Beautiful and young, the singer and songwriter Nasimiyu Murumba inspires many music lovers with her eclectic mixture of songs. Snarky Puppy’s Mike League even called her “the New Age Nina Simone”.

Photo: Marc Pagani

Photo: Marc Pagani

Murumba grew up in a multicultural household in a diverse area in Saint Paul, Minnesota, but she fell in love with New Orleans and moved there three years ago. She claims New Orleans is “home to me now”.

The African-American singer chose her future career when she was just a child. She began to make up songs, plays and dances from a young age. The singer developed “a strong passion for music”, but her family lacked the means to support her ambition. Nasimiyu decided to study music on her own, and she ‘filled boxes of notebooks with songs and ideas’. She also taught herself to play the piano and the guitar, and she “worked hard to discipline herself as a vocalist”. Nasimiyu had to “learn to push herself”. She reveals: “I’m thankful – that strength has been a huge benefit in my life”.

The singer derived inspiration from several different types of music during her childhood and adolescence. She loved listening to classical music when she was a child, but this made her extremely embarrassed. She choreographed dances to music by Chopin, and she tried to sing along to Italian opera. Nasimiyu was terrified that her peers would find out about her love for classical music.

When Nasimiyu became a teenager she fell in love with underground hip-hop music “that is so vibrant in the Twin Cities”. She explains how she “also connected deeply with a lot of folk, jazz, singer-songwriter stuff and old-school R&B”. The music that she wrote then “was very reflective of Fiona Apple and Regina Specktor”. Her recent inspirations have been “Tune-Yards, Bobby McFerrin, Florence and the Machine, Pharoah Sanders and TV on the Radio”.

Nasimiyu’s music is a mix of sounds, especially in the Rules Aren’t Real album. The singer recalls this album “definitely included elements of folk, pop, indie rock and jazz”. Now she wants to create “something entirely its own” with “more of a global perspective”. Nasimiyu feels that “…if listeners try to pin me down as being a soul artist or something like that, they’ll miss out on the multidimensional and eclectic qualities of my work.” “I am always moving and shifting”.

The active singer plays in different bands. These include La Nola Sirene, Minutehead and The Rainy Days. These bands provide “different outlets” for the young singer and songwriter. La Nola Sirene, for example, is an all-female string and harmony group that “occupies a sacred, spiritual space” for her. Minutehead is the opposite. This consists of big brassy funk-rock for “high-energy crowds”. The Rainy Days are a traditional jazz quartet that’s like a “time machine for me in the sense that it takes me back to appreciating and honouring the roots that all this other music comes from”. She also sings in Saint Bell with Jeremy Phipps.

Many artists inspire Nasimiyu, including Nina Simone. She feels honoured by the comparison of her singing with Nina Simone’s. She’s gone on record to point out that this resonates with her on several levels because: “Nina Simone is not only a musical influence of mine, but also a role model to me as an activist and woman.” “The fact that another musician recognized some of her same qualities in me makes me feel like I must be on the right track”.

The strong and dedicated young woman hopes to inspire other young women with her music. According to the beautiful singer: “My own experiences as a woman have been transformed and enriched by the artists I love.” “I would be honoured to have a similar impact on someone else”, she remarks. “I just hope to create something that people find to be empowering, eye-opening and healing.”

Several of Nasimiyu’s songs are quite political and raise a lot of social issues. The young singer wants to “make art that stimulates a culture which works to end oppression and spread love”. She is immensely proud of the dialogue that Rules Aren’t Real’s started: “I look forward to building on that.”

She feels that music is the “most effective” way for her to affect change in the world, but she also uses other mediums. She claims: “We all have gifts that allow us to make our own special contributions to our communities.” “There is a lot of strength in that.”

Nasimiyu Murumba has achieved an extraordinary amount, but she still has lofty ambitions. When asked about her plans for the future, Nasimiyu reveals she “wants to hit the road” this year. She’s “dying to take my band on tour, to travel all throughout the US and Europe.” She’s also keen to finish the record that she is working on, and she wants to “grow as an artist as well as collaborate with others”.