The singer songwriter talks about her new album and its boundary-breaking, worlds-colliding, psychedelic sound

“I believe that if you exist in this world then you're valid and your voice is important, and sharing it allows us all to build a better understanding of what it means to exist here,” says Roxanne Tataei. “It's a deeper exploration of the balance between the human and the spiritual, and during the interludes I use real excerpts of a spiritual reading that I had.” We’re talking to the phenomenally talented musician about her new album, Full Moon In Aries. Co-produced by Grammy award winning Al Shux – who has worked with Lana Del Rey and Alicia Keys – and NTS radio’s Lord Tusk, Tataei has developed a distinctly psychedelic sound that is unlike anything else out there. Shabaka Hutchings’ magical saxophone pours into the current single, Perfect Fit, and Liam Bailey features on the trip hop infused Dancing With The Devil. Meanwhile Tataei’s soulful, sensual voice takes the listener on a soaring and emotional journey throughout.

Released independently, this sophomore outing “hasn't been diluted or infiltrated by any external force,” she explains. “Because of all of the social platforms that we have now, it's easier than ever for the artist to have more agency and that’s very beautiful.” Thanks to these digital avenues, we’re seeing the rise of more interesting voices, like Tataei’s, who take no prisoners in the pursuit of their sound. “It’s empowering a lot of people and making them see that they can make something of their career without a heavyweight boss from Virgin, or some shit. It’s not like it was back in the day, if you think about singers from Motown era, they wouldn't have any control over their careers at all.”

Four years in the making, this nomadic album has taken the singer from London to Berlin, Cologne, Paris and the Blue Mountains of Kingston, with the latter having had, perhaps, the biggest influence. “It was very important for me to do something while I was in Jamaica because it's the place that I truly feel like myself. I was up in the hills, overlooking all of this amazing scenery and that translated into one of the best vocals on the record,” Tataei reflects. “There's just so much life there, whether it’s creative or in the landscape. It has an almost warrior-like feel to it where, irrespective of what the country has been through, is undefeatable. It’s very infectious being surrounded by that.”

Having toured with one of Jamaica’s most famous daughters, the indomitable Grace Jones, Tataei has a strong appreciation for how important it is to have an aesthetic that’s as distinct as her sound. Her theatrical video ‘opera’ for the album’s lead track, Crimson Eyes, is testament to that. “Creating your world is important because it allows people to understand you more as an artist, and therefore have a better insight of your music”, she says. “I performed with Grace Jones a couple of times in Cannes, which was a really wild experience. She has true artistry, from singing live, to the sound, and she was very clear about how she wanted everything to look visually.”

“I was up in the hills, overlooking all of this amazing Jamaica scenery and that translated into one of the best vocals on the record”

Born in the UK to a Jamaican mother and an Iranian father, Tataei grew up in South London, where her dual heritage and upbringing in such a diverse community instilled in her an open-minded outlook. “When you come from more than one heritage, you automatically have a different way of looking at the world,” she reflects. “If you’re taught about those cultures then, in a way, you have a head start because you know there’s more than one perspective, experience, or type of beauty. What also feeds into that is geography and demographic – in London, everyone is from everywhere. Hopefully, if you're not ignorant and you have an understanding, you'll be more inclined to receive those people as human beings.”

And it’s this openness that means you can expect to find Tataei, well, pretty much anywhere in the world in the future. “When people say cliché things like, ‘Home is where the heart is’, it really is that. When I went to Brazil, it felt like I was home. Even though I can't speak Portuguese, I understood everything - the food, the musicality, the colour and the vibrancy. When I left, I actually cried because I felt like I was leaving home. Cuba did that to me too and it's not always something you can articulate, it's just a feeling.”

Tataei never ceases to embrace fresh energies and navigate many types of duality - between the spiritual and the earthly, and between finding peace in the grey areas and maintaining balance in life. “Creating this album has been about keeping my eye on the ball and connecting with my heart and my gut. And ultimately, realising that nothing is that deep, really. I love creating music, but I'm not going to kill myself doing it,” she says. “I believe that the future holds more art and more collaborating. I would love to get into a holistic, musical, wellbeing education, where you can learn how to use creativity to thrive. I'm really passionate about ethical fashion and I would love to create an organic, vegan make-up line. There are so many things! It’s about doing things that I love in a balanced and mindful way.”

Full Moon In Aries by Roxanne Tataei is available now on Spotify

Photography Adama Jalloh
Words Miriam Bouteba

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Published on 07/10/2018