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Afro-Caribbean Singer-Songwriter NOAMZ speaks truth, culture in R&B music

todayJune 25, 2024

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Afro-Caribbean Singer-Songwriter NOAMZ speaks truth, culture in R&B music

“I really just make music that comes from the soul and I think because I’m all mixed up on so many fronts, it’s like an amalgam of everything,” says 26 year-old singer-songwriter, flutist and producer NOAMZ. 

There’s truth to her words: elements of hip-hop, jazz, classical music, Afro-Caribbean rhythms and R&B commingle on the Los Angeles, by way of Madison area, artist’s Not Today Sadly EP. Tracks like “Sensuality” and “Au Revoir” show that she’s amid an even deeper exploratory phase, or what she describes as a chapter where she’s not afraid to make whatever kind of music feels right in that moment.

NOAMZ’s expansive sound comes from a distinct, cross-cultural upbringing. Her mother hails from the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, while her father is from mainland France. Growing up, her parents introduced her to the songs of Stevie Wonder, The Beatles, Lauryn Hill, Bob Marley and Norah Jones. She became deeply immersed in her mother’s island music, which included everything from zouk and compas (Kompa) to biguine and Gwo-Ka. “Guadeloupe has so many musical styles, it’s kind of wild,” the singer says. “It’s literally an island of like 4,000 people but the amount of music that has come out of there is incredible.” 

The New Jersey-born singer and her family spent some time living in France before eventually landing in McFarland, Wisconsin when she was about six years old. She mentions feeling outcasted as one of the only Black students at her school in McFarland, but music quickly became a place of respite. 

“I love gospel, jazz, Brazilian music, samba, salsa, reggaeton. I’m just super drawn to anything that has that Afro rhythm and that influence. It’s part of my upbringing but that’s also just kinda what speaks my heart. Growing up, it was also the American music around me that I really connected with. I didn’t really vibe with rock music in the same way, but R&B? Oh my god! D’Angelo, Musiq Soulchild, Erykah Badu, all of these people just spoke to me so much growing up. I pretty much learned how to riff from [The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill]. No one really riffed in my family but I always listened to her and I just kept on singing,” she says with a laugh. “I can riff thanks to Lauryn Hill!”

She picked up the flute around the age of 11, later competing for and winning a place in UW-Madison’s Summer Music Clinic for young aspiring musicians. Throughout college, she went on to play first chair in the orchestra at UW-Madison before transferring to Columbia University in New York City. She then spent some time cutting her teeth in Chicago’s underground music scene. “I have a deep, deep respect and place a big value on originality, and that came from being on the beat scene in Chicago,” NOAMZ says. “I think a lot of my sound has come from that and really just taking the last two years to explore and find my voice.”

Her latest single “On My Mind” mashes up the sounds of avant-garde soul with sweeping bossa nova-style guitars and a suave, French-rap heavy bridge. NOAMZ sings from the perspective of an outsider entangled with someone dependent on substances, a scenario that played out over and over following her move to the West Coast as she got more acquainted with that local music scene. Though dark in tone, and on a lyrical level, “On My Mind” (which came together by repeatedly tweaking and re-recording voice messages on her phone) shows the artist exploring vibrant bachata-influenced rhythms and building denser soundscapes with a more hands-on role in production. 

On last year’s “Unlovable,” NOAMZ’s smoky yet velvet-smooth vocals balance out silvery flutes as she ruminates on the post-breakup process. The flutes, she reveals, were recorded as single takes of pure, unaltered performance. They were not necessarily an aesthetic decision in the beginning, but made it that way to the final version because she was still learning about fading processes as a producer. “It was pure determination,” she half-jokes, but it adds another sense of rawness to the torch song that explores heartache in a way that circles back to some of the R&B that soundtracked her upbringing.

“I really wanna help people know it’s okay to not feel okay, you know? I think with everything I write, I try to be really honest about what I’m going through, through my words. That’s what really ties my music together.”


Written by: Nayeli Portillo

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