Interview with Tamar McLeod Sinclair
A Story by Miia Pitkänen
BARCELONA´S UNDERGROUND SCENE - TAMAR MCLEOD SINCLAIR
Who is Tamar? "Good question!" she exclaims as her laughter fills every corner of the room. She laughs often and when she does, the sound emerges from the depths of her very gut. Tamar McLeod Sinclair is a New Zealander, singer-songwriter, globetrotter, healer, feminist and a warrior. She is a curiosity in the bloodline of humanity and a living example of persistence to be who you are and do what you must, despite others opinions. Here she reveals her art and life; her jorney from otherness to unity.
"I was born in Auckland and I feel a strong connection to my Maori Ngai Tahu and Polynesian roots. From when I was very young, I had it clear that I didn´t want to live in New Zealand. I was always told my Maori roots would not be valued overseas. It was my dream to live in Barcelona and I moved here in 2011. When I arrived I hardly knew anybody and I didn´t have any money so it was kind of risky. But I thought: What the fuck! You only live once. Spanish culture has always interested me: the broken landscape of flamenco - I find it very beautiful and inspiring, a magnet. It is important to me to be part of a community and I´ve found that. Barcelona is my home now."
Tamar has a fusion jazz solo project, The Naked Sessions, her second album released. In The Naked Sessions Tamar performs Maori songs that she learnt as a child, songs from important Maori artists and her own songs which contain sacred Maori chants.
"The chants normally were not allowed to be taken out of their "sacred" context. I´m demystifying the hierarchial "sacredness" of the material. Some people don´t like that. Some years ago I received heavy criticism on my first demo and as a result I literally threw it in the rubbish. I thought I was doing something terribly wrong. Later I realised that I can´t help it; This is what comes out when I sit down at the piano and sing. I sing the songs with respect and love and I don´t think my ancestors would mind that I breath life into their songs and chants. Another thing is that women were not suppose to sing certain chants as the traditional Maori society was patriarchal and only the men had the right to sing those chants.
While she builds her life in Spain, in the meantime, people in the land of her ancestors struggle with the side-effects of the over consuming lifestyle of our modern societies. Tamar´s family has land in Fiji. It´s a green hilly island with white sandy beaches and clear turquoise water with abundant marine life, the kind of paradise perfect to snorkel. Her father is farming tropical fruits on the island. In February 2016, Cyclone Winston tore across the island, destroying homes of thousands of people and leaving the local farmers in despair. For Tamar, today´s hot potato global warming is not a question of an opinion, but a reality that you can either accept or close your eyes to.
"They don´t have food, there are no trees, no fruit, all the fish have gone from the island. They have to replant everything. It´s serious stuff! I think people who think everything is going to be alright in a hundred years are absolutely fooling themselves. It´s not sustainable what´s going on. Global warming is real, not an abstract thing. The reality now days doesn´t make me want to contribute to it as an artist. I don´t want to be another Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber. I want to go to the tribal people and sing with them."
After pondering the journey she has made until now, it´s time to look to the future – and laugh. One can´t stay and lye in the fire, you have to become the fire.
"My dream is to keep on going and growing. And get well paid gigs! Hahahaa! It´s hard work to build dreams, to be persistent! But it´s worth it. The feedback from the audience is now the opposite to what it was before for the first demo. Managing the whole production of my music myself is very demanding, so I´d like to get more support."
How about New Zealand?
"During living abroad my accent has changed. They ask me in New Zealand where I´m from and I say “New Zealand” and then they ask me “But where before that?” and I answer “From the universe”.
"Value yourself. It means believing your life is important, Now." - Tamar McLeod Sinclair.