“If my music were edible it would be something zingy and tangy, with subtle flavours of sweetness. A savory dish. Maybe something Turkish or Middle Eastern, with dates and raisins and almond flakes – lots of different flavours and colours but it all makes sense when they come together.” – Namvula
This is how Namvula Rennie describes the taste of her music. Indeed, her sound is an eclectic fusion of various urban sounds and instruments with folk vocals and undertones that represent her persona and culture. Her music is a hybrid style of varied influences that are rooted in Afro but draw on folk, rock and even jazz and meshed together by her mellow voice with lyrics that are a mix of various Zambian languages such as Lenje with English, and French.
Her music has been described as “a homecoming, a cross-pollination, a conversation between cultures and worlds, and an invitation onto a journey…” Namvula is a rare wonder. The singer-songwriter creates music that draws the audience into the interesting tales of her life and perspectives.
Born in Zambia to a Zambian mother and Scottish father, Namvula has become a citizen of the world having lived in Switzerland, Kenya, the US and London, constantly weaving these different cultures and experiences into her music.
She is driven by passion. Describing the music industry as one of the most thankless out there, Namvula reveals that and without the pure love she has in in doing what she does she would not have gotten far.
“Without the love I have for creating, performing, touring, there’s no way I would have persevered so long or pushed so hard to achieve what I have. And my networks of support; family and friends, my band mates and colleagues in the industry, my fans, have been my lifelines so many times,” she divulges.
“They have encouraged me, cheered me on, buoyed my belief during times when I feel low, reminded me I’m not alone (because we all need that sometimes!), and assured me that my creativity is valuable and valued.”
Having released her debut album “Shiwezwa” independently in 2014, after years of singing in choirs and various other projects, Namvula is ready to release her latest project this year.
“It’s been such a ride since then. The first album received an amazing response, which meant we were kept busy on the road for a couple of years, touring the UK, USA, Europe and Southern Africa. I’m now recording my second album, which is due for release later this year. It’ll be a special one…it’s all about women, one of my favourite topics!” She explains.
Namvula describes her career as having been filled with amazing highs. The launch gig of her first album was packed beyond belief.
“To feel that amount of support and love and having the album selected as one of the top 100 records of 2014 by the UK’s Sunday Times was phenomenal,” Namvula discloses, “…to be honest, sometimes the small, mundane-seeming things like receiving a hand-drawn picture from a four-year old fan mean more than the seemingly big things.”
She describes herself as her biggest opposing force.
“My biggest opposing force is myself. Always myself – my fears and insecurities, that I have had to battle and overcome (and still do!),” she details.
Despite brushing shoulders with some of the most acclaimed creatives on the continent Namvula isn’t easily swayed by their fame.
“I’m not a person to easily get star-struck, but I remember one of the first and only times was when I met the great author and playwright Wole Soyinka, just because he is such a forcefield of intellect and carries himself with such fierce authority. I think I’d also be nervous to meet Trump – just because I’d be afraid my mouth would get the better of me, and then he’d tweet-troll me,” She muses.
In order to get into her creative zone she shuts the door to the world and embraces the silence. Her second is to be a brainchild of this process and promises to be just amazing as the first.
“We’re recording the next album totally live, and we’re about to step into the studio in a couple of weeks! It’s going to be a raw, freer, more open sound than the first album. This next album is a concept album, inspired by thinking about the changes and challenges my growing niece would be facing as adulthood draws closer for her,” Namvula discloses.
She explains that it draws on her own experiences, and on stories of women and girls she has met or read about, and weaves a cycle from ancestry through childhood and adulthood, to death.
“It has influences of psychedelic rock, kalindula, Cesaria Evora, as well as Nina Simone. I’m recording in a small studio in London with the same amazing band I’ve been touring Europe with the last couple of years, and I’ll be releasing towards the end of the year, so keep an eye out!” she gushes.
Namvula explains that she starts her typical day slowly.
“I’m notorious for this,” she jokes, “Lying in bed for a good extra ten minutes after waking up, wriggling my toes and enjoying the sheer wonderfulness of being toasty warm and comfortable and still in the haze of sleepiness. And if I’m lucky my partner brings me a cup of tea!”
For the songbird unwinding important. Be it just a hot chocolate or cup of tea and curling up on the sofa for a bit, or some sort of exercise (usually yoga or swimming) or hanging out with friends and whiling the time away. “Plus,” she adds, “a rubbish show on Netflix and some buttery popcorn is also always an option!” Nature (the sea, or flowers in a field, woods) and good cooking are some of her favourite smells which pair well with her resting process.
She’s also an avid reader and shares that she’s currently reading a wonderful book on hypnobirthing (she’s expecting her first child), which is all about how your mind and body work together to help you through a calm and natural birth.
Namvula is also a foodie and reveals to Nkwazi that her guilty pleasure is pastries! “Apple, peach, strawberry, pain au chocolat, danishes, brioche…name them, I’m weak! (Any pastry chefs out there who want to send me gifts, feel free…).”
Namvula hopes to travel more in the future and this thought ties in perfectly with the superhero power that she’s yearned for since she was a kid; To be able to speak any language in the world. As for her superhero name? Well with a name like Namvula, she sees n need to change that. However, where other heroes wears capes she’d opt for a move unconventional out fit.
“A super elegant sensual dress. Maybe in velvet? With shoes I would normally never be able to afford. Just because I hardly get the chance to wear super elegant dresses, so this would be the perfect excuse!” She dreams.
Other highlights of her career include sharing the stage with artists such South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela, Maureen Lilanda, and sitar player Anoushka Shankar.