Tune Yards

Can you tell us something about your musical background? How did you start making music?
I started playing Ukolele about 5 years ago, but before that I have been singing all my life – as a child in different choirs… But I was a puppeteer and I started writing music for my puppetshows and I really liked the music part better than the puppets. I bought an Ukolele and then my Mum bought me another Ukolele and that is how I started writing songs.

And what were your influences? I read you were in Africa for a while?
I guess my whole life experiences are all my influences. When I was ten my ant and uncle went to live in Kenya for a year and they were doctors, working in a hospital. And I just thought that was amazing, I really loved them a lot and so it had a real effect on me. And they would send letters about what life was like there, and then it just began, my obsession. In University I learned Kisuaheli language and started getting really obsessed with african music. And I had many other influences as well, like folk music, my parents played folk music. And then I was in Africa and studied there for six month and lived in Mombasa. And that really changed my life a lot. For better or for worse. It was really hard and I came back different. And I think a lot of my music is sort of processing that time, if that makes sense, to sort of get all the things out. And when I came back I also continued to study and listen to a lot of african music and had a radio show about it, just soaked up a lot of it.

I read somewhere that you had the feeling the music in Africa, was more real since it wasn’t produced or anything?
It’s different yeah. When people go into a studio here or in the US wherever, they want to correct all the mistakes, they want make everything perfect – take out all imperfections – there is another understanding, not just in Africa. there are studios in Africa too, but there is a difference when people just make music for each other wherever the live or are versus producing for a mass-audience. And for me making music for each other, close by, is much more personal and it hits your soul faster and it makes you feel an instantaneous joy rather then some sort of perfected studio things. We listened to Beyonce today in the car and I like Beyonce a lot. There is a lot of studio recorded music that is really wonderful and that have a different power to them. But for me folk music and making music for each other is very important.

And besides making music for yourself and others, when you are on stage, do you try to send a message of self-empowerment?
Yes, but I always shy away from saying a message, because I am confused and I don’t want to pretend that I have a message for other people.

But the song ‘do you wanna live’ that you played on stage today, that was really strong.
Well yes, I’m asking myself as much as I’m asking other people and that is important to me that I’m not telling anything. I don’t want to preach to people, because I’m just as confused, and asking myself the same things. And I also make the music that I’d want to hear and you know, it’s difficult to me to go on tour for several month do shows every night and I’m really tired and a lot of times I have to ask myself if I want to live and if I want to be experiencing these things strongly. So yes, especially for women I do think that it is important to say you are empowered, you can do all the stuff yourself, so for sure that is in there. But I try not to say that as a sermon, but saying it more by my actions. If I’m doing it, that I’m saying too.

You organized your tour all by yourself, you recorded the album all by yourself, maybe you can tell us a little bit how that was?
The album took two and a half years, from the first time I started recording and I learned a lot as I went along and I didn’t think somebody would actually… it sounded really garbagy so I didn’t think anybody would want to listen to it, but then again I knew that I wanted to hear it and it was something that I wanted to do. And so on tour as well, all of tune yards, has been an experience of pushing myself to see how much I could do and to say I don’t have to wait for someone to tell me that I am a musician. If I do it, and I do it myself, then I own everything. It’s now been about four years of performing and doing songs and it’s quite amazing to see, people are showing up to your shows and it’s totally crazy to be here.

You are coming back in August?
Yes, I’ll be back in mid August. We are doing a festival in Poland, the Off Festival and than we will come here.

Maybe you can introduce one song and tell the story that is behind it?

Hatari, has some Suaheli words in it ‘minimin sheesy komman disi’ (no idea about the correct spelling) means I’m crazy like a banana. And it’s a song that has a sort of yodely vocal that.. I thought that I had injured my voice and that I couldn’t thing a scale straight up, so.. I felt a break in my voice and I started experimenting with going above and below it and then a friend of mine said, that that sounded a lot like pygmy music from central africa, so I started listening to pygmy music and being inspired by this sort of different vocals. So that’s where it comes from. And a lot of imagery is from my time in Kenya.

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