Una Rams the multitalented one talks his upbringing, being a software engineer, Sam Sonic and Venrap.
Hailing from the town of Makwarela, in Venda, Limpopo, Unarine Rambani, popularly known as Una Rams paid the backyard a visit to talk about his upbringing and how that has played a huge role in the man and artist he is today. Even more excitingly, he also shares how being a software engineer actually interlinks with being an artist. As if this alone is not impressive, his come up has been an interesting to watch following his feature in “Flava” a song on Black Coffee’s album, Subconsciously, paving his way for him as a household name.
“At that a point it was too much attention for a shy guy like me and it got a bit overwhelming. Moving from being just a regular guy to going to the mall and having people stop you to ask for pictures was out of my comfort zone.”
His trajectory of growth is far from the usual tale of an artist starting from the bottom and working their way up to bag major features. Focalistic is a prime example of someone who was “prepared” for his success because he started his career in the streets of Pretoria and worked his way up to securing collaborations such as Davido. Una Rams on the other hand, bagged a major feature before his career could really take off. Many expected him to use the Black Coffee feature to kick start his career, however, Una Rams says being shy held him back but is something he has since outgrown. He also credits personal challenges for his decision to take a hiatus before allowing his career to take off.
“I’ve grown to get a bit more comfortable in that setting. It wasn’t a trigger the break that I took. A lot that was happened in my personal life - there was a mugging that happened and that was very traumatic and required me to take some time to heal. In that time, I was creating and there is a lot of music to show for it, including the mixtape I just dropped now is a detour from the album I’m working on.”
Una Rams the Curator.
The music Una Rams has released since the hiatus was worth the break as not only has he been lauded for his talent as an R&B singer but his come up as an artist who infuses his home language in his music has made him stand out from a lot of artists. The multitalented curator has an ear for sounds, voices and layers like a producer that can be heard in his music, another distinguishing factor about him. This intricate knowledge and understanding how to make music stems from his upbringing, where he started singing.
Having grown up in Venda, in a loving home with 2 parents and 5 children, Una Rams was often shielded from life’s challenges, a privilege he acknowledges and mentions that it fell away as he grew older. Whilst many children in African households are steered away from the entertainment industry, Una Rams’ parents encouraged him to follow his dreams and passions with the condition that he keeps his grades up. Being the intelligent man he is, proving himself to his parents came with no hassle.
“Home is back in Venda where I grew up in a family with my two loving parents that I love so dearly and 5 other siblings. It wasn’t always easy but I think I was kept safe from all the difficulties because I didn’t realize it until much later in life. They were always super supportive; I was that kid that was told that I could be whatever I wanted to be. If they weren’t telling me that, I would be hearing it on TV and that’s where the accent comes from, from watching a lot of TV, from watching a lot of cartoons.”
Una Rams is the perfect example of how an upbringing can mould the person a child becomes when they are older. Known for his gentle soul, kindness and drive for excellence, Rams grew up in a home where his parents were pastors and ran their own ministry. Having been in the choir, this is where his singing talent was discovered and nurtured. He learnt how to play instruments and found a love for production. “Music was always a part of that - there was a lot of Israel Houghton and Kirk Franklin. That’s where I fell in love with the chords and melodies”
Una the academic and software engineer.
Una Rams had his first taste of the entertainment industry after moving to Johannesburg to study Computer Science at Tuks. He and his friends danced as a group which posed a concern for his parents, but being the determined person he is, he set out his mission to prove to his parents that he could maintain his grades and still pursue his other interests.
“My parents were concerned about my grades so I told them ‘Let me prove it to you that I could keep the grades up and still do what I love’, then they agreed to support me.”
Although he was allowed and supported in pursuit of his music career and love for dancing, academia was clearly very important to Ram’ parents who encouraged him to pursue a career he could fall back on if the music didn’t work out. This has served him well, allowing him to focus on his music career without worrying about his finances. The balance of it all can be tedious but Rams says he would not trade it for anything and that he values the life lessons he has been able to learn and leverage.
“I’m a software engineer and this week has been super crazy because we have 3 clients who are on boarding and 1 client that’s just maintenance. The two other guys on the same project are on leave and I’m the lead developer on the project so everything falls on me. I had a couple of deployments yesterday so I worked a 12-hour shift and straight after that I had to shower, then go out and perform- that was the highlight of my day.
