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With powerful vocals, moving lyrics and a penchant for bluesy instrumentals, Amahla has arrived to revive the spirit of soul.
Amahla’s first single ‘Old Soul’ sets out her stall as a classical soul singer-songwriter. The song features a powerful, emotive vocal performance backed by a melancholic, bluesy instrumental with flashes of gorgeous, reverbed background organs and guitars adding some extra flavour to the track. It's one hell of a debut single, and truly a much-needed sound in the UK scene.
Amahla credits some of that sound to her upbringing: “I’m Guyanese and since I was a child my house was always filled with music: a combination of American R&B, soul and reggae. Since then I’ve always had an appreciation for classic sounds, music that stands the test of time. Soul for me is just as much a category as a genre, it’s a way of telling a story with conviction.”
Like many lucky enough to be born in London and have that experience, the beauty of diversity stands out as artistic inspiration for Amahla in her home of Hackney. “More than anything it’s the diversity of people and experience in Hackney that has impacted me. Secondary school was a really pivotal point for me, it’s when the benefits of race, colour and class became really clear and was when I started to question what was happening around me and in the world.”
Moving on from secondary school, Amahla attended University College London, which proved to be a significant moment in time for the talented artist. “I graduated with a BSc in Anthropology from UCL - I wrote my final thesis about the impact technology (particularly camera phones) have in recreating an archive of violence against the black body."
first year modules, the students in the years below really took the reins and have done some amazing work advancing this since then. Doing those two projects simultaneously really helped me realise what kind of impact I wanted to leave in the spaces I’m fortunate enough to take up.”
It is with that spirit of trying to make an impact where she can that has led to Amahla turning to the arts, and specifically music. Balancing university assignments and the fun of being a student with creating music and trying to grow as a musician is a tough ask. Amahla’s advice; “Integrating yourself in the music scene outside of your uni (especially if you’re in a city), that’s where you’ll find your collaborators and peers, rise together.”
Coming out of the uni bubble, it was clear to Amahla that she wanted to turn her passion for independently creating music into her career, an aspiration fuelled and funded by winning grants. “Being granted funding from PRS and MOBO X Help Musicians helped me realise how much support there is for independent artists. If anything, it was writing the applications that helped the most. You have to submit a kind of shortened business plan and that process itself helps clarify how to turn your passion into a business - I’d encourage everyone to apply!”
Having so far released just two official singles, 'Old Soul' and the conceptually beautiful 'Dorothy's Verses', Amahla is set to release her debut EP Consider This. Normally newer artists drop a bunch of singles to see what sticks before going into a body of work, so that they know what their audience wants to hear and can tailor projects to that sound. However, Amahla doesn't see her slightly different approach as being a risk at all.
“For me, it makes sense for the genres I operate within. I’ve been writing songs and performing live for years but I waited until after university to put my songs out on streaming platforms. Live is where I really shine, and I want to give my fans a project that they can experience as a unit. Something that has a narrative and themes running through it. I’ll be releasing lots of music this year, so this is just the beginning!”
Knowing what you want to achieve with your albums, in terms of the themes you want to get across, the sound you want to introduce yourself to the world with and the messaging you want to stick to is key for young artists, and it is comforting to see that 21-year-old Amahla has considered all of this for her debut; “I want my music to stand the test of time, be a snapshot of now but equally poignant for the future. For 'Consider This' I want people to look back at it and be able to understand what was going on in the world in 2019.”
Expect poetic lyricism, fiery and empowering vocal performances and lots of diversity in sound on Amahla's debut EP, which comes out on the 20th February.
Image Credit: Paula Abu, Narcography
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