I am not Gaga! It’s me, Jamala!

For someone who has lived in Ukraine, and followed her music since 2009, meeting Jamala (real name, Susana Jamaladynova) in London was exciting. With the London Olympics and city attractions serving as backdrop to our interview, Jamala, with her signature smile, talked about her excitement about performing in London, one of her favourite cities.

– Six months ago I made a wish to come back to London, not as a tourist, but as a singer. So I got very excited when I found out I would perform within the cultural programme of the Olympic games at the Bosco Club, host of the Russian Olympic team. To sing in London is a big honour for me. It’s home to many great music styles which inspire my own writing and music.

Jamala stands out in Eastern Europe, famous for its cheap ‘euro trash’ pop, not only because of her unique voice with its four octave range, but also performing songs, in English, that are a fusion of jazz, soul, world music, gospel and blues. Born into a family of professional musicians, it is her upbringing Jamala thanks for a profound love of classical music, diverse musical taste, and a strong foundation that supports and inspires her music today.

– I was destined to be a singer. At 8 I already told my mother, “I don’t know what else to do when I grow up, I can only sing!” I was surrounded by great music 24/7, be it Ella Fitzgerald, Betty Carter, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky or Bach. My parents guided me as my music tastes developed, which was critical at that age.

Not many know that Jamala was originally trained as opera singer, and was preparing to take Italy’s La Scala by storm; but fate decided otherwise. As someone used to participating in (and winning!) many singing contests in Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) since early childhood, in 2009 she entered an international contest for young pop singers, ‘New Wave’ in Jūrmala, Latvia. Participants from 15 countries competed on the stage that served as a launch pad for many contemporary Eastern European singers. But Jamala is hardly a pop singer, so tensions with contest organisers were perhaps inevitable.

Read the rest of the interview in the AGI October issue.

By Svetlana Ancker


[youtube height=”300″ width=”500″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xvYrAm4SVxM[/youtube]

[youtube height=”300″ width=”500″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=87ABjmKcxhg[/youtube]

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