The Indian activist
Interview from "XL" 9/98
After some years of silence she remembered about us. But she was in our minds ... "SHE twisted our sobriety" ten years ago. Later there were lean years. TANITA TIKARAM'S albums weren't delightful. Fortunately she met the right man. They both created the splendid album "The Cappuccino Songs". When I saw her, I knew our talk will start unlike I planned ...
You look very young, it seems that time has stopped for you. How do you do this?
I don't know, I age too. If you could see my belly... Sorry. Well, I don't know, I'm not sure, really.
I'd like to thank you for your last album, it's really marvellous... What are your favourite songs on this album?
I love the Cappuccino Song. For me it expresses the joy of life that I feel now. And perhaps it's a song I couldn't write before, it's very happy. And I'm very happy with that one.
Tell us how you met Marco Sabiu.
I met Marco because I was going to sing "E Penso A Te" in English. It's a Lucio Battisti song. And after I met him I understood we could be great friends. And when you meet somebody new you almost fall in love or you hate them. And with Marco, I was like, "God, this is a real brother" and he has the same attitude towards life as I do, he's very cheery and laughing and he really has changed the direction of the music he was making, it was very dance, he wanted to do something different, so... It was a very good time for us because I wanted to change the way I wrote songs, till then I was limited to the guitar and I understood I could use different instruments.
And what are your remembrances about work, recording the album with Marco?
Marco is a computerized man, I can say technical. He plays well keyboards. We met at 11 a.m. , drank cappuccino, later started the work. In the studio I felt comfortable, could sit down and drink coffee or mix songs with Marco. That was something new, I have never felt so. I could walk about the studio. Thanks him I didn't feel this wall.
Why did you call the album "The Cappuccino Songs"?
Well, he's Italian, I'm brown ... so both we are just like cappuccino. I like to drink cappuccino. For me, when I was a kid, the idea that I would ever be in the world where I could drink cappuccino every day, it was so romantic, so... And for me it's a very magic word, it's just the love that I have for Italy and it's a kind of attitude that I have towards life now, which is very light. And somebody asked me, "Why didn't you call the album "The Sky Is Mine"?" and I was like, I can't call it this way, I can't call an album "The Sky Is Mine", it sounds awful, pretentious and I was very sure that this title was not pretentious, it's a funny title, everyone is very curious about it, it's like a love story, really...
Do you remember your first concert?
Yes, I bought a new dress then... [laughter] There were any ... five persons. Fortunately there was any V.I.P. - any agent drinking tea ...
Your debut album was the wonderful "Ancient Heart". Tell us what it's like to be a famous teenager.
It's very strange because you're still a kid and there are many things that you want to do. You want to fall in love, make stupid mistakes, get drunk and you would never do because you're scared that people would criticize you and eventually I could do these things when I was older but I didn't miss it because I was very much in an adult world, I was very much on my best behaviour all the time. But I was working very hard, people recognized me and I didn't really understand but I didn't do anything fun, I didn't do many fun things.
Do you remember your childhood? Was it exceptional in any way?
I think I had a very... early part of my childhood was very nice. We were in Germany, I was growing up in the army environment. I had a very, very strange childhood because we didn't have television, because it was in German so the kids were really free and really wild, we wouldn't watch telly, making up... we were always in pop groups, played games, football or playing, creating our own world. We were very free when we were young. And now I see kids, they just spend all their time playing computers, you know they don't have the same freedom. Maybe that's the world that's changed, kids aren't secure outside their home but I mean when I was a kid I felt very protected.
When did you decide to become a musician?
I was about 16 and - not a musician because I never felt like a musician but I thought I would become a writer. I saw Suzanne Vega and I thought, "Wow, you know you could be a song writer and it would be so cool", and I remember she influenced me very much, her young age, not just the songs but the fact that she was singing them that way, she was there, she had quite a strange voice but she was very musical.
By the way, are there any artists admired by yourself, wanted to common recording?
The Mavericks. Do you know them? [laughter]
No, rather no...
Madonna, Gladys Knight, Gypsy Kings ... I would like to work with many musicians.
Have you heard, Madonna is listening your records?
...Yes, but there is something wrong... She lies a bit. [laughter]
And how about your film adventures?
That was funny. I like the atmosphere on location, being with actors, but I don't suppose I can act. That's only amusement, my friends directed these films.
Let's talk about your album yet. Why did you make a cover of ABBA's "The Day Before You Came", why did you choose this particular song?
I grew up with their music. For me there are the symbol of being European. But even when they sang English they felt own dissimilarity. I always admired their way to fame. "The Day Before You Came" is a song which haunted me, I think it was their last song and it was a song that seemed very adult, it didn't seem a pop song, there seemed to be a real melancholy in it. It describes a day of a woman smoking a cigarette after a cigarette and wait for someone to happen. For me it's a great story, cos you don't know what will happen then...
And you decided ...
...to spoil it. [laughter]
I wanted to ask why your version is so modern?
The original version is very long. Mine is shorter. There is something alarming... The original is light, quiet, but there will happen something ... I like it. There isn't any point in copying the original as the original version is wonderful and you can't do it better so it's just a reinterpretation.
Has your name any meaning?
No, but my mother told two stories. First - my name is in honour of any north American woman (squaw? - BJ) fighting for Indian laws in Canada. The second - they chose my name Anita and my mother added "T" in the beginning, Tanita Tikaram sounds more melodiously.
Do you listen to music at home?
Yes, I did it last weekend. I bought 10 unknown CDs. Must say it wasn't a good choose... [laughter] There is nothing interesting. But sometimes there are 10 splendid CDs.
What concerts do you like to see most: the big concerts on the stadiums or rather in the small clubs?
One thousand, one and half thousand - that's right. I prefer concerts in the clubs etc. My vavourite place in London is "Royal Festival Hall". It's not only the concert hall, but the centre of arts with bookshops, music stores, cafés. I don't like crowded concerts - I want to relax there. I prefer places where you can hear music.
Tell me about "I Think Of You". For me it's one of the most important songs.
Really? "I Think Of You" is my favourite song, it's not by me, it's a translation of an Italian song by Lucio Battisti, it's very emotional, very melodramatic. Actually, most love songs sound pretty the same but it's about unrequited love, about somebody abandoned. And when I played it to my friends they all started crying and that was the first time I met Marco and we decided to work together.
Translation: Boleslaw Januszko
Thanks to Krzysztof for transcription of theinterview for Polish Radio 3