/ Shukura Chapman
words, photos & video by josh yong
many thanks to Natana Parata and Max McKay
- Name – Shukura Chapman
- Based – Brisbane, Australia
- Genre – Soul
Shukura’s new single “Release Me” is out now, listen here
It’s a scorcher of a day with Shukura,
it’s 9am when me and Natana pull up to the rather fancy James St. precinct in Brisbane city, and already the temperature is reading over 30 degrees. With nothing but full sun expected for the day we knew it was going to be an ongoing battle with the heat.
We were headed to a local coffee spot to meet up with Shukura Chapman, a U.K. born, NZ raised and Aussie based soul musician – someone I was very excited to spend the day getting to know and hearing perform.
I had reached out to Shukura relatively last minute, realising that I had a spare day in Brisbane. After discovering her music through Triple J Unearthed, I saw that she was a Kiwi and decided that it made perfect sense to collaborate. She checked out a few of my previous projects, understood my vision, and was excited to get on board.
Freshly caffeinated and creatively charged, we head to New Farm Park, just down the road on the bank of the Brisbane River. The park itself is pretty incredible, with giant fields, old trees, and a walkway that follows the river. All the locations that we would need for the day are contained within this area, so ideal.
Before we launch into any performances, we sit down at one of the picnic tables for a bit of a chat. I was keen to hear a bit more about Shukura as an artist and her journey to becoming an independent musician in Brisbane.
Shukura grew up in New Zealand, discovering her love of music through her love of the drums. When she moved to Sydney she wasn’t able to take her drum kit, so instead picked up the guitar, still transfixed by the rhythmic element of music which lead to her interest in the loop pedal as a part of her performance. After moving back to live in Auckland for a while, she eventually settled in Brisbane, where she really began to pursue music as a vocation.
It was a gig at a local venue that really kick started her desire to develop her craft. The venue manager was keen for Shukura to perform as part of a band, even providing session musicians for her to jam with. The problem was that she had never really played lead guitar before, but took it up as a challenge, spending the entire week leading up to the show learning and practising a scale so that she could solo.
“It was so bad” Shukura laughs, “I was just trying not to play a bung note”
- “I didn’t care though, it was too much fun.”
I think the story of how Shukura got to this point is a real testament to her character and discipline in her art-form.
It’s the perfect dose of determination, patience, a willingness to learn and the strength to learn from mistakes.
The first track Shukura will be performing today is a single she released last year, One by One. With her ukulele as accompaniment, the spot under a giant tree by the riverside seemed an opportune location to take advantage of.
We get the performance in a couple of takes, with picnic goers and holiday makers keenly observing. We couldn’t quite decide whether they were extremely interested in the musical performance, or just keen to claim their spot of precious shade as soon as we left.
“It was fire no denying, //
beckoned once and I came running…”
– Shukura Chapman “Release Me”
With days like this in a place like Brisbane, it is pretty counter-productive to be trying to do anything in the middle of the day when the sun is this high. On a practical sense, the light is beaming straight down, which doesn’t favour well for video, and also we were heading into the hottest part of the day, so running around trying to film and concentrate on nailing the performance would become more trouble than it was worth.
Instead we decided to take the opportunity to grab some food, lie in the shade, and listen to some music (as musicians do, right?)
We quickly got on to the topic of Best Albums of 2016, and discovered Shukura and Natana’s shared love of hip-hop music. This immediately sparked up an intense discussion about what albums stood out, what disappointed, and who to look out for in the next year.
There’s something so great about how universal, yet personalised music has become. I find it especially interesting how our individual music tastes are so defining of our character, and we become a kind of advocate for the artists we enjoy when discussing our tastes with others.
For the ROAM feature performance, Shukura wanted to play a live version of her new single “Release Me”.
The idea was for it to be in golden hour, and it looked like it was going to be a stunner of a sunset, so all elements were in place.
I wanted to try out something a bit different from the usual sunset shoot however, and try to incorporate the incredible structure of the Brisbane Powerhouse.
In the corner of the building was a little break in the bricks that formed a window that I hoped the sun would start stream through as it got lower. Without an official permit and with a small window of time that our light would be ideal, the pressure was on to nail the gig.
The gamble paid off.
Shukura nailed the performance, I was stoked with how it looked, and venue security was nowhere to be seen.
It was a pretty special thing hearing the track literally get built in front of us. Shukura utilised her loop pedal to layer on all the supporting layers, before settling into her vocals and lead guitar lines.
It was evident that Shukura has really taken the time to work on her craft. This track is definitely a sum of her musical direction and influences, and I love the way that she uses the lead guitar parts almost as a second voice. The guitar lines riff off her vocal melodies, they engage with each other in a conversational manner.
The other thing that really strikes me in this performance is the conviction that she carries as a performer. You can see just how much she is enjoying the music, and you can’t help but be drawn in and fully believe that everything Shukura is doing is coming from a place of integral honesty.
“Cap in hand, last thