Akua Kamau

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1. How did you get your initial start in music?

I was introduced to the arts from very early in my childhood when I was taught to do antimocassin by a friend who had learned it at her school in her Arts and Crafts class. Music was a very important subject in high school and my interested was further stimulated when at the age of 15yrs I was given my first guitar by my mom. As it so happened there was an Englishman who conducted free guitar lessons after school for the students. This was a very exciting time for me. However after leaving high school I more or less put music aside and pursued academic studies leading up to a Bachelor of Science from  Jamaican university and later an MBA from University of Wales/Manchester Business School in Financial Management. During the next thirty or so years I was never very far from the arts or music although I wasn’t actually playing the guitar. For a while I wrote poetry and sang (am not much of a singer). However during 2009 I was speaking with a high school friend and we were reminiscing about high school life and I stated that I am sorry that I did not continue with the guitar and we were also speaking about an upcoming annual past student reunion and I said it would be such a great thing if there was a past student band who would play at the function and he volunteered to play if we could get a past student band together and I said that there would be no way that they would be onstage having fun while I had to sat in the audience. He and his younger brother and quite a few other past students from our cohort are professional musicians and quite coincidentally I had played in our high school band with a few of them, on and off for a while back then. With my passion for music rekindled, I went to a music store the very next day and purchased two acoustic guitars (one for myself and the other for my teen-aged son) and started private lesson with a guitar instructor. I found that some of the chords were still very fresh in my mind, however finger conditioning and finger independence were very challenging and it took a while to get that back. To cut a long story short, I enrolled at Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts and continued my training during which time my playing improved and my passion for the guitar began to become a bit of an obsession. At the end of my work contract (end of January 2013) I decided that it was time to return to the guitar this time on a full-time basis and as we say, the rest is now history.

2. What would be your ultimate aim in the industry?

My ultimate aim is to continue inspiring people with my music and in doing so make even a modest living from it..

3. How long have you been writing your own music?

I have been writing poetry since the late 1980’s even though I am unable to say where the bulk of such material is, today. In terms of actually writing music, it started in earnest during 2011 at which time I started to experiment with sounds and chord progressions.

4. Who are your top three influences and why?

Although I am essentially a rhythm guitarist at heart, Jimi Hendrix is my most revered influence and I think that you will find that to be the case for most if not all musicians, especially those who like me, were children or teen-agers on the 1960’s and 1970’s. Next would be a great friend of mine and blues musician, Mr Jimy Graham who himself is right up there in the rarefied air of ‘guitar-gods’. Jimi plays a lot like Hendrix and he knew Hendrix personally so it is easy to see why he would pattern himself off of Hendrix. We are very good friends and I like how he plays even though it is fair to say that we are not in the same league as players. My next significant influence would be my friend and current guitar mentor at Avant Academy of Music, Mr Steve Golding who played with Peter Tosh, Bob Marley and who also gave guitar lessons to Ziggy Marley. This guy is a genius and as a rhythm guitarist he is phenomenal. 

5. Is there anything you would like people to know about your current release?

My music is both aural and cerebral. When one listens to it, one hears music, however when one listens deeply one stands a much better chance of getting the message. I currently only make instrumental music but am working on a spoken word project for release on my next EP. All my music is influenced by meditation and a connection with our Ancestors. In total there are seven songs on this EP entitled My Island Darling as follows:

  1. Cries of the Ancestors
  2. My Island Darling
  3. Nakupenda (Studio Version)
  4. The Medicine Man (Rain Chant)
  5. What Am I To Do
  6. AJ Blues
  7. Blades Of Grass

The My Island Darling EP is a culmination of thoughts and emotions which have been with me since I became conscious of myself. The song called Cries Of The Ancestors is based on life as it existed for us Negroes during the period of the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade and on the various plantations. The guitars wails, gurgles and splashes as it simulates the cries of our Ancestors as they toiled under the harsh conditions of the day. This particular song is lovingly dedicated with full Ancestral Reverence to our dear departed Ancestors. The dedication goes back in my entire lineage through the period of the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade to the dawn on mankind. The title track is a love song with an Afro-Caribbean rhythm which also feature the sounds of waves and seagulls and a very nice ‘island feel’. The next song is called Nakupenda (Studio Version). Nakupenda is a Swahili word meaning I love you so yes, this is also a love song. This song features a number of regular and unusual ethnic percussive instruments inclusive of the Aboriginal didgeridoo which is said to be over two thousand years old. The Medicine Man (Rain Chant) is probably the most unusual song on the entire EP. Very mysterious indeed and is set in an environment that is very rich is flora and fauna where a medicine man is chanting for rain. The fact is, in ALL indigenous ethnic societies the medicine man/woman sits at its centre. This is the individual who is the pathway between the physical and spiritual worlds and they ward off bad spirits, welcome good spirits  and provides healing for the community that they serve. This song attempts to capture and reproduce the healing energies that are associated with the traditional medicine man/woman chanting for rain. The song What Am I To Do is a very light medium tempo song that is intended to create a relaxing almost euphoric mood. AJ Blues is a song that is also intended to create a relaxing atmosphere and to celebrate life and well being. Blades Of Grass is intended to take us back to the plains of Africa at the time when it is full of life with the animals are birthing, the grass is lush and the plains are light and water is readily available for all animals.

6. Where are you based and what’s your local scene like? Any favourite venues?

I am currently based in Jamaica W.I. Since commencing on this musical journey most of my time has been in the studio however I have managed to make a few appearances and my favourite venue has been at the Cannon Ball Cafe. A very small, very homely environment.

7. Who else can you recommend from your local scene for people to have a listen to?

In Jamaica today, dance-hall is king however reggae is making somewhat of a comeback. There are a number of very proficient very professional musicians in Jamaica however there are not many who create the kind of music that I do.  As a musician who specializes in Ethnic Afro-Caribbean influenced music it is very difficult for me to say who else persons should listen to.

8. Give our readers a round up of where they can find you online and hear more of your music.

Everything about me and my music can be found at www.akuakamaumusic.com and I suggest that a visit The Back Room as that is where I tend to share my personal thoughts. It is also a very good idea to read the liner notes for each song.

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