Interview: Kuenta i Tambu Give The Lowdown Ahead of Roundhouse Rising

On March 17th, North London’s Roundhouse will be home to Roundhouse Rising – a four day music festival event aiming to celebrate the best new music and upcoming artists with not only shows from the likes of The Magic Gang, Black Honey, INHEAVEN and Hannah Lou Clark, but also various workshops and music industry panel discussions.

We chatted to Kuenta i Tambu, who are playing alongside Auclair, Roundhouse Choir, and Nouria Bah on Sunday 20th March:

How did the idea for Kuenta i Tambu first come about? And how did you decide on the name? 

It all started with percussion workshops for little kids in the Netherlands. Somewhere around 2005 I started working with a storyteller, who over the years became one of my best friends. The whole idea was to do storytelling backed up by the Tambu drums and other percussion. 

After a while he decided to give me my own program where I got to do some shows at schools, teaching children about the Music of Curacao. We started off with 3 percussionists and one singer. In 2009 we decided to shape it up, and started working on original repertoire and give it a name: Kuenta i Tambu, meaning stories and drums. Tambu is one of the most traditional music styles we have in Curacao. Tambu is also the name of the drums we use, the dance and the whole movement.

The music was all acoustic with just vocals and percussion, yet modern in its own way. We did quite a few shows. Around 2011 we started looking for the next challenge and started adding loops and samples to the whole sound. Fast forward to now, we borrow sounds from dub step, trap, moombahton EDM and anything else we can get our hands on.  

Has it been a long process to get to where you are now? 

It’s been a very long but interesting process with a steep learning curve so far and we’re still exploring and dreaming cause we’re not even close to where we want to be!

Your new song ‘Don’t Wanna Behave’ came out today! How did you find the writing and recording process of the song?  

It was amazing and scary at the same time.The whole thing was an initiative by Red Bull who hooked us up with the great Dutch Surinamese rapper Typhoon for a new TV series called “Live at Red Bull Studios.” We had one day to put a song together and record it, which was kinda scary. Normally we take a bit longer since we work on different songs at the same time, but this time it was different. We had the great rapper Typhoon in the house, our amazing producer and friend Clifford Goilo (AKA Santa Rosa), with whom we developed the whole Tambutronic sound and movement a couple of years a go. The  amazingly talented songwriter Jahlise Romy also joined us on this one. I didn’t have that much fun in a long long time. There was a video crew the whole time there,  but thank god they were very very supportive in this whole journey.

The result of the TV show was a success and also everyone agreed on releasing the song since it was so special to all of us so here it is yeah!

Do you think that ‘Don’t Wanna Behave’ is different from what you’ve released before in any way?  

What and who influences your music?  It’s definitely different. Normally we work on a song with 2 or 3 people, but for this special occasion there were many beautiful souls put together, each with their own thing. This track has the raw tambutronic sound, the Dutch rap  with a pop/EDM approach to it. The Carnival drums are much more present than ever. 

What music did you listen to when you were younger? 

Growing up in Curacao or Aruba has a lot of benefits,  because of its geographic location. When it comes to music,  there were so many different styles to listen to. Afro Curacaoan music, Venezuelan traditionals. Heavy Metal has a special place in my heart.  Juan Luis Guerra has always been a big influence, but before everything: the Cuaracao tambu.

How do you find UK crowds compare to that of other countries? 

They go wild, even if it’s an early gig or we opening up. It doesn’t matter. They going for it! Same as in the Netherlands and France. Most people don’t know what to expect so it always ends up being an interesting surprise. The drums always make people dance. It’s the magic of the drums!

Who would you like to work with in the future? 

It’s a looonnng list, but let’s start with our top 5: M.I.A,  Kes The Band, Machel Montano, Toddla T, Elliphant.  These are all artists that are very influential to us, or who make music that we can really relate to.

What music are you listening to at the moment? 

Caribbean soca music, The Carnaval vibe happens to last a little longer with us in general. Currently we’re also on tour in the Caribbean so it’s every day all day Caribbean music. What else can you dream of? Think of Bunji Garlin, Machel Montano, Skinny Banton.

Do you have any plans to release another full length album?

Most Definitely. Right now we have a couple of releases lined up. The album is due by the end of this year.

Olive Richardson

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