“Always be working,” Tamar-kali says. “Work is the way. I think that when you make that transition to do this as a profession, certainly you need some kind of break, but when you get some luck, a great job, a great opportunity, it was all the honing of the skills that will allow you to be ready. Focus on developing as an artist.”
Music composition and performance has been a part of Tamar-kali’s life since childhood, but this year the alternative musician––who combines soul, classical, metal and post-punk influences––has made her debut in the world of film scoring with director Dee Rees’ Mudbound.
Tamar-kali sang choir in school in Brooklyn from a young age, but also got a taste of the professional music world very early on during summers spent in South Carolina at her family’s music club. Tamar- kali's New York upbringing combined with her southern roots evolved her sound.
“I’m a second-generation musician. My father was a jazz bass player” Tamar-kali says. “I was exposed to different types of ethnocultural music, like blues and spirituals, and at the same time, I was raised Catholic and was a choral classical singer. It’s just about integrating the experiences of your life in your work.”
Her introduction to the film scoring world started with Rees, who asked Tamar-kali to contribute songs to the soundtrack of Rees’ first feature film, Pariah. From there, Tamar-kali was asked to score Rees’ Bessie for HBO, but didn’t get the gig because she hadn’t scored a film before. But a new opportunity came along in Mudbound.
“Dee has a very wide periphery on what she’s working on and creating. She had an aesthetic in mind, which made her reach out to me.” The resulting score was sparse, ominous yet emotional, capturing the intimacy and sadness of the plot as well as the muddy and rainy backdrop. The film composing experience, Tamar-kali says, is one she wants to revisit again after this project.