Amarafleur on unique sounds, self-confidence and musical independence.
Discovering new music is undoubtedly one of the most exciting things. The search can be tiring and could often lead to nothing but wasted data and disappointment. But most of the time, this isn’t the case, and those that have come across Amarafleur will know just how satisfying the quest can be. It’s exhilarating, and streaming platforms like Soundcloud have only made the process even easier and exciting for both the listener and artist across many genres.
Joburg-based Amarafleur is slowly gaining popularity online for her smooth vocals and expressive song-writing, making her one of the very unique talents to start looking out for, if you haven’t been already. “I studied French for a little while at school and got interested in the whole language,” she explains to me as she gets comfortable in her seat across from me and I ask her about her name. “I started playing around with different words that I liked. ‘Amarafleur’ was my Twitter handle to begin with and, when I wanted to go on with my music career, I thought ‘It’s already my Twitter handle and I kind of like the ring to it,’ so I just went with it. I guess the main reason I chose not to use my real name was mainly because of the fact that I feel like ‘Thandi’ is such a generic name. It’s a very common name. You’d have to dig through all of the Thandi’s that are possibly out there making music to get to me.”
I caught up with Amarafleur, or Thandi, in the drizzly streets of Braamfontein to talk about her talent as well as the independent route that she’s been taking thus far, and will probably continue to take. Having travelled to many countries and having been exposed to a range of different people and music, she tells me that her musical influences are a combination of both the popular musicians that she admires, as well as her friends who continually dragged her into the music. “If you’re in that environment, you’re going to get pushed in, even if you’re not a musician.”
Her music carries a warm tone, so comforting that it’s easy to go through her Soundcloud in a repetitive streak without hesitation or growing tired. It’s not exclusively R&B, nor is it soul, or electronic music. It’s rather a rare kind of blend of the three, a sound slowly becoming more and more popular especially in the emerging music scenes internationally. While many would fear entering an unpopluar music sound locally, Thandi looks at it as an opportunity for her to push herself and grow more comfortable in her own abilities as a musician. “Don’t be afraid to do stuff that isn’t common, don’t afraid to step out of your comfort zone. I know it sounds really cliché, but it’s really true,” she tells me with her coffee in hand, and a kind of big sister feel as she speaks her words of wisdom. “You don’t know how much you can do until you step out of your comfort zone. It was so hard for me at the beginning with my genre but, with time, with patience, everything works out. Believe in what you’re doing. It’s taken me a little while to do that but I’m there now…”
How did you decide that you wanted to start singing?
AMARAFLEUR For a little while, I was living out of the country. I was living in New Zealand, and I was hanging out in a lot of music spaces – my friends were musicians – and I used to sing just for fun and also at school. One of my friends asked me if I wanted to get on a song that they were recording and I tried it out, and it turned out pretty good. I thought about it and thought “Okay let me actually go back to figuring out if I can still write songs,” because all of this stuff was stuff that I just did for fun. I liked writing poems and I liked writing songs, but they would never really materialize into anything because I just enjoyed it.
“I thought about it and I was like ‘Why don’t I just write some songs for me and see if I can test it out to see where this could go?’ I then recorded my first song, Bankroll$.”
How did you decide what sound you wanted to do? Your sound isn’t very common, especially here in South Africa.
AMARAFLEUR Again, it’s the influences that I had when I was in New Zealand, and also the artists that I really enjoy listening to. Sometimes, it’s just producers more than actual vocalists. For me, my whole thing is that I would like to make music that I want to listen to. I like to listen to Shlohmo or Flying Lotus or anyone like that. If I enjoy listening to that then it means that I would automatically gel with that and write easily to that. It’s been a bit frustrating because I love to try other things. There are really nice things that other people are making out there. People are making beautiful music and producing really great stuff, but if you want to have the right image, you have to just pick a genre and stick to it. Go out here and there but don’t confuse your audience too much.
What are your thoughts on the music industry in SA? Right now, there are a lot of independent artists emerging, largely due to the internet and how that’s helping a lot.
AMARAFLEUR I think what’s happening right now is quite amazing because, a couple of years ago, you had to run after a record label. You had to be head-hunted by an A&R, you had to present yourself to someone. Now, you can literally buy a mic, buy a sound card, have a laptop, software and connect with other people who make music in the blink of an eye.
“You can be a self-made musician. I think it’s great because it’s allowing people to explore their creativity a lot without feeling like they need to be judged. I was talking about this yesterday and I was saying that, although most people find music competitions great and they love the idea of being on TV, I just can’t see myself letting someone tell me that I can and cannot do something. So I think that’s what a lot of people are doing right now: they are not letting people tell them that they can or cannot do something.”
The interesting thing is you might find that you don’t like something, but you’ll find that someone somewhere else does. Even if it’s the most bubblegum shit ever, there is someone who is waiting to be in your audience. Some might say that the wave is a bit problematic because everyone wants to be something with their career and we can’t all be something, apparently. I feel like everyone has a space somewhere. My genre is really niche. As you said earlier, it’s not something that’s very common. But somewhere, somehow I have an audience.
Is being signed something that you’re opposed to?
AMARAFLEUR I’m not opposed to it, but it’s not something that I would do. There are lots of people who want that security: they want someone to definitely guarantee them that they’re going to make money, definitely guarantee them that they’re going to be able have the budget for everything that they want to do. Some people want to just write their music and let other people handle the other stuff. Then, some people want to have complete control over what they do.
“I want to know where all my money is going, I want to control my image, and I want to continue making music the way I want to make it. You can generate numbers, it’s just about strategy.”
Sometimes people don’t want to sit down and think for themselves. If you’re that kind of person, that’s okay. I’m not here to tell you that you’re lazy. But if I signed, I’d be really surprised, or it would have to have been something that I feel also fulfills my requirements. I’m not saying it will never happen.
What are your plans for 2017, and are you planning on hopefully working with any people?
AMARAFLEUR Hopefully I’ll be working with some of my old friends. I haven’t really looked into anyone locally yet, except one person who I’ve been making music with on and off, a guy named Buli. We’re working on an EP at the moment. It’s something that we’ve wanted to do for a while because we both love what the other makes, a lot. I’m doing my last year at varsity right now so that’s why I’ve been so slow. I’ve been needing to balance all of that and, sometimes, school outweighs everything else. So this year it’s just varsity and the music.