I’ll be exactly who I am: Meet openly gay South African singer Kellan


Pic: Marié de Lange / Silenteye Photography

Cape Town’s Kellan is not only a talented and proudly gay singer and songwriter, but he’s also using his gift to bring awareness to hate crimes against the LGBTQ community.

The 34-year-old, who’s been described as “the love child of Lady Gaga, Tori Amos, Enrique Iglesias and Ed Sheeran,” is a seasoned actor and dancer, having performed in numerous musical and other stage productions.

Kellan describes his style of music as a mix of piano-driven pop, woven with synthesizers and layered soundscapes, and “keeping it vocally interesting and haunting.”

He started ‘officially’ singing at age 11 but his love for music was visible as a toddler. “Apparently, at the age of three, I was already ‘performing’ Perfect by Fairground Attraction. Initially I wanted to be a pianist. For my 10th birthday, I got my first keyboard and since then, music has just always been with me. My family supported me from day one. I think in my entire career my mom only missed about three or four of my performances.”

As for being open about his sexuality, still a rare decision for many performers, he says: “I came out to my mom when I was 17. My family was very accepting and never had any real issues with it. I think South Africa as a whole has moved forward so much concerning the stigmatism attached to being gay. Thus far, I’ve maybe had one or two hate mails that made their way to my Facebook inbox.”

Kellan explains that he looks up to out and proud artists like Elton John, Sam Sparrow, Mika, Rufus Wainwright and especially Troye Sivan for his “in your face” approach. He adds: “I hope to inspire other members of the LGBT community to come forth and showcase their talents and art forms.”

Kellan recently released a powerful music video, directed by Desmond Denton, for his debut song I’ll Be. It features a lesbian couple torn apart by deadly hate and bigotry. The clip is especially timely as South Africa marks women’s month and fights back against gender based violence. He admits that such dark subject matter is unusual for someone releasing their first single.

“There is no happy ending to this video. It is a stark and harrowing account of the brutality that takes place within South Africa’s townships,” Kellan tells Mambaonline. “It is a video that portrays one of the many dangers present in a society by a culture of hyper-masculinity and one that cannot be ignored. I wanted to make the country aware of the horrors taking place that they just didn’t know about. And that hopefully it would play a part in making our country a safer place.”

I’ll Be made it to number 13 on the local iTunes charts and also received significant radio play. “The song just came out of nowhere. I wrote it one Friday evening, pitched it to a producer and within weeks it was charting on Internet stations across the globe!” says Kellan.

He also partnered with the Pride Shelter in Cape Town (Africa’s only LGBTQ shelter), whereby all proceeds of the song are donated to them. “They were the obvious choice as they do incredible work for gay individuals during stressful and dark times in their lives.”

The performer has now just released a new track, Lost With You, which was written by his friend Jak Brits. “I chose the song out of a selection of demos that Jak sent me,” Kellan explains. “To me personally it is about a relationship where both parties realised that it was a far from perfect partnership, almost toxic. Yet, despite this, they still yearn for each other although they went their separate ways. And then the main message – break through your walls when it comes to matters of the heart and let go! Let love win.”

Marié de Lange / Silenteye Photography

Apart from being a singer, Kellan is a sought-after vocal coach. “I discovered I had a talent for teaching people to believe in themselves and bringing out the best in their voices. I love teaching and mentoring other artists.” Over and above this, he is also one of a select few that were chosen to study Advanced Music Production at the prestigious Berklee College of Music (Boston, USA), via long distance learning, which he is still busy with.

So is Kellan planning on releasing an album soon? “I much rather like the idea of releasing singles every so often, but it’s not like I’m completely opposed to producing an album in the near future,” he says.

“Naturally the big dream for me is success – whether that be world dominance or touching people through my music. Mostly, I want people to respect my musical choices, artistic expression and appreciate the work I put into my craft as an artist, while still enjoying ‘the vibe’ with me.”

Kellan’s music is available on most digital platforms, such as iTunes and Google Play. Listen to Lost With You at www.kellan.hearnow.com and watch the video for I’ll Be below.

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