Writer Jasmine Khan / Photographer Daisy Richardson
Speaking to Jamahl (Jam) Augustine in one of those healthy, overpriced cafés on a side road just off Pigeon Park, I’m curious to find out about his experiences of playing the Birmingham music scene and how they’ve changed since Jamahl started working as a musician.
“First stepping-out and being 18 and playing venues it was like… I’m the youngest here,” explains Jamahl, “In terms of now, you see more familiar faces and get to know the environment. Just getting to know people as well – locals and people I used to gig with back then.”
He adds: “It’s nice to feel that sense of development that’s come from the past five years. I’m no longer a timid 18-year-old.”
I quickly do the maths and realise Jamahl is only 23 which surprises me. There’s a clear maturity in the way he handles himself and the way he speaks – maybe it’s because Jamahl’s been at work since he was 18 rather than getting pissed-up in student digs.
What’s more, half a decade of playing professionally has given Jamahl some insights into how Brum’s music scene develops.
“It used to be that you could easily go around for a few years and not get to know someone who’s been on the same circuit. Now, everyone’s more integrated in terms of working together, even if it’s just about being at the same jam nights.’
“There’s a lot more new collaborations, not necessarily just myself, but people are out and about and it’s led to a better development of the music scene as well – because everyone’s chipping in and doing their bit.”
Jamahl takes some time to shout out people on the scene he’s personally enjoyed collaborating with like Call Me Unique, Czafari, and Lucien Moon where Jamahl plays mostly RnB, hip-hop, soul and occasionally pop. He says, “It’s the most fun to play on bass, music that’s always rhythmical or harmonically moving. There’s lots of free reign.”
Jamahl has been playing bass for a total of 10 years (five years professionally), but he also plays the guitar and picked-up production over various past lockdowns.
He explains, “they bring out different sides of each other so to speak. If I’m thinking of an idea on bass first, then I might add guitar to it, and then be like ‘oh I like this guitar part’ so I can improve the bass part.
“It’s nice to have those different creative outlets – switching up brings more opportunities as well.”
As our conversation begins to come to a close, Jamahl and I discuss working in the creative industry more abstractly. “We all have human needs in terms of how we need to look after ourselves,” remarks Jamahl, talking about the way in which musicians and other creatives care for their mental health.
“A lot of people I know personally struggle in the creative industry, they don’t have a reference point to how they should be feeling because everyone’s about the grind. But you can’t put in as much work if you’re not looking after yourself.”
I couldn’t agree more, hustle culture without respect for rest results in burnout.
Jamahl continues, “I think if people had a bit more stability in terms of having somewhere to go to work good habits into their life, and look after themselves a bit more, it’s only going to be better for the industry as well.
“People will put out better music, and be in better places to work. We need to improve the foundations that we’re building on.”
For more from Jamahl (Jam) Augustine check out: www.soundbetter.com/profiles/268604-jamahl-augustine