Interview: R&B Artist ALPHAMAMA Talks Music As Religion
“For me, the closest thing to God is art, beauty, and the feminine,” ALPHAMAMA tells us, “and I dedicate my life to the sacredness of that.” This statement — so deceptively simple but crafted from years of excavating the soul — defines all that makes ALPHAMAMA an unstoppable force. A fixture on the Aussie music scene, her devotion to seeking religion through artistic means is exactly what makes ALPHAMAMA such a remarkable mother, musician, songwriter, professional, and woman. She does all things with love and understanding, so that her addictive R&B anthems glitter with profundity hidden in their catchy hooks and pumping rhythms.
On her latest release, Oil & Water, ALPHAMAMA continues to deliver empowering women-focused wisdom packaged in dance bangers. We connected with the mastermind to talk a little about the new record and her sonic religion which you can read below, but first — allow us to gush over Oil & Water.
The album opens with a stretch of undeniable dance hits, one after the other, beginning with “3 x 11,” a jazzy ode to growing older led by the rapid-fire plink of electro beats. It’s our first introduction to what will culminate in ALPHAMAMA’s supreme talent — the track is a slick singalong featuring smooth vocal delivery, quick slaps of rhythm, and soulful pleas begging listeners to feel badass and confident no matter your age. Following that dynamic opener is “Move Me,” one of the record’s standout tracks. Pulsing with a dark dance beat steadying the track, it soon bursts with the quick patter of electronica all while ALPHAMAMA’s powerhouse voice delivers airy falsettos and strong croons. It’s alive with energy, a dance track moving through airy comedowns and neon crescendos for a nonstop club jam. Following it is “Spit Me Out,” a sultry R&B romp in which ALPHAMAMA’s vocals are at their best — the breathy breakage at the hook is just gorgeous — and an impossibly smooth arrangement is built on deep percussive blooms and distant keys. Later, we get a quick-witted rap verse interspersed between the dreamy jazz-tinged instrumental interludes, effectively checking off one-by-one all of ALPHAMAMA’s many musical talents.
On “A Cautious Warning” — ALPHAMAMA’s personal favorite track off the record, as she reveals in our interview — we’re treated to poignant spoken word delivered over thick slaps of shimmering percussion, crashing waves, and hints of wind, the poetry cut by moments when she sweetly sings the hook: “I’m here and I always will be,” a divine incantation from ALPHAMAMA to herself. It’s a hypnotic piece, line after line of witty wisdom set to an ambient arrangement. The halfway point of Oil & Water finds “Ballers” ft. fellow Aussie wordsmith Nardean who joins the dark, jazzy track for warbling vocal echoes and more clever wordplay spit with cool delivery, a dizzying spoken-word track in the vein of American rapper Angel Haze’s own shadowy truth. On “Stranger In Asia,” ALPHAMAMA returns to her tendency to release total dance bangers flavored by her slick, worldly influence. An homage to her Indonesian roots, the song captures the duality of feeling discomfort in a religiously limited place but also pride and unity in one’s culture. Her impassioned rap delivery is at its best here, delivered coolly and quickly among chimes, sparkling slaps of percussion, and unrelenting dance beats.
Next comes “Ass In The Front,” opening with a siren wail before moving full-speed ahead with rapid-fire wordplay and steady shimmers pulsing throughout the length of the song. It’s a quick, quirky break in such an insight-heavy album, before abruptly devolving into sweet, jazzy interludes. On “Spiral Up Down,” APHAMAMA once again kicks a moody, spacey track off with stream-of-consciousness contemplation — “a continuous line that can only be broken by a liberated mind” — before her soulful voice sings among sparkling keys and electro swells. Oil & Water ends half an hour later with “Your Life,” a wild soundscape dripping with sonic swirls of fizzy drum slaps, deep bass booms, soft harmony, and so much more. It’s the perfect end to Oil & Water because it moves throughout the many musical themes of the record — completely devoid of cohesion, opting instead to pummel through phases of frenzied instrumentation, sleek R&B rhythms, steady beats, and poignant poetry.
