Photography by Becca Reymann and Julianna Photography
What a wonderful tune to start the day! Today we want to introduce you to ZEMBU, an indie-pop electronic producer based out of Colorado, whose latest release Mixed really got us by exuding a warm feeling inside. The sound feels like a soft summer rain, like a sweet daydream. “I fell back in love with making music last year,”, she tells us after she stopped singing for about a decade as a teenager. In our interview she tells us how she rediscovered her love for music and how she reconnected with her racial and cultural identities.
You said you fell in love again with making music last year. How come you had a break and what was the trigger that you fell in love again?
I grew up in a very musical home where both of my parents were musicians, my sister played piano, my brother played the drums, and I loved to sing. I stopped singing for about a decade as a teenager. It wasn’t until I was 23 years old that I rediscovered my love for singing and creating music during a jam with a friend. I went all in with music after writing a song with that friend, which motivated me to quit my desk job to pursue music full time. I started out as the lead vocalist for a couple of projects, and then began creating and producing music as ZEMBU in 2019.
Your new track “Mixed” captures a large part of your personal journey, exploring the complexities of being mixed race. A lot was about reconnecting with your Japanese identity after the death of your Japanese mum. Was it a difficult journey for you to reconnect and how has this changed the way you feel in your daily life now?
Reconnecting with my racial and cultural identities has been a journey of healing and feeling more whole as a human. Spiritually and mentally, I’ve been learning how to hold the ways in which my ancestry has simultaneously harmed and been harmed. It’s a constant journey of learning and unlearning. Understanding how my body holds all of these pieces of history has been complex and nonlinear as well—how the Japanese colonized Korea, how the U.S. interned the Japanese, how white people have inflicted so much violence upon Black, Indigenious, and other People of Color, how Jewish people experience ongoing anti-semitism, how my light skin affords me so much privilege in the U.S. where anti-Blackness is rooted in our culture, how I exist on stolen Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Ute land, and so so much more. I am learning how to embody and hold all these truths.
I’m grateful for how this journey has significantly changed my daily life. The deeper and growing awareness of my identities is helping me understand who I am in this world and what that means in different contexts. I have a lot more to learn and this is just the beginning.
“I love how electronic music can meld a variety of genres. I am incredibly drawn to the textures and sounds within the electronic realm.”
In what mood and place do you need to be in order to be able to be the most creative for writing and producing songs?
I need to be in a reflective state to write, whether that be inspired by sadness, joy, injustice, love, or something else. I love writing while surrounded by nature, away from technology, which I find creates the space for the words to come through. For the production piece, I need to be in a more focused state working in my studio.
Why did you choose the electronic genre?
I love how electronic music can meld a variety of genres. I am incredibly drawn to the textures and sounds within the electronic realm.
What is the meaning of your artist name ZEMBU?
“Zenbu” means “all, whole” in Japanese and ZEMBU comes from that. ZEMBU was the artist name my mom gave my dad for drawings he made when they first met. She spelled it with an “m” instead of an “n.” To this day we are not sure if that spelling was intentional.
Do you have any musical idols?
Nina Simone, Florence + The Machine, Bon Iver, and Stevie Wonder are a few of the many!
Besides music, what makes you happy?
Other than music, I love being in nature, moving my body, fostering pups, doing just about anything with my partner, being with family, propagating plants, fostering meaningful relationships, and eating sushi.
Are you introverted or extroverted?
Extroverted introvert. :)
Do you have any new Year resolutions?
Many, haha. :) One of the many is to celebrate more. The small, the big, the in between, the nuances.