Understanding people through a musical lens

Shefali Saxena Monday 05th September 2022 10:54 EDT

Plumm is a genre-bending, stage-strutting chameleon; dining with both light and shadow. After playing at BBC Maida Vale Studios with Moses Boyd for BBC 1Xtra, championed by BBC Introducing London, and playing with Taylor McFerrin at Oslo in Hackney; Plumm recently performed 2 sold out shows at The Jazz Cafe doing Massive Attack s Blue Lines. This year she features on the theme tune for the new hit TV show Ragdoll on Alibi with Moses Boyd Live, Plumms shows have created a buzz within the ever-growing London jazz scene with her varying arrangements; a full force Rock, Soul Jazz band, a one-woman vocal pedal show and part of larger collectives such as LevitationOrchestra.Plumm is also a SOAS alumnus with a degree in Ethnomusicology and a specialism in North Indian Classical music. Plumm is currently a Future Bubbler under Gilles Peterson. Her new EP, Chameleonic, out May 2022, begins the new take over in Plumm's versatile yet focused career as a songwriter, artist and creative.


Here’s Plumm’s exclusive chat with Asian Voice. 


Tell us about your background, family and roots.


My background has always been musical. I’ve been playing, studying and writing music since I can remember. Growing up in London I was always surrounded by various styles and musical genres that influenced my sound as I grow. My family are all from South Wales which has been a big influence as the song of the land is so rich and intertwined with magic, stories and history which I hope to be taking through into my music. 



What is ethnomusicology?


Ethnomusicology; I would describe it as studying and understanding people through a musical lens from a non-western perspective. The course changed my life I learned so much about how music represents us as people just like the food that we eat and the languages we use. Music is a language. I chose this course because I wanted to study academia after studying music at the BRIT School which honed my path to becoming an artist. I had an ethnomusicology teacher at BRIT who introduced me to the world of Indian Classical music and from there I was obsessed. I then found a course at SOAS in London and began my training. It’s quite an anthropological course that understands music and how we make, distribute and consume based on where we are in the world. I then honed in as I kept studying and specialised more and more in Indian Classical and predominately North Indian Classical music. 


What intrigued you about North Indian classical music? Which Indian languages come under this art form?


For me, one of the strongest draws is that music is way more than an art form but a way of life. Composing and performing based on time of day, weather conditions, mood, location - all these are so intertwined with the learning of the music that it’s very beautiful. I started learning Tabla under Sanju Sahai who inspired me to keep it up and I am still learning now under Alok Verna. As a singer and a drummer - The tabla is the perfect instrument as it’s practically a singing drum. Learning the language of Tabla blew my mind I love it. So onomatopoeic and rhythmic. I use a lot of tabla language in my Jazz scatting style as well as I tend to use my voice as an instrument building the language of tabla has enforced just more creativity in my improvising and my playing. I also learned Khayal with Mehboobji Nadeem which has enabled my vocal abilities to thrive. Especially ornamentation of the voice, the use of microtones, changing tone, the various Raag patterns and so forth.  I feel so blessed to be able to have but a mere insight into these musical practices. I will forever be a student in this world and try to learn as much as I can and how I can intertwine it into my music. I’m not trying to be a master in this field but a student and how I can build the bridge between the east and west in my musical vision. 


What inspires you to write your music in the present times when there’s a lot of unrest, fear and ambiguity in the world? How do you focus?


I focus on what my mood is at that exact moment. My main inspirations are when I’m feeling something. There is a lot to be unsettled pressure at the moment and sometimes when I am composing or recording I have to let it out, I have to face what I am feeling head-on to create something true and meaningful. We are multi-dimensional beings and to create music that speaks to all of that is extremely nourishing and means one can make authentic music which then indeed creates focus. 


I let my mood write my music, I try and be as porous as possible. 

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