Across nine dazzling, dizzying R&B anthems, ALPHAMAMA proves — over and over again — that she is indeed a goddess fueled by an unwavering passion for the arts, a connection to her feminine power, and, ultimately, the talent that spills out of her every move.
Listen to Oil & Water below and connect with ALPHAMAMA on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and her website. Keep reading for our exclusive interview in which we talk a little about music as religion and her godly pursuits.
The Music Mermaid: First, can you tell The Music Mermaid a little about yourself and your music?
ALPHAMAMA: I'm a 35 year old woman. An artist. A mother. A music mentor and spiritual coach. My music is my catharsis. I write, I play, and express myself to heal and to help others name what they themselves can't express.
TMM: What’s the music scene like in Sydney and how has it influenced your work at all?
ALPHAMAMA: I love the scene here. I've worked with so many incredible artists who are friends, and having traveled a fair bit, I've realized that we really are incredible compared to the rest of the world. The cultural influences of my peers have shaped my music hugely: Brazilian, jazz, hip-hop, Arabic, folk, and my own heritage of South Africa and Indonesia. We definitely have a unique Sydney sound, different to Melbourne or Brisbane. It's really cool to hear this developing more and more.
TMM: You just dropped your new EP, Oil & Water, a dazzling collection of slick R&B-tinged anthems. What was the production process like for the record?
ALPHAMAMA: Each song was different but I had some amazing producers to collaborate with from international producers like Ahmed Sirour and Kevin Skaggs to local guns like Stackhat and Liam Quinn. I love the different flavors that they all brought to this record and because it was made over quite a long time, it's very eclectic and explorative.
TMM: What about the songwriting process? Are there any themes you tend to implement or lyricists you’re inspired by?
ALPHAMAMA: My songwriting process is to just feel whatever I'm feeling, whatever I'm experiencing and be as honest as I can. Honestly, my biggest inspirations are some of my closest musical peers — Alice Night, Billie McCarthy, Ines, Milan Ring, and Nardean are all lyricists who inspire me.
TMM: We know it’s totally unfair, but we have to ask. Which song off Oil & Water do you feel closest to and why?
ALPHAMAMA: My favorite song off the record is undoubtedly “A Cautious Warning.” It doesn't matter how many times I hear it, I never get bored. I love the space in it and what it means to me — it summarizes my journey with love and feeling in relationships as a reflection of the deeper relationship between my inner masculine and inner feminine energies.
TMM: You launched a collective of badass, talented, creative women called God Queen in an effort to stand together, to put an emphasis on collaboration and support. Can you talk a little about this group and your philosophy behind God Queen? We’re already sold, but we’re also dying to know more!
ALPHAMAMA: God Queen is a home for the femme artists I work with who share a spiritual and artistic resonance. We use our art as medicine and alchemy for healing. We share resources and work through our challenges together. I've been running events and mentoring programs since 2015 and really it's just me doing what I'm told to do by Spirit.
TMM: Spirituality seems to be as important to you as your music is -- they’re interwoven. In what ways does your connection to yourself and your faith touch your creative work?
ALPHAMAMA: My music is my religion. In fact I am planning on registering this religion formally under Church of The Goddess. For me, the closest thing to God is art, beauty, and the feminine, and I dedicate my life to the sacredness of that. That's why I work with women artists — because of the beauty and medicine they bring to the world and the way it moves me. To teach the world how to feel again — that's the purpose of my work.
TMM: Who are three musicians you think the world needs to hear ASAP?
ALPHAMAMA: Pretty much all of the artists I've been mentoring! Alice Night and Nardean who have music out, Heirloome (Sammii O'Rourke), Angie Paez, Isobel Galloway, Madison Levi, and Dani Young who are all dropping records shortly.
TMM: What has been your most memorable music moment so far?
ALPHAMAMA: It's so ridiculous but when I dropped “3 X 11” and found out that it got added to a Spotify playlist, I just burst into tears. I felt recognized and validated by the universe. It was a very strong moment of gratitude and appreciation and relief. Like, yes. Finally it's fucking working.
The Music Mermaid: Finally, what’s next for ALPHAMAMA?
ALPHAMAMA: I have another video clip dropping in a month or so, a tour in January, and a whole other record coming out next year called Honey Fire!