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INDIE / ROCK Issue 58 / 2013 IEW V R TE N I 31 7 noisettes Guestlist caught up with Shingai Shoniwa, bassist and singer from British, indie, double act The Noisettes. We talk chance meetings, staying true to yourself and following your dreams. Oshi Okomilo | Tell us about the show you did at Café Royal, Regent Street. It was an event supporting young female entrepreneurs around the world. I sang a song on my own with just my guitar so I was slightly nervous, but the audience were really receptive and they were mainly really glamorous looking women from different walks of life. I think it went well! What started you off in music? I've always gravitated towards bass lines; I love the texture and the warm feeling you get from them. I grew up listening to a lot of African music: a lot of reggae and dub. Recently, people have tried to take that culture and make it pop, but it has lost a lot of those buxom bass sounds – it's lost the booty of the bass! You've got quite a musical family, haven't you? My uncle was a drummer and there are saxophone players on my mum's side of the family as well as guitarists, a bassist and mbira players. That's the thumb piano from Zimbabwe. So sooner or later it was going to come and get me. I've heard that when you started out it wasn't easy. Tell us about the tiny van you travelled around in. The first time we started doing regional gigs, Danny, who's my buddy and my music partner in Noisettes, used to travel around with me in a hired sprinter van, which is what builders use, but whenever my foot would touch the stage, none of that would matter. I was focused; I knew that it wouldn't matter what sacrifices I had to make at the time. Some of us give up our dreams because the early days are too hard, but I look back at those times now Universal, who wanted something fresh and new, and we got flown over to do an incredible gig on Sunset Strip. After that it was like a scene from Hollywood. Is it easier for you now to stand out from the crowd? No, actually, I think when you have had a certain amount of success you can put yourself under more pressure because you don't want house tune! I think music is like a diet. You ought to eat more than one thing, and make more than one thing for people. Being open to jazz, hip hop, soul and reggae and having respect for all the beautiful music in the world means you can invite everyone around the world to respect what you do. What is left for you accomplish at this point? to " When you have had a certain amount of success you can put yourself under more pressure because you don't want to achieve any less than you have already " and I laugh. I'm just really glad I had supportive family and friends. So when things got hard I never felt sorry for myself, I just thought 'this is all valuable experience'. When did you feel that the world had started to take notice of you? I think our live performances have played a key role in making our records stay and grow with people. We try to put a lot of that energy into the studio and we had a lot of support from our formative initial managers. One day we met a girl called Lena through our drummer at the time, and she took some beautiful photos of us at a carousel in Brighton. The photos were seen accidentally by to achieve any less than you have already. You've just got to tell yourself that your best for today has got to be your best for today. You can't repeat the successes of yesterday, but you can renew, you can upgrade and evolve. We managed to catch the crest of this amazing wave and from that I didn't mould myself to fit the pop expected from a young black woman, I instead took what was quirky about me and made it into a commercial item. We are all a massive crazy story but you can put it in a tale. Sometimes you have to trust people like producers and picture editors to help you do the right thing, but it'll still be you. You're very varied in your sound, having sung Hey Hey, a I definitely need to further explore the possibilities of the theatrical side of what I do. I know Mary J. Blige said no more drama, but I think there's still some drama to see from me in songs and music videos and performances. They're a really good way to express yourself. I still always feel like I'm only using one part of me. I want to be a 360˚ artist and performer who can maybe make short films and incorporate spoken word on stage. There's a lot more to see from me yet. I'm gearing closer and closer towards some amazing adventures in Afro-Pop. Africa is an amazing inspiration to most of the world for a lot of ancient and cultural reasons. I think I'm going to make that more visible and audible in what I do. So you're flying the flag for London and Zimbabwe? I have my own worldwide flag. You shouldn't need a visa to get from jazz to hip-hop. Art is for everyone. I do it because I love the idea that art brings down boundaries about race, culture, gender and politics. So in that way my art is always going to be international. Have you always had the support of your family with you? Yes, family is the spine and although I don't get to see them as much as I'd like to, they're always with me in spirit. We're quite intense, close and very loving and passionate. I might just get to see them once or twice a month but we know how to make those moments last ages. I'm sure you have a packed year ahead of you. Are you going to Coachella this year? Fingers and toes crossed! I'll be there with a massive sunhat, hopefully. My baby at the moment is HIFA, the Harare International Festival of the Arts in Zimbabwe. It's one of the biggest sub-Saharan festivals in Africa. They have a week of film, theatre and music from all around the world. On New Year's Day this year I did a bungee jump off one of the seven wonders of the world; Victoria Falls, which is also in Zimbabwe. That's going to be difficult to top. I just wanted to inspire people to think that anything is possible. Follow @noisettes

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