It’s been a tough and difficult one but I think at the end of it all, I’m just proud that I’m able to rise up to the challenge and complete all the tasks I need to. It feels like it’s teaching me so many lessons in life just about how to balance things and go for what’s not particularly easy but will be worthwhile and fulfilling. It will pay off when I’m eventually able to be a full-time artist.”
Disorganized in music and the organised software engineer.
Software engineering is a process driven field whereas artists are known to be disorganized, hence their need for a team. Having a team and manager allows for the artist to focus on the one thing they are good at, music whilst someone else looks after the business of the craft. Una Rams’ ability to navigate his way between the two is yet another factor that makes him a unique artist.
“I think I see everything as a platform and it allows you to use your creativity everywhere. In the software space, I’ll be creative and I see the problems I face there as puzzles. When I step into studio, there’s a song that must happen. I have a melody or the producer has a beat but it’s a puzzle to piece everything together, put words together. They sort of feed into each other and I’m able to find similarities in them and add a bit more structure. There’s beauty behind the madness.
I watched a Netflix episode on a show by Christoph Demon and he speaks about design and how you are allowed to at first just be the creator and just sporadically make magic. After that, you can take off that hat and put on another one and be a curator and masterfully and skilfully put things together where they belong.”
I’ve kind of taken that approach where I don’t have a lot of pressure going into studio, we can make whatever we want to make because I’m going to be feeling lots of different ways. I’ll have lots of different types of ways, some better than others so if one day I go in and I make a slow sad song, let me make that but when it’s time to curate the project, it’ll make sense.”
Bringing Venda into RnB.
Ndiyadiba mbilo yawe in Phase 2.
Fusing his home language into his music has not only made TshiVenda popular in music streets, it has also encouraged South Africans to embrace music sung in vernacular languages. Some have even said it sounds as sexy as French.
“That feature is actually really special to me- a full circle moment. I remember being in grade 4 or 5, it’s Arts and Culture and they needed us to recite a poem but I took one of Homies’ songs and recited that in class. He’s a Venrap legend, let it be known. He’s also on Makhadzi’s album. He absolutely added what he needed to add, I’m truly grateful.
It means you know my heart. It’s quite a beautiful tune to listen to and I knew this before I dropped it [I don’t like to sound pompous]. It’s just been beautiful to see how people are vibing to the song without understanding what I’m saying.
The famous reference to Venda for a lot of people, is Muvhango. This is why people pull up on me and say “Ahh Musanda” which is dope because you’re calling me chief. There’s so much more and I guess for someone who grew up speaking the language, you kind of take it for granted because that is what you speak, it’s just your language. Being able to introduce a lot more people to it and seeing how they react to it makes you admire or appreciate it’s beauty.”
Khade nomulalo - come with peace
Andadze nga dakalo - fill with me with joy
Andadze na milamo - and you’d fill up the dam
Barungwa bo gwadama achiesikwa - God must have spent some time on your features
“I wrote that from the heart. In terms of a Venda girl, man I love my Venda queens but at this point in time, someone already has my heart. She’s not Venda, she’s literally far from it. She’s my greatest muse and I’m hoping to see it through, go the distance. I just want to have the greatest experiences, travel the world and have fun with my best friend.”
Sam sonic - alter ego/ character.
Una Rams’ creative mind influences his music and has enabled him to play around with his brand which he presents in different characters, the most talked about one being Sam Sonic. Rams explained that because of his wide range of skill and talent, audiences sometimes struggle to categorize his music. Giving each genre or type of sound a character makes it easier for audiences to identify his sounds.
“It’s not a persona, it’s not an alter ego - that suggests that something else takes over me. I see it is as a character. The projects are like movies and they tell stories but I realize that because I’m so eclectic and I can make music in any genre, to the listener, it can be confusing because they don’t know where to put me. I started paying attention to that and put a lot of effort and intention into contextualizing my projects and roll out.
So, I thought about what this character looks like, what he probably does, his being and energy, and when I shared that with a couple of people that I collaborated with, we were able to paint a clearer picture of who Sam Sonic is.”
Closer feat. Muzi
Speaking about his collaboration with Muzi, Rams raved about Muzi paving the way in so many ways for various artists. Peer to peer inspiration is key to the growth of artists in the music space. The more we have the Focalistic’s and the Kamo Mphela’s hit the international scene, the more the artists who follow them will dream even bigger and aspire to do even better.
“I always tell him that he’s one of my heroes because he makes me believe the impossible. When I had the demo ready for it, I figured it needed more sauce and he added more elements on production.”