Today on Pearls And Heels we feature Neema Nasirumbi. Neema Nasirumbi (Nem R) says “I am a deep thinker, born and raised in the ghetto of Langas, Eldoret. I am a musician. I am an independent Kenyan songwriter, singer and rapper. I have a lot of music out on every streaming platform. I enjoy creating, performing and sharing music with people who need it. I am an artist through and through. I don’t think I have been anything else all my life. All my hobbies revolve around art. I have a startup called ‘Not Picasso’ still in the works and I offer freelance songwriting services to individuals, artists, labels, small businesses, podcasts and vlogs. I’m one of the real ones.”
What do you do and what impact do you think it creates in your industry or the world?
I am a musician. My style of music is a mixture of soul and jazz with a Kenyan twist. I’m also a hardcore rapper. I think what I do is new to the Kenyan scene because I’m creating my own genre. I’m taking Kenyan music globally. There’s just something about the music I make and I still haven’t quite put a finger on it yet. I believe music is the heartbeat of the universe. The world will always need music.
What things would you change along the way if you had a chance to go back to the past?
I would not change anything. When I think of the past, I think of it like it was my honour to have those experiences and live through the joys and pains I lived through. The past is what shaped who I am today and I appreciate my essence and what I am today because of all the things I lived in the past. I know, I can get philosophical about this, but the past is something I am grateful for; even the most horrible things; including things I had no control over.
For example, I was always a shy girl but I got over it. Like I would perform on stage and literally run away after I finished, leaving the emcee and everyone wondering who the hell I was. Sometimes I never even returned to the show. I avoided introducing myself and things like that. At least nowadays I am grown if I make a mistake I know why I am making it.
What would you say are the top three skills needed to succeed at your current job?
People skills are important for networking and building friendships with the right people.
Technological skills (Music production/video editing/ anything tech-savvy to reduce production costs).
Diversity is useful to fit in any wave/vibe. You should be diverse and open-minded even in your thought process and be willing to adapt to new spaces.
What do you love to do, that makes you light up when you talk about it? It could be a passion, hobbies and your career. What about it makes you light up?
I love to create. It doesn’t matter if it’s drawing, crafting or writing, I just love being in rooms where magic is being made by passionate enthusiastic artists. The thing I love about art is that it is freeing. It allows me to express myself and unburden my heart without completely exposing the ugliness because the end product is always beautiful to me.
What motivates you to keep going?
After a lot of reflection, I realized that pain is a big motivator for me. Sometimes this feeling rushes over me where I feel like I must make it all worth it and turn the cards I was dealt into something spectacular. I love to see beauty emerge from chaos.
Here lies the risk of lacking motivation without the presence of chaos. I just like to remember where I am from and allow that to push me to where I want to go.
How do you define success?
For me, success is contentment with what you have achieved and failed to achieve.
What is more important for you, passion, purpose or both? Why?
I think purpose can ignite passion and so it might be more important for me as an individual for my personal drive and all. But I also think it’s easy to get lost in purpose and lose the passion for what you’re doing (what I like to call love).
I also think you can lose yourself in passion and not even have a purpose at all and I have experienced this.
As much as my calling is my obligation, I think if I didn’t put my whole heart into it, I would quit at some point. They’re both important but the purpose is more grounded in the end for me. I’m the kind of person who if I believe something is my purpose I will be automatically passionate and crazy about it.
A lot of people like to talk about success but not failure. We are told to embrace failure on our road to success. Is there one time you failed at something you were working on that taught you valuable lessons that you can share? What lessons were those? You can also share what you failed at if you are comfortable sharing.
The main thing I have learned from my failures is that I do not fail. Even if I go through whatever would be considered a failure, I’ll still come out as a winner. Only that when the time is right, what is meant to happen will happen.
I guess the main ‘failure’ that led me to think like this was when I wasn’t able to sustain myself in Nairobi in 2019 so I moved back home. This was life-changing for me because I got the character development and enlightenment which I never knew I needed in my life. It was a journey of self-re-discovery which would not have occurred had everything gone my way and I’d stayed in Nairobi to build my live band career which I had started.
I have had epic stage fails man haha…Yo, one time I was booed off the stage. Another time, my voice choked on stage while singing Jesus Take the Wheel until my friends were asking me if I ate a lot of sugar after the ordeal (I am not sure…maybe I did). I have had nightmares about stage fails. My point is, after every failure, I got a new tip about how to handle myself on stage when I sense issues coming up like volume levels, keys, and memory loss. Yeah, those types of things…
Have you ever faced imposter syndrome? How do you deal with it?
I face imposter syndrome a lot. What! To be honest I am still figuring out what to do with it. Currently, the strategy is to ignore the feeling and keep surprising myself by being awesome! One day I will believe in myself the way I am supposed to if I keep going like this. I mean, I am the first to ever do this in my clan.
What advice would you give somebody just starting out in your line of work?
Stay informed on the music business side of things and ask questions to know how everything works.
I also think it’s important to love what you do in this music thing because that will keep you going despite the challenges.
Always practice your craft as often as you can even if you’re indisposed. Do something every day for your art. Even setting time apart just to think about it and assess what it is you’re doing is a huge start.
Stay true to yourself and good luck. You will need it.
Are there specific books or movies or podcasts you would recommend to somebody for them to get a better sense of what success is or what success could be like? This is an auntie moment to pass wisdom.
I guess I could recommend Evan Carmichael. He makes compilation videos on YouTube of successful people talking about different topics, success and just life in general.
The podcast I like listening to right now is The Mics Are Open. I like hearing people’s thoughts on things happening around us and just the different personalities interacting.
I also find myself listening to Dr Jordan Peterson a lot when I am feeling intellectual and intelligent. He talks about our society and just the human condition generally.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I like chilling with my friends, long walks, trying out new recipes, listening to music and writing music, dancing, and researching stuff.
What would you like your legacy to be?
I’d just like for my music to touch people’s lives in ways I can’t even imagine. That would be nice. Yeah, I guess that’s in the present. Okay, who knows about the future? I could end up being a farmer for all I know. My legacy can be whatever it needs to be at that time. I could end up being a rebel of some sort, I don’t know. Whatever my legacy will be when I am gone I want it to be based on truth and love.
If you would like to interact with Nem R you can find her on Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and Tiktok.
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