My name is Nico Lawrence, aka SMOKE, I was born in ’76 in Durban and moved to Nqabeni/Harding where my parents still reside, I started playing guitar at the age of 4. My dad taught me how to play by ear on a bass guitar, I stayed in music until the age of 15 and then moved onto soccer.
I did not pick up a guitar until I was in my late 30’s after meeting bluesman Andre van Der Byl in a music store in the Pavillion Mall in Westville. We would go in choose our instruments and have a full-on blues jam session in the store, during one of these sessions, sales skyrocketed that the store-owner sold me FIRE (my guitar) for next to nothing. We played together for a few months.
I then moved to Port Shepstone and our sessions came to an end. On the 24/08/2014 our factory was destroyed by a freak veld fire and we lost everything, being left destitute we had to move to Jhb in search of employment. We arrived on the 21/10/2014 and by the grace of God my wife found employment by the 11th of November 2014, for a whole year I could not find employment and a friend kept telling me to use what I have and the only thing I had was my guitars.
I played for a few bands, Alfred’s Band, where I got my name, Smoke, because of my playing style, Initially I hated the name as it represented pain due to the fire.
I finally got a tuckshop at our local municipal pool and I started playing the blues for them and the people would buy my stock. When I started singing more and more people were coming to the pool just for the music and that is how my brand grew.
I have played at the Edenvale Festival of lights 2016 & 2017 with my friend Luca Stadler, aka Liquid, we performed as Smoke and Liquid band at the DIBF 2017 as well. I have performed for Jonas Gwangwa’s 80th Birthday, Masingitha, on the tv show, Masingitha With Confidence, John Kani at Negritude, Eden AM (Edenvale’s local radio station). I play with Dj’s as well, putting a blues feel on house and hip-hop.
SMOKETRAIN, my first album will be recorded early July 2018, compiled of originals, some of my music is blues, blues rock, folk and African influenced. The genre of a song I write is dictated to by the song itself.
The band SMOKETRAIN is made up of Craig Mckinnon – Harmonica, Selwyn Aronowitz- Drums, Roland on Bass, James Maho on Sax and Myself on electric and vocals. We play in the greater Jhb area.