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Caribbean Soul in the making

Introducing the world to Papiamentu with music; The song and video everyone is talking about

“In the middle of the night at two o ‘clock we finished recording. Only two takes, and that’s what we had to work with, because I had to catch my plane to Curaçao in the morning”. This is how Tamara Nivillac’s adventure with her Papiamentu cover of Adele’s song “Hello” started. Left behind to produce and mix the entire track around the vocals is her good friend and producer Stanley Clementina.

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Upon arrival in Curaçao, Tamara meets a friend and music video producer, Yuri Kneppers, a professional filmmaker. After seeing Tamara’s success around her song and video Gosa in 2014, Yuri promised to help her with another video whenever she would return to Curaçao. As soon as schedules match they shoot a video and her cover of Hello takes Curaçao and the Netherlands by storm with over 150K views (on Facebook and YouTube) in two days, to the length that now people in other countries start to report liking the song.

So it was a late night recording guided by the musical touch of Stanley Clementina here, a couple of cool locations and a video there, but if you think that 150K views success was overnight, you don’t know Tamara Nivillac.


Stanley Clementina

Stanley Clementina

Music runs in Tamara’s family. So when philosophizing about how to make the language Papiamentu more renowned through music she could quickly turn to her cousin Junior Tecla, a music veteran himself. Years ago they came up with the concept ‘Popiamentu’: Covers of well known Pop songs in Papiamentu, or simply put “Pop + Papiamentu = Popiamentu”. “The goal behind this project was to encourage our local artists and musicians to write in their own language, and by doing so to make people realize how amazing these pop songs sound in Papiamentu.” They kicked off the project and covered John Legend, Michael Jackson, Angie Stone, India Arie, Bruno Mars and many more.
The musical connection
“With the right approach Papiamentu can also reach Spanish, Portuguese and African countries as Papiamentu is based on a mix of these languages and people are intrigued by the similarities.”
Tamara’s critical thinking shows that she is serious about her ambitions to become successful: “If we are competing with so many great, beautiful, well produced artists from all over the world, the only thing that eventually sets us apart might be our language and unique musical heritage”, she explains. “I’ve seen and heard it again and again at festivals, through different projects, jam sessions and performances. If the band or producer can create that international harmony and sound we already know, love and recognize, it will make it easier for crowds to accept any language. To me it is always about a connection. If I can make a real connection with the music, musicians and the audience, I think it won’t initially matter if they don’t understand what I say. Music transmits feelings, it touches and transforms people and that’s one of the most important things to me.”

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Kassav, Calister, and Cape Verdean success
That stars can rise from small communities is a given. Tamara refers to the world famous group Kassav from Guadeloupe as an example. She also mentions fellow islanders like Izaline Calister that are paving the way for success in music with songs in Papiamentu. Tamara observes how well Nelson Freitas with his Cape Verdean roots is growing as a star. Nelson is very famous in countries like Angola, Portugal and Cape Verde. His music is a mix of his Cape Verdean creole and English.

Caribbean Soul
Being a Caribbean island, Curaçao has all kinds of different music styles and mixes, including its own original music styles. In her musical journey Tamara is flirting with all these different styles. She dubs her own genre Caribbean Soul. “That genre could be anything I can transmit my feelings with through my music and reach out to people’s hearts”, she explains. Find out more about Tamara and look at her impressive career highlights on her website:

The success of Hello
Adele’s megahit Hello is already subject to remixes and covers in several other languages and music styles. So the song in itself has a following of its own. Tamara’s version adds the translation to Papiamentu, a slower and calmer version and African influence in the music production at the end of the track. What exactly makes Tamara’s version such a success is not clear, but she thinks it is a combinations of these factors mentioned above.


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The Dutch Caribbean Concert
Do you want to see Tamara Nivillac live? She will be part of the Dutch Caribbean Concert this friday the 26th of February (Eindhoven). And Sunday 28th (The Hague).

Tamara Nivillac is a former Pearl nominee and Pearls of the Dutch Caribbean judge for our 2015 award show.

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