The Exclusive Interview
with Tanita Tikaram
Polish TV * * * June - August 1998
Q. Why did you start to sing?
T. I started to sing because I wanted to write and I was about 16 or 17 when I started to write seriously, and it was a way of not going to university. I didn't have any consciousness of singing, I sang because no one else wanted to sing my songs. I only became aware that I had a very dark voice when I started selling records and people were telling about it, at first I didn't know anything about singing.
Q. How did you feel when your song 'Twist In My Sobriety' became a hit and the album 'Ancient Heart' was a huge success?
T. I was very young then. (laughter)
Q. You're still very young.
T. I thought this is what happened when you made a record. I thought that you make a record, you sell millions of copies and everything is like that. I didn't know that I had been very lucky. All I remember about that period is that I was working for three years very hard, because when you make a successful record, you have to work very hard. And I really don't remember very much apart from working very hard.
Q. Do you mind telling us about the song "Twist In My Sobriety"? I suppose everyone knows it but few people are aware what it's really about.
T. Oh, it's quite funny, the first line "All God's children need travelling shoes" comes from a book by Maya
Angelou; I don't know why I used it but it sounded poetic and spiritual too me; the rest of the song is really
about not understanding - when you're 18, you've got a very particular emotional relationship with the
world, you feel very isolated, and everybody else is so distant and cold. And I think I was singing about not
feeling anything or not being moved by things around. I think this is a strong feeling when you're just after
adolescence. There is a very good film called 'Heavenly Creatures' by a director from New Zealand, I don't know if you've seen it, it's about two girls that kill their mother
Q. Oh, no...
T. but it's not the murder that matters but their feelings and how you're feeling at that time. But then it passes by.
Q. I think most of your songs are about emotions and relationships people have. Are you honest in your songs or are you just playing games?
T. Actually, I think I'm playing games. (laughter) I don't know, I think both. Not with you, but with myself as well. I mean, I don't want to fool a listener, but in everything I write there's a sense of truth and untruth, but I try to make untrue things real as well, so it's a kind of a game.
Q. What a pity, I thought you're honest with us.
T. (laughter) I try, but it's a kind of a game.
Q. How was it when fame hit you? When you become popular at the age of 18, fame usually goes to your head, so it must have gone to your head.
T. It wasn't really like that because I was very - I tried to pretend to myself that nothing had happened, I tried to be very normal, I had no idea about other rock or pop stars' lifestyle. I was very nervous, I was very nervous when I was 18. And I lost a lot of confidence when I became famous, I didn't understand why other people react towards me this way. I wasn't aware of my success and realized what had happened much later.
Q. Let's talk about your album, The Cappuccino Songs. Does it mean you like drinking cappuccino, does it help you with your work, or maybe it's your drug?
T. (laughter) Yea, cappuccino is my drug, just like other kinds of coffee. I wrote most of the songs with Marco Sabiu, who is Italian, and for us most things are like cappuccino, life is like cappuccino. And I hope this title isn't pretentious, you don't take it seriously and I quite like that.
Q. Your new album sounds happier than the previous one and is slightly frivolous, does it mean something has changed in your life, you're nearly 30...
Q. But what does it mean, you're in love now...
T. Yea, but it sounds so stupid when you say you're in love. But when you're 30, the person you're really in love with is yourself; but no, not in such an awful Californian way, I mean that you accept yourself as you are. When I was younger, I was very nervous, I was even quite scared of my voice because of its darkness. Now I've changed a lot, I spend a lot of time with other people from different parts of the world. Anglo-Saxon mentality is very closed, while with the Latino people there's a kind of openness and I think I've borrowed a bit of it from them. I'm more open, I don't feel the same heaviness of my life, it's lighter, I've really changed a lot.
Q. Is it true you don't have a TV set at home? How can you live without it, but be honest with us.
T. Shall I be honest?
Q. Yes, be honest!
T. OK. If I see a TV set, I'll just watch it the whole day, and I'll be like, amazing, everything is so amazing, it's like I just discovered the television. And I can't live like that, I can't just wake up and turn on TV, it's just horrible, I would just watch the whole thing the whole day.
Q. You wouldn't have a new album...
T. I wouldn't have a new album, I would be like an old woman watching TV with a cigarette. I lived in Los Angeles for 1.5 years with a person who didn't want to have TV and I understood that because America is a TV heaven, there's just like 100 channels. After that I've noticed that your sense of time is changed, you have much more time for other people, and you talk, you read, you can go to the cinema. It's more exciting; I just hate the way television dictates your time. And I think most people reach 6 o'clock in the evening and they all start watching TV then, and I hate that, and get really scared when people say they have to go back and watch a TV programme. I know that TV is incredibly important but I detest the way it dictates our lives. So I listen to the radio for the news and I'm sure a lot of news I miss because I also have a very antagonistic relationship with newspapers, so maybe I'm just a freak. (laughter) I don't know.
Q. Your father comes from Fiji, you were born in Germany and have lived most of your life in Great Britain, how do you manage to combine all these cultures?
T. I suppose I have a more intimate relationship with my mother, so I feel more closely attached to Malayan
culture, but really I don't have a sense of belonging to any culture. I've travelled a lot and I have no sense of
being Indian or Malayan or English, I feel like a free electron, displaced in a very nice way, with no heritage.
And it's a very nice feeling.
Q. What kind of movies do you like?
T. I like French movies, 'La vie en rose' is a very good movie and "Apartment", actually there's a lot of very good French movies at the moment.
Q. Do you know any Polish directors working in France?
T. Yes, one of them is Sophie Marceau's husband.
Q. Yes, it's Andrzej Zulawski, do you know his movies?
T. No, I've read about him in a gossip magazine.
Q. So you read gossip magazines!?
T. Yea, sometimes. (laughter)
Q. Do you know any movies by Krzysztof Kieslowski?
T. Yes, but he's dead, isn't he? Have you seen the film 'La double vie de Veronique'?
T. Did you enjoy it?
Q. I left in the middle of the movie.
T. I left, too. I think his attitude towards women was very particular. Sorry, I don't want to criticize him but it was strange. There's a whole genre in French movies that I don't like because it presents such a particular attitude towards women - like him.
Q. You seem like a very passionate person when you're speaking. What is your biggest passion in life?
Q. You don't look like a person that eats a lot!
T. I do, but I also jog. I like Italian cuisine very much, and also Chinese and Malayan specialties; Asian cuisine in general.
Q. You're going to perform at the Sopot festival soon, it will be your first time in Poland.
T. I want to sing with a string quartet, these are very good young women violinists with their own style and lots of energy, they are stars in themselves. I don't want to pretend that I sing, so I don't want to do a playback because what's the point, it's like doing karaoke so I'd like to do it with nice musicians.
Q. Thank you very much, it was a big pleasure to talk to you.
T. Thank you.
Tapescript: Krzysztof Migdalski for Tanita Tikaram mailing-list
The interview was made in June '98 in Warszawa and shown on the Polish public TV in August '98, right before the Sopot Festival '98. Great thanks to Krzysztof for this tapescript. Also thanks to Raoul for his help with the movie titles. You've made really good job!
Updated: 24th September 1999, Boleslaw Januszko
Back to Interviews main page * Back to Homepage