Talking to Tamara Dey - Tamara Dey on the first lady, and the boys

2008-11-29 14:40

M-WEB: Were you ever frustrated at the "white girl goes kwaito" stereotype?
TAMARA: Firstly I never really intended to break into the black market. It literally happened by accident. I was in the right place at the right time and the next thing I knew I was in the middle of the kwaito market. It wasn't like - 'ooh, this is black market.' I wasn't at that point yet where I could see that there was 'black market', 'white market'. And then further down the line, there I am trying to prick into the white market - 'please white radio stations, play my song.' I didn't want it to be about that. But once I broke into the market, it was like 'ooh, white girl from Pretoria sings kwaito'. And we were like 'no, no, it's not about that - it's just the music, the grooves, yadda, yadda'. And I realised it was just a responsibility that came with what I was doing, you know?

M-WEB: What music did you grow up listening to?
I grew up listening to rock 'n roll. My dad exposed me to everything from Jimi Hendrix to Blood, Sweat and Tears to...Van Morrison, the Doors - that was my ultimate. Sort of later on in high school I started going to clubs and was exposed to dance music and that flipped completely. When I got out of high school I was studying classical. So I've kind of been exposed to just about everything.

M-WEB: How did you get into dance culture?
I had been in a punk rock band in high school, an alternative band. I'd done that. I was in a band called that was very kind of Moodphase 5ive-y. We had like a white guy rapping, it was very funky, with a lot of soul in the vocals - we didn't know what we were doing? I've got a live recording of one of our gigs and it's really dodgy. I knew I wanted to sing, but I didn't know where to go from there... And while I was studying I was partying, going to clubs, hanging with friends, befriending and hanging around with DJs. So eventually I started singing club stuff for fun, for my friends as part of the party. I never ever thought that it would be through that that I would get to where I wanted to go, you know?

M-WEB: Your image seems to have taken a quantum leap?
It's a big leap, it's a big leap and that's probably the most exciting thing about the album for me. The difference between the two is...I didn't think...only now looking back at the project and going 'okay, cool' can I see how much I've grown as a musician and on all other levels as well. People were calling me the girl that sings kwaito. But there was all these other influences as well and when they nominated me for awards and things, they didn't know where to put me - dance, kwaito or pop? It was like what the f**k is this? And I don't think I really knew what it was either. I was kind of finding my feet and I've found them now. The album is really diverse, there's a lot of different musical influences.

M-WEB: What's the deal with "the Boys"?
I like to keep up to date with what's happening internationally. I'm obsessed with all the music channels, MTV, VH1, Channel O, I kind of flick between the three. Producers overseas are huge, they are big - it's all about who you're working with. Pharell Williams from the Neptunes has just produced a track for the Rolling Stones! This guy has just blown up! Here you hear the song and see the artists. So I was inspired by this guy and thought 'okay, cool, let's push the producers here into the spotlight and see what happens, 'cos we don't see that. So I hand picked producers that I really wanted to work with form all styles of dance music and get them into the studio, photo shoot and put their faces on the cover and talk about them, put them into the spotlight.

M-WEB: Your cover of J. J. Cale's "Cocaine" is transformed into an uncanny dance floor anthem?
This was a first time experience for me that's why we really pushed to get the track on the album. As I said I grew up with rock music. It was so exciting for me because I'd never really experienced the creation of a song in this way. I've never had a beat in my head and gone 'ooh, ooh', rushed to the studio and just done it and it's worked. We were driving in the car with one of my producers and I had the guitar riff of Cream's "Sunshine of Love" - (she sings). It's very similar to "Cocaine". That's why people have always confused the two. Now this is exactly what happened. I thought 'imagine if we turned this into a dance track.' We finished the track and were so excited. But we'd recorded the wrong song! We'd recorded Eric Clapton's guitar line from "Sunshine of Your Love" over Cale's "Cocaine". But we left that guitar line in. And it worked.

Transcending the "white girl goes kwaito" stereotypes that threatened to pigeonhole her fledgling career, South African singer Tamara Dey ditched the cabaret soul singer image. Refashioned as a sexy vocal diva, she delivered a dazzling set of urban contemporary dance grooves where retro-disco joins hands with smooth jazzy street shuffles and mid-tempo funk soul struts invest polished house moves with an unmistakable kwaito cool. We talked to SA's "First Lady" about growing up as an alt-rock chi publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

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