My name is Tumaini, but most people just call me TJ. I was born in New Zealand at Wellington Hospital. My mum is Tanzanian /Pakeha born here, and my father was Tanzanian from Dar Es Salaam (RIP). I identify as an African- New Zealander (or Tanzanian-NZ) because I was born here.
My dad past away not long after I was born, so I grew up with mum in Wellington. The first 10 years in Wellington and then we went to Perth WA. We just got back to NZ at the end of 2015. So I have lived my life half here, and half in Australia. I have an older brother, who still lives in Australia. I know all my aunties, uncles, cousins in Tanzania - even though we live down under. Our family is spread all over the world, but social media fixes that problem.
It’s very different NZ today for African identifying youth, than when my mum grew up here. She’s a tough but she’s also very caring, and was supportive to both me and my brother expressing our creative sides in dance and music from a very young age. My creative background started in break-dancing when I was about 3 years old, with my older brother.
Mum and a community worker from the local youth center in Newtown organised a break-dance crew back in the late 90's with my brother and his school friends from around Newtown. They were called CMB, City Mission Breakers. CMB competed, and also did festivals around Wellington, like the Cuba Street Carnival and the Newtown Festival and other events in Wellington. Me and my friend, used to crash all their performances all the time and steal the spotlight because we were small and could spin on our heads quite well. It kind of became a novelty for CMB to give me and my mate some time on the lino. We used to busk in Manners Mall on Friday nights and all the older kids, youth workers looked out for us younger ones. The last time me and my brother performed together was at Newtown Festival 2018 on the Tangata Whenua Stage, as TNST, just for the festival http://www.newtownfestival.org.nz/tnst/
I was at high school in Perth when I started attending a local youth center in WA, Swan City Youth Service (SCYS). The community worker there was a good beat maker. He ran a Perth event called “The Beat Down” for many years. SCYS had a fully decked out studio when I started going. So I started playing around with the mic when I was about 13- 14 years old . By the time I was about 16 years old we had produced a 17 track CD as a project for the SCYS. It won a youth project award for best project in Australia the following year in 2013. All my tracks from projects I did in Australia are on Soundcloud if you want to check out my old stuff - https://soundcloud.com/synikal-sista/albums. As I was using the studio at SCYS, the other kids who came there, mainly Indigenous (known locally as Bibbullmun or Nyoongar) , Sudanese, and Pakeha youth from Midland, started hanging with me in the studio as well. I was already rapping and performing at high school but recording what I was doing started at SCYS with Rae.
I would call myself a rapper and a producer, but I sing as well. I don't really like being boxed into one genre. So I would call myself a musical artist. I’m graduating from Massey University Commercial Music School (CoCA) this year. CoCA has helped me learn about working with people. I want to use that experience working in live, or studio situations, outside of CoCA connects too. We are the first graduating class at CoCA, the school only opened in 2016. As far as Black Creatives go, and collaborating with other black creatives, I would like to work with people and knowledge share, and collaborate on projects from idea to monetized streaming platforms in the most effective way. Whether it's finding the best strategy on how to do it, or whatever.
I think NZ is a good training ground. You learn more about what you are capable of. The youth project I was involved with in Perth, the state government had a lot of money to contribute to it. Perth is a wealthy state compared to NZ. People have more disposable income there, than here, because the wages are higher. There are also people living in poverty as well, if you don't have a job, it can be as bad or worse than here.
I've always had an after school job since I was 13 years old in Perth.
Lots of school kids had after school jobs over there. Wages are as good for kids in Perth, as they are for some adults in NZ. In NZ you have to finance your projects personally, and that can be challenging if you are on minimum wage, or can't access funding grants that targets your criteria, or “community”, or If you don’t know how to write a funding proposal. Most likely you have to fund it out of your own pocket. At CoCA we learnt there is a lot of competition for funding grants here. As far as I am aware, there’s no funding grants that targets African-NZers or Black Identifying creatives as a "group" in NZ - without the criteria of being a refugee or a migrant first. I am neither. If there is such funding available, we should all be aware of it, knowledge like that.
I’m 23 years old now, so I’m looking at this from a 23 year old's perspective, and where I’m at with my personal music development. I have lots of ideas, and am open to conversations to build on musical ideas with other Black creatives, musicians, from New Zealand or Australia. I’m already working with some artists here and in Aus because thats where I was based for 10 years and still have connects there. NZ is where I was born, but its still that country where it’s “not always WHAT you know, but WHO you know, and WHO you are CONNECTED too”. I have only been back 3 years, so I’m re-building connections here. I’m an open-minded chilled type person, so I try to push myself through barriers like that. For some people, this “what and who” dynamic may work in their favor because they have lots of connections in NZ. For others this can be very limiting and larger countries and economies, like Australia, become more attractive.
I would like to collaborate on music production, with other artists at this stage in NZ, because it's about building relationships down here, being open to new experiences. If you are like what I do, just reach out to me on my social media. Sometimes I initiate conversations with artists I gel with as well. My web-page comes online soon and that will be the best way for people to get in touch with me for collaborating on beats, bars, production, mixing, or songwriting. The quickest way to get in touch with me is:
Instagram @Iamthe_tumaini and Facebook @TUMAINI
I have a few projects I’m working currently. I released my debut EP January 2019 on all streaming services. Its called “If All Else Fails” go check it out.