INTERVIEW WITH JAZZMIN TUTUM
How did you become an artist?
When I was 7 years old I went to see Mutabaruka perform in a small, intimate amphitheater at a cultural arts center in Kingston. I went with my mother( who is an Ikebana artist ). After the performance I went home locked myself in my room and wrote my first poem . It still feels like just yesterday to me, I remember the feeling of being fully inspired, this fullness of decisive energy which one cannot describe. It was the first time I experienced being other than my usual self and not being able to do anything but to sit down and write that poem. I titled it "Jamaica Will Change" , it was published a few weeks later in Jamaica's Daily Gleaner... So I guess in a nutshell I became an artist by being inspired by other artists...Each one teach one.
Who/what inspired you to become a musician?
Bob Marley of course , the first musician's name I ever got in my head and I must have been max 5 years old, my grandmother who always sang with a strange vibrato that made me laugh but she sang because she just loved to, my neighbour who was a classical singer who heard me sing one day and told my Mum I should do something with my wonnderful voice and Ken the jazz pianist who taught me many jazz standards with stories of the artists behind them, while I would hang out at the piano shop where he worked, he thought I had a great jazz voice ... I guess that's why I call myself Jazzmin too...
Do you feel any impact of your birthplace on your music?
I was born in Japan to a Jamaican mother and a Gabonese father, my mum said the only thing that calmed me was when violin concerts were played on television (hour long violin concerts were a regular feature on televison in Japan in those days). At 18 months I could sit still for half an hour watching these concerts. When my parents split up I moved to Jamaica with my Mum, we lived in Barbican and Sound Systems played late into the night in Barbican Square and the sound travelled up into the hills where we lived. I used to open my bedroom windows wide and fall asleep to the djs chanting and the deep bass music, I'd imagine to be down in the square partying with the people...
How does art manifest itself in your life?
Everyday. I'm always surprised and excited by the beauty and the colours I see around me. I have 2 beautiful pictures on the wall in my appartment : one of Haile Selassie riding a lion and the other of the Indian Goddess of Art, Poetry and Music, Saraswati ... Art is beauty, however one sees and feels it. My living space fits my ideas of beauty what makes me happy...a sun symbol, fresh flowers, work of artist friends in my house and music which goes on first thing in the morning. The vibe I get from a track I hear in the morning usually takes me through the day.
What does creativity mean to you?
It means letting go and being open to that "experience" Jimmi Hendrix wanted us to all plug into. The experience full of sounds and colours and words which is psychedelic in itself even without psychedelics. Creativity is that which gives me a sense of purpose and freedom to be me simply and directly in this fast paced world that tries to force us to be complex and manipulative. Creativity is freedom from any preconceptions... It is the source of how I've decided I want to be for better or for worse without compromise, and it comes into full bloom when I meet other artists who are looking and open to the same thing... In the end, for me, creatvity simply means being able to plug into that source of freedom to get the experience one needs as an artist.
Do you think female artists are treated differently to male artists?
Oh God yes! Along with talent one must also have age(perferabley young) and beauty, male artists only need talent , age and beauty are just bonuses.
It's like in life actually, women artists have more pressure, they have to prove their talent as well as be nice, as well as be beautiful, as well as fit in some conformist bodily form. Female aritsts have to stroke a lot of male egos and if they don't , they usually get placed in the dificult Diva category, some male artists will even try to cut them down as artists if they don't play by their rules. .. No two ways about it : This is a male dominated Industry, world...
Even when I was a girl I never wanted to play girl, I always knew what was woman and women, I wanted to play woman ... Marcia Griffiths once said to me the worst thing a female artist can do is to sleep with the musicians she performs with(that was a great lesson, for me anyway). It took a while, but I didn't want to be treated as a bubble head, but one must always prove ones self , I personally want to be silly before a performance thats just the way my adrenalin reveals itself... and if I feel comfortabele with whom im playing I sure as heck prove mysef to my Public!
On the other hand, at shows and events staff usually want to take care of the female artist , to make sure that she is comfortable and relaxed, and that everything is all right , I guess that being said female artists receieve a lot more loving kindness than male artists, that can help support a good performance ...
What message do you have for girls and women who are trying to find the courage to make music?
Be yourself because that is the truth you have to fall back on if nothing else works out. Nothing comes easy, and if it does you are super lucky or you don't realise the compromises you have made. Make your art your life in every way you can...Think about your words, your songs, your movements everyday, even if you don't make it into the studio or have a gig as often as you would like, see the in-beteween times as study, as growing and never stop thinking about your work. It is a life work. Perform with every musician with whom the vibe is right: who makes you feel they listen to you, that they respect you, that they support you as an artist whether you are male or female.