Naomi Wamboe is a first generation Kenyan-American singer and song writer, raised in Seattle, Washington in the U.S.A. She just released her latest song “Addicted” (nyama choma) and I was able to catch up with her while she was in Seattle. I must confess, that I was nervous, I did not know how the interview was going to go. I honestly was not even sure that she would grant me this interview! However, right of the bat, she was very welcoming, and she turned out to be a fun person to interview.
THE STORY BEHIND NAOMI’S NEW SONG “ADDICTED” (NYAMA CHOMA):
So I asked Naomi on what her creative process was, and how she came up with a song, say like her latest song, ‘Addicted.’ It turns out that Naomi and her producer, Big Soul were just hanging out in the studio, brainstorming ideas here and there, trying to create a beat, and lyrics to the beat. Big Soul finally came up with a beat that Naomi loved, a beat she found to be “new, fresh and different.” With the beat done, came the hard part of deciding on the lyrics, or a theme for their song. They found themselves with a beat they loved, but no lyrics, no story, no words to match the beats. A back and forth discussion between her and Big Soul bounced different ideas. Their dilemma was, should they create a dance party kind of song? Naomi did not like the idea, as she felt that the ‘dance party’ theme was being done by almost everybody. So they continued with their search and at the time, Naomi was eating nyama choma, and it hit her! Why not write a song for her love for nyama choma, and use it as a metaphor for a boyfriend?
Naomi confessed to me, that she is really addicted to nyama choma! She seemed to be eating nyama choma almost every day during her recent visit to Kenya. It got so bad, she even had her mum worried about the quantities of nyama choma she was consuming.
WHAT INSPIRES NAOMI’S CREATIVE PROCESS
According to Naomi, her music is generally influenced by what is happening within her world, and also around the world. She gave me an example her song Niaje, which she did with Owuor Arunga (world renown Jazz trumpeter. Popularly known for his work with Macklemore), which was influenced by the sad events of attacks on Nairobi Westgate Mall by Al Shabaab terrorists. Those heart breaking events led her to writing the song Niaje, which she used to reflect the pain and suffering being endured by people world over. Other personal experiences do also influence her lyrics, love hate relationships influenced her song ‘Sorry I am taken’.
BALANCING HER BUBBLY PERSONALITY vs STRONG PERSONALITY
Naomi strikes me as a lady who, from the onset, has a bubbly personality. Ever smiling, ever laughing. A personality many associate with being easy to take advantage of, or easy to walk over, or a personality where she is constantly trying to accommodate other people. However, on closer observation, she comes with, this is me, this is who I am, take me as I am for I will not change for you. A strong personality. A confident personality.So how does she balance the two contradicting personalities?
“I am only human, there is only so much bubbliness I can take.” She says.
Like any other human, there are good days and bad days. There are days when she gets mad. “I get mad, maybe at drivers, may be say something I should not have.” What you will not hear is her crying about something, or constantly complaining about something. Some of what she is going through, you might hear through her music and lyrics.
“Music is a way to express your self. And I feel like that is how I express those feelings”
Her strong personality bodes very well with her career in music. There times when it can be discouraging, like for example, when one is performing, may not be getting a good response from the audience. During those times, one needs to be strong to make it in the entertainment industry.
“People will get discouraged as being the entertainer on stage, because they are like, Oh well, they are not giving me the right response.”
NAOMI ON HER MOVE FROM U.S.A TO KENYA
Most of Naomi’s videos have been done in Kenya, and actually most of her music is done in Kenya. So naturally I asked her if she was mulling a decision to move back to Kenya.
“I am! Actually, I am making that transition slowly, but surely I will be moving back to Kenya. But I will off course come to visit America!”
According to Naomi, ever since she started doing a lot more of her creative work in Kenya, the diaspora in the U.S seems to give her a much better response, and she is even getting greater recognition. However, she is still more famously known for being the lady in Jaguar’s video “kipepeo”, and while she appreciates that, she would love to be known for her own music. Something she is working really hard on.
ADVICE TO UPCOMING DIASPORA ARTISTS
Her major advice is, be ready to invest in quality production. While one does not have to have the most expensive video, they should not make poor quality stuff and hope that it will catch on. They should have a set budget, that they can work on to come up with good enough production.
She also advised, that the artist should always keep it going and not give up.
“Keep it going, it is discouraging sometimes, and you get down, and you feel like never mind I just want to quit this whole thing. No! Keep going. If you love what you are doing, if you are confident in what you do, just keep pushing.”
To be successful at anything, takes time, “patience and dedication.”
Naomi went on to recall the many times when she has almost gave up, and almost went ahead to look for a decent job. You see, her pursuit of music has meant that she is never at the same spot for too long, and that can be frustrating. She would be in Kenya and launch a song or a video and hype it up, but has had to leave Kenya, come back to the U.S, and so the song’s momentum grows and then it dies. Her move to Kenya will mean that, she is able to follow through, grow and market her songs in Kenya, without having to juggle being in two places.
HER RESPONSE TO A NEGATIVE FAN REACTION
While browsing through her YouTube channel, I found a harsh comment left by someone on her music channel. While the nature of music business was is such that not everyone will be pleased with your creative efforts, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion, some people can be harsh with their words and it takes a special kind of person not to respond to those words. Here are some words left on her channel by a fan, followed by Naomi’s response to that.
So I asked her, how does one maintain their cool when someone rubbishes their creative work like that person did.
“Sometimes you just have to read the comment, wait a day or two, or just a couple of hours, and then respond”
Naomi went on to note that, as an artist, one has to be open to constructive criticism, but also be ready to face harsh criticism. However, the artist should not immediately respond to a negative comment or criticism, because you might say some things that will damage your brand as an artist, and sometimes that response might actually look ignorant and out of character. So it is important, as an artist, to step back, take your time, and then respond.
IS NAOMI WAMBOE DATING?
I wanted to end the interview on a lighter note. So I asked her if she was dating, you know, just so the gentlemen can know whats up? She was in a serious relationship, like a year or two ago, that eventually did not work. Her take is, being in the entertainment industry, its really hard when you are dating someone with regular steady job. She also does not date artists, because she has been around them too long, she knows their game, and she is not playing that game!
“I am really just focusing on my music right now, that’s who I am dating! It’s my music”
So gentlemen, there you go!