs both address men.
The inspiration for Woman actually came from listening to a story my friend told me about her being sexually assaulted; this after having heard similar stories from other girlfriends, making around 80% of the women I knew victims of either assault, harassment or abuse. I was enraged by this and wrote Woman to try and grant strength and hope for women everywhere who had gone through the same. It’s an anthem really for taking back power and confidence. I made a little lyric video with the song where I collected 100 photos of women around South Africa and matched them with the song.
Dear White Man will be released soon. It’s more a lesson in history than an address to men today. It’s about how colonisation and the rule of the white man was a blind and selfish endeavour, fuelled by greed and hunger for power. For me this is all about starting a long overdue discussion about the damage that has been done and ways to fix it – not through violence or revenge, but through trying to even out the playing field and keeping things fair among all us strange little creatures trying to live consciously on this strange rock.
Some of the lyrics of Dear White Man:
The Biggest whitest, strongest mountain, will always think he’s bigger than a god; in valleys where the blind gods roam, the one eyed mountain digs his throne; he builds on blood and sweat and tears of those who’ve lived a hundred years; those with true wisdom and regret, the day god and the white man met.
It’s harsh. But so were a lot of the things done by many white men in power over the past 200,000 years.