“I am a vessel. My gift is to interpret the essence of human connection, sonically. Listen, translate, beautify, deliver. After that I draw inspiration for and from the music and create a visual experience around it. Repeat.”
This is how Ammara Brown, aka the barefoot goddess, describes her creative process. Ammara is an Afro-pop artist and songwriter from Harare, Zimbabwe.
Ammara was born into a musical world. Her father was late veteran musician Andy Brown. He, unsurprisingly, has had an influence on Ammara’s musical style. She also cites Chiwoniso Maraire, Brenda Fassie, Beyonce and Janelle Monae as some of her other musical influencers. Ammara feels the more she embraces her roots and her influences the more she is able to create a sonic space that is hers.
She credits her father with inspiring her musical aspirations and giving her artistic freedom. He fused genres from around the globe and challenged the expectations of what ‘world music’ is supposed to be. For this, Ammara greatly admires her father and like him, her music is influenced by various genres. While she exercises the artistic freedom ‘inherited’ from her father and redesigned the template he gave her, Ammara feels the public had other expectations and that she has had to work twice as hard to earn respect.
Each transition Ammara has made with her music is often more challenging than the last one. “I think every transition becomes harder and harder. New levels, new devils. But I get better at facing them head on. After all, success is a journey, not a destination,” she quips.
Relocating to South Africa was an opportunity for Ammara to get out of her comfort zone as she believes that comfort is the enemy of growth. She felt she needed new challenges and opportunities as she had reached the ceiling in Zimbabwe and wanted to experience her full potential. Having a much larger and more developed music industry compared to her home country, South Africa seemed an ideal choice.
Ammara finds that there are many tiers to the creative struggle, most especially to do with the business side of entertainment and being a woman in the music industry.
“There is profound miseducation of the entertainment business, within and around itself. Music creation and music business are two different skill sets. Also the societal attitude towards the entertainment industry needs to shift. We have plenty of creators, who are confused about the business, which blocks creativity, which blocks financial flow.”
As a woman in the music industry, Ammara has faced many stereotypes she’s had to fight.
“There are people who try to block my progress because they can’t have their way with me or presume I subscribe to or encourage unhealthy lifestyles. As a woman I’m expected to be prudish and submissive. But I am bold, spiritually liberated and commanding, in business especially. I have made peace with the fact that only those who choose to pay true attention will learn better of me. This is where I thrive. I tend to surpass people’s expectations. When they learn the truth about me they tend to grow into love with me. It’s an intellectual seduction, of sorts. A feminine solution to a feminine challenge.”
Ammara adds that cultural fusion is important, especially for African music, as Africans have been, divided and conquered for the longest time. For her, “music is an agent of peace.” She believes Africans have more commonalities than differences and that they should reconnect in the spirit of ubuntu.
In 2018, Ammara collaborated with Nigerian music superstar Mr Eazi on her hit single Svoto. Mr Eazi heard Ammara’s music on BBC 1 XTRA and knew he wanted to work with her. He tweeted her and they jumped at the first opportunity to make music together. Ammara hopes to work with Tiwa Savage, Teni, Shekhinah, Tamy, Chengeto Brown (who she has collaborated with before), Janelle Monae and Zambia’s own Cleo Ice Queen.
Beyond the opportunity to work with talented musicians, music affords Ammara travel opportunities. Her music has seen her travel all over the globe and her favourite destinations include Zanzibar, Cape Town (for the food) and Dubai.
Ammara is on a journey of self-discovery and is prioritising balance and a healthier lifestyle. Balancing work, family and friends in a chaotic setting can be challenging. She likes a bit of chaos in her life but has resolved to prioritise health above all else.