“Music is more than just a hobby or a means to gain fame. It is a lifestyle, a way to communicate with people from different ways of life”. This is something South African based singer and all-around music enthusiast, Namuya understands. Namuya’s passion and adoration for music was a major driving force in her decision to pursue a career in music as an artist and as an executive. She took a break from performing to discover and understand her sound, and now she is ready to return to the limelight, revamped and more confident.
In this interview, Namuya speaks on her past and her decision to start afresh as an artist. She also reintroduces herself to the world and talks about her future goals.
You aren’t just a talented musician, you’re also an audio engineer and a playlist curator. I’m curious to know how it all began. At what point did you decide to venture into music?
I’ve always been an artsy individual. I started dancing to help with my confidence because I was and still am very painfully shy. I may look sociable, but I’m very reserved, and I like to express myself through different methods. I always knew I would do something within the music industry. I’ve always wanted to sing and make music and move forward. I’ve been fortunate to always be at the right place, and I’m a risk-taker.
When I moved back to Johannesburg from Los Angeles, I was able to get a 3-month long internship at Universal music, which helped me fully understand the industry landscape in South Africa, afterwards, I got a job as an A&R assistant. Working at Universal was one of the reasons why I got recruited by Apple.
I’ll admit, it was hard preparing for this interview. I mean, I couldn’t find any of past your projects, and it seems like you deleted them from your profiles on SoundCloud, Spotify and Apple Music. Is there a reason for that?
I deleted my past projects because I needed to start new ones. My mum passed away five years ago, and I was very close to her. Her death perplexed me on so many levels and made me question a lot of things, and I had to do a lot of relearning.
I had this song, Falling, which I plan on re-releasing, but I made it in such an emotional state with no plan, not knowing what I know now. I released it on various streaming platforms, and it became popular. But at that moment in my life, I was in such disarray, and I wanted to start new in the way that I knew that was me. I have an upcoming project, and in it, I am more confident in myself, unapologetic and unafraid to say what I want to say. I felt like I had to start new and challenge myself, and I am a perfectionist.
I did find a feature on you written a few years ago, and in it, your sound was described as “a blend of distinct African rhythms coupled with melodies and harmonies rooted in her love for jazz and neo-soul“. Is that still so, or has your musical style evolved over the years?
Yes, it has. When I was in school, I learnt a lot about music, but I think the challenging thing with learning is trying to take the things you’ve learnt and make them something true to you, and that makes sense for you and all the things you do. I adore Jazz music, but I also love the different genres of music. So yes, it is a blend of jazz and neo-soul, but it’s not as traditional neo-soul, unlike my first song, Falling.
Who or what inspires your art?
Everything. I don’t write about my current emotional state. I write about my past feelings and how I would love to feel but never about what I feel at that moment.
As a young woman in the industry, have you ever come across people who doubted you, and if so, how do you clear their doubts?
It’s hard. People are more comfortable with you just being a singer or a pretty face. I don’t think most people are comfortable with women wearing multiple hats or leading a situation. I have met a lot of kind men who have helped me, but that’s not how everyone is, and I think some women in the industry dumb down their femininity because they feel it would be used against them, which I understand. To be honest, someone trying to hit on you while you work could belittle your ability and craft.
As to clearing their doubts, I let my work ethics and my abilities speak for themselves. I don’t try to convince anyone of anything, which is hard, but I’ve always taken the higher road, and a better opportunity has always found me, or I do the work and leave. I don’t bother, and I try to create really strict boundaries, which are important as a woman. The industry teaches you to be tough and know yourself and trust in your ability.
If not music, what other path would you have taken?
I would have been a Nigerian makeup artist. If not that, then astronomy.
What’s next for you?
I want to open a creative hub, and I want to make music. I realized that I will only ever be truly happy when I’m the one leading my ship. I guess we’ll see in a couple of years, but I want to solely be in a creative space.