Tamara Kumbula Takes Center Stage
The South African-bred artist drops a new single April 24th.
The South African-bred artist drops a new single April 24th.
Text: Dania Curvy
Tamara Kumbula was picked last week by the iconic designer and longtime V collaborator Hedi Slimane as CreatiVity's artist of the week. The 20-year-old LA-based artist with South African origins isn't shy about opening up sharing her experiences end encourages listeners to do the same. She started writing songs and singing from when she was only 8 or 9 years old. To this day, she draws inspiration from the personal experiences she had growing up, and she wants listeners to internalize her songs and relate them to whatever they're going through personally.
As Tamara is preparing to release her newest single “Clockwise (Gold)” on April 24, we spoke with the up-and-coming singer-songwriter about her background in music, the impact of COVID-19 on her creative process and her plans for the nearest future and beyond.
V Magazine What’s your name, age and where do you go to school?
Tamara Kumbula My name is Tamara Kumbula, I’m 20 years old and I go to Musician’s Institute in Los Angeles. I’m in the Bachelor program for Vocals and Audio Production.
V You were born and raised in South Africa, does your music ever reflect or is inspired by your roots?
T Initially, I thought my music didn’t ‘reflect’ any South African characteristics, but I’ve been told by a lot of people that I make use of a lot of drums in my songs and looking back, I can definitely hear the similarities, haha. My lyrics are all drawn from personal experiences so I’d definitely say growing up in SA shaped what I write about.
V Can you tell us a little bit about your background in music as a solo artist?
T Well, I started out writing songs and singing when I was around ages 8 or 9. My parents wanted me to take piano lessons because they loved Alicia Keys and really thought I’d be great at it. It’s honestly my least favorite instrument to this day haha, so from there, I stuck to vocals, picked up a guitar and started making beats along the way. I was also super into drama and dance so that helped build my versatility and confidence a lot. I think I only started taking music seriously when I was 17-years-old. From there, I knew I wanted to build my career and decided to move to LA.
V How did you hear about Quadio? Can you tell us about the relationship you have with the platform and your music?
T Eve Wetlaufer, the director of campus representatives from Quadio, reached out to me on Instagram. We got on a Zoom call and she explained how the app worked and from there I was hooked. After I uploaded my first song it got to #3 Nationally in 2hrs so that was pretty dope. Obviously as a musician, it’s always good to have your music on as many streaming platforms as possible, the thing that set Quadio apart was that it allowed users to look for specific niches from other artists like gigs, mixing, session players, etc. which I found really useful and unique. Also, the fact that the app is college-based is really cool, there’s definitely been a gap for that in the industry for a while.
V Who are some artists that inspire you, your sound and creativity?
T Man, I could write a whole Bible on this but if I had to keep it short... I’d definitely say Beyoncé, Big Sean, Anderson .Paak , Post Malone, Kanye West, Tori Kelly, and Ruel.
V If you could work with anyone musically (past or present), who would that be?
T Ooooff, I think it’s a tie between Beyonce and Big Sean.
V How do you want listeners to feel (or what do you want them to do) when they listen to your music?
T I think I have a different intent with making each song. Whether it’d be drawing focus on social/political issues like women empowerment or making a song you and your friends can listen to on a night out. Overall, I want them to internalize my songs and relate them to whatever they’re going through personally.
V What’s been the most exciting moment or experience of your music career thus far?
T Definitely getting a sync deal on a Netflix movie.
V Can you tell us about the creative process and inspiration for “1 to 8”?
T Well, I knew I wanted to make a song with a tempo of 128bpm (hence the name of the song) and I was really vibing N.E.R.D and Rihanna’s “Lemon” at the time, so I definitely wanted to make a futuristic but super percussion-based song. I sat down on my laptop and made the beat, really liked it and at the time, I had just started dealing with people in the industry and you know, I was not having it. So lyrically, the song definitely is about me learning how the business works but still sticking to my sound and you know pushing through and standing my ground. There was also supposed to be 8 songs on my upcoming album at first, hence the spelling ‘1 to 8’, but I got carried away and now they’re 16.
V Can you tell us about your new album and single “Clockwise (Gold)” coming out?
T Yeah! I have a single coming out on the 24th of April, "Clockwise (Gold)" that I wrote and produced. I was going through a really hard time at the end of 2019, which was when I wrote the song, but I’m a pretty positive person and I wanted to write a song that would motivate me to stay focused and move on regardless of how down I get. Hence the title, "Clockwise".
But after "Clockwise", I’m going to release my 4-part album Gladiator. Essentially, there are 16 songs but instead of releasing them all at once, we’re going to release 4 at a time and break it up into 4 sections. I’m super excited about the album and I’d describe it as me with a more “mature” sound. I got to work with amazing musicians that worked with really dope artists like Bruno Mars and Camila Cabello. All in all, I’d say most of the songs are about my personal experiences in moving to LA.
V How has adjusting to the current climate of COVID-19 impacted your schooling and your life?
T It’s been kind of a difficult adjustment I’m not gonna lie. Since campus closed, all my classes are online and personally, I’m not a fan. I’m a pretty social person so not being able to go out with my friends isn’t the greatest; but honestly, I’m just grateful I have a house to stay in, LA has a serious homeless problem and this pandemic has really made me grateful for a lot things I used to take for granted.
V How have you been coping during this time? Is there anything that’s keeping you grounded?
T Going over songs for the album, re-writing, re-recording, you know, trying to make every song better has been eating most of my time. That and Narcos, Money Heist and every crime documentary on Netflix, haha.
V Do you believe music is important especially during a time where the world is in crisis?
T Definitely. I know music has helped me be a lot more productive in quarantine. It’s helped me focus, and I think it’s a sort of distraction from everything that’s going on at the moment.
V Where do you see yourself and your music career 5 years from now?
T I definitely want to go on a national tour. That’s always been a dream of mine. I’d hopefully have done round 3-5 albums in that time and have collaborated with as many people as I can. Oh, and hopefully I’d be working with/ signed to Roc Nation. There are a lot of labels that take advantage of independent artists and I feel like they’re a genuine brand that looks out for the interest of their artists.
V What are some of your goals musically and personally this year?
T Musically, I want to release this album and hopefully another single by the end of the year. The virus might affect the single, but I’ll see how that goes. Personally, I want to work on my time management and generally not putting energy into anything that will not benefit my career or me personally.
V and VMAN are honoring charities that have only amplified their mission statements to ensure that those most affected by COVID-19 are supported. For those in the position to, we have included links in which you can lend a helping hand. Check out some more charities to donate to, below.
Boys and Girls Club of America: Click here to help keep kids in a safe environment that allows for learning, playing and growing during the coronavirus.
CDC Foundation: Click here to help the CDC be prepared to strengthen security needs and immediate COVID-19 responses.
Ronald McDonald House Charities: Continue supporting families who have children with serious illnesses. You can donate here.
First Book: Click here to ensure kids are engaged in learning by providing with e-books and books to enjoy while out of school.
Meals on Wheels: Click here to lend a virtual hand and assist vulnerable seniors who are at higher risk of catching the infectious virus.
National Domestic Violence Hotline: With people confined to their homes, victims are more susceptible to domestic abuse. Click here for different ways to offer support during these times.