“Home is where you’re free and feel the most loved” – Sampa The Great at Splendour In The Grass
Whilst we were galavanting around Splendour In The Grass we also did some damn work! We were lucky enough to interview some of the best emerging artists from the 2016 bill – starting with incredibly talented and insanely charming, SAMPA THE GREAT.
Sampa has gone from strength to strength to strength in 2016, with her Splendour appearance almost seeming to be a signifier of her the future she has in front of her.
We sent Julia to catch up with her post set to ask the hard hitting questions. Such as: what inspires her, when her first kiss was, and where she truly feels at home. Julia would also personally like to thank Sampa for “making me feel at ease for my first ever interview”. Take a read below:
Julia Insolia: Who is your favourite up and coming artist?
Sampa The Great: There’s a guy in Sydney, his name is Miles Glyphers, I really like his music. He’s very Chance The Rapper kind of, like he’s not strict hip hop, he’s experimental hip hop and that’s really good. Who else?… There’s this girl duo called OSHUN, I really love their music. There’s probably a lot I just can’t think of them.
Do you have music on your phone?
I don’t it’s all on my laptop.
I was going to say put your music on shuffle and let’s see the first three songs.
Let’s see what I’ve got on Spotify… Oh no it’s my new song so I can’t play it. Let’s see, Chance The Rapper, what else…
What’s your favourite Chance song?
Oh man, there’s one he did it’s not actually his song it’s a remake of Arthur A Wonderful World. There’s this one part he does… “and when I go down imma go down swinging”, that’s beautiful the way he did that. But mostly I’ve been listening to this female vocalist, her name is Ari Lennox, she’s incredible. Like I can’t even pretend to sing with her so I just let her do what she does.
What have you got on for the rest of the year?
We’ve got two more DJ sets, and we may or may not have something to be dropped in November. We may or may not haha, but that’s how the rest of our year is looking, it’s busy, but good busy.
How did you end up remixing for Hiatus Kaiyote?
So Hiatus Kaiyote‘s manager called Dave, and was like “So do you want to remix for Hiatus Kaiyote?” and that was it, he remixed it but he didn’t send them to me. [Dave] said “come to my house”, so I was like “okay” and he said “whatever you feel record that, because I’m not going to let you write anything down”, and so I just sat down there and he pressed record and everything was literally just done there. It was crazy.
Who are your biggest influences and what inspires you?
My biggest influences, they’re not limited to music. Family, people as well, my mum my dad of course, my cousins, but in music most definitely is one that recently… He doesn’t do what he’s supposed to do. He sings, he raps, he does spoken word…
Are you talking about Chance?
(Laughs) Of course! And he’s coming soon so basically this whole interview is about Chance! But even Chance does that, and it’s beautiful to not be confined by doing just one thing because how will you grow? how will you grow musically? In life you don’t just do one thing you do many things and then you see what you’re good at and what you’re not and you work out what you’re not good at. So I really respect him as an artist for trying things that are not the norm and I am inspired to do that as well.
Yeah I can definitely see that in your music. So how were you first introduced to music?
I’m a middle child, so I’ve always felt “Ah nobody loves me!” (laughs). So one day my parents forgot me at school and I had a notebook out, I was probably nine or ten – and I was just really dramatic about it. I took a notebook and a pen out, and literally the stillness of the day… Like the teachers had left like “Okay peace, we gotta go!”, so I just started writing. I don’t know what it was I guess something enlightened me I started writing and it became a song.
When I went home I sang it to my cousin and he was like “you didn’t write that” and I was like “yeah I did I just did it” and he was like “wow”. That really made me go “oh I’ve done something extraordinary here” and so I continued writing. It started off as spoken word before it turned into music, but I always wrote for someone else so it took me a while to find my own voice.
So how did you find your voice?
By not listening to everybody else, by spending a lot of time with myself, reconnecting to what I love and what inspired me in the first place. That’s how I found my own voice.
Wow, you’ve got a strong heart. So what is home to you?
Home is where you’re absolutely free and feel the most loved, that’s home to me.
So it doesn’t matter where it is, it’s more a feeling?
It can be two. Because I was raised with a lot of family, like my aunties are my mothers. I do something bad and my aunties are even shouting at me more than my mother. And because I grew up back home in Zambia, that’s what home was to me, a community, the way it smells, the air, the way the food tastes, and that’s what’s home to me I guess. But it can be anywhere, it’s more about you feeling the most free.
I like that. So where’s your favourite place in the world?
Oh dude… I’d say my childhood house. When I went back home I visited and I felt so happy for some reason. And everything seems smaller – you were young and short, well still short, but now you’re a bit taller – and things seem smaller to you and I like that.
Do you have a pre-show ritual?
I kind of… it’s not weird… I kind of call on artists who inspire me that have passed, so like Bob Marley, for this show I felt a lot of Bob Marley vibes, Nina [Simone], I channel their energy.
What has been the best show you’ve ever performed, in terms of crowd, energy, etc?
If we’re going on crowd energy, even though right now was one of the craziest highest crowd energy I’ve ever had, I’m going to say WOMADelaide. I think just because it was really big it was a huge festival and at the time I was just like “I can’t do this!” I was really nervous and the crowd just treated me with so much love that we were exchanging really well and that was a beautiful thing.
And so what’s your worst festival experience, either as a punter or a performer?
Oh no… I’m going to have to say – and I love them – D’Angelo at Soulfest. I couldn’t hear them! I love them, sorry Soulfest, sorry D’Angelo, but I couldn’t hear him and that was my first time seeing him live.
What did you want to be when you were little?
Oh my gosh, so funny – I wanted to be a singer and a rapper. Goal one – done!
When was your first kiss?
When I was 8, probably even younger. We did like a neighbourhood marriage, so my older sister and his older sister planned our wedding, they put flowers in my hair, I didn’t have any say in it people! There was no way I could’ve put any emotion or feeling into it, but it was really cute.
What’s the best live act you’ve seen?
Um… I don’t know. Oh! It’s between Kendrick Lamar and… okay, this is not a comparison, but there was one time when I came back from home, I hadn’t performed for months and I wasn’t feeling going on stage, and I watched Remi‘s set and I almost cried. I think because I know him and I could see his soul, I could see him doing what he loves and it was beautiful and it reflected on me. I don’t know if you have those experiences, because we’re doing the same thing, it was kind of a mirror thing, but that was beautiful, so between those two.
If you could collaborate with anyone who would it be?
Oh, Lauryn Hill, definitely.
And finally, is there any unreleased music we should be looking out for?
Definitely, I’d say just stay on the socials. Ugh my instagram, it’s very impulsive, but if you stay on the socials something is bound to pop up, definitely at the end of this year.
Words by Julia Insolia