JamarzOnMarz brings all his passions together for ‘Tomorrow’

is the latest tune from Australian musician JamarzOnMarz, and it’s a superb mix of hip-hop, jazz vibes, and global rhythms.

It uses a combination of African beats, Swahili slang and rap to create an instantly memorable song.

The song, and its amazing video, brings together several issues that are close to artist James Emmanuel’s heart. Combing great music, LGBTIQ+ visibility and Emmanuel’s campaign to get schools to be more sensitive to cultural differences, it’s got a lot to say.

Emmanuel, who performs as JamarzOnMarz, grew up in rural town of Orange, he has Sri Lankan and Kenyan heritage. As a student in a private school he was forced to cut his hair short and now he’s on a mission to highlight how these restrictive policies are discriminatory.

Earlier this year he launched a petition calling for change, and so far it’s attracted just shy of 25,000 signatories. Allowing people to express themselves fully and and be open about all parts of their lives is something Emmanuel is in favour of, and he’s positive about the future.

Speaking to OUTinPerth just before the song was released Emmanuel said that while this wasn’t his first release, it was the start of new chapter in her career. For this song he’s delivered a product that is at a different level of production and polish that his previous tunes.

“It’s looking like its the biggest so far, and it’s looking like a more professional release. As I’ve grown older I’ve realised how to release music more professionally.” Emmanuel said sharing that he’d spent some time working behind the scenes in the music business to get a better understanding of how artist successfully promote themselves.

His latest tune began life a year ago and was inspired by his partner.

“It began a year a go and it was just when I’d met my partner, and I had just all that urge and excitement to see him again. When we met I was living in the mountains and he was down in Sydney and I was just dying for the second date.

“That’s why the chorus is so repetitive because it’s captures that excitement. Within that I started writing about him, but started speaking in Swahili and it turned out that those lyrics kind of turn all the stigma and negativity that exists in Kenya upside down.”

While he’s not fluent in Swahili, he does know a few phrases and is familiar with the insults gay people face in Kenya where homosexuality can be punished with a 14 year prison sentence.

“I start of the verse and it does have some sexual references in Swahili which I think it’s quite impactful, because you can really lose your life over there for associations and just being gay. I think I can do something by just being myself and that what leads slowly to change.”

The video also focusses on another issue that’s important to Emmanuel, the issue of rules around haircuts in private schools.

“I’ve had this campaign about schools discriminating against students who have afro-textured hair, and it fits in to the afro beat song, it all overlaps. It’s afro beat song, I’m channeling the sounds of my motherland Kenya, and the video is an opportunity to shine a light on the petition and gives us a chance to really show politicians and private school what afro hair in school would like that.”

Including references to his sexuality was also important.

“I couldn’t forget my struggles with queerness as a high school student, so I kind of made the video my own little fantasy – with a touch of reality mixed in.”

Growing up in rural New South Wales, Emmanuel faced the challenge of ethnicity and his sexuality, making school a challenging experience.

“I was speaking to a friend recently and it really comes down to association. I think that’s what we’re trying to be push through and promote to queer youth, not to be afraid of the association.

“Now I look back on my school years, and my time in Orange and wonder why I was so scared, but it was that fear of association, because the environment around you tell you it was not okay.”

“I was made to feel ashamed, and not proud. I felt scared of people finding out who I am. There’s a lot of factors in that. There’s the Aussie culture which has a lot of toxic masculinity, there’s sexism which does also transfer to homophobia if you show any sign of femininity.

“The biggest challenge though is that it’s a small community and there is no space for you to explore or try to express yourself without all your friends and family finding out. Everyone knows everyone, there’s no anonymity.” Emmanuel said.

“It’s only when I moved to Sydney I realised that there’s no safe spaces for queer youth in regional towns. I have a few goals in life and one of them is to introduce more safe spaces in regional Australia. I’m not sure how you go about that, but I know there needs to be resources and a sense of community for people to explore themselves and be free and feel supported.”

JamarzOnMarz has a lot of new music waiting in the wings, including a collaboration that Emmanuel is quite excited about but he’s not naming any names at this stage.

Tomorrow is out now. 

Graeme Watson, images by Sophian Ferey 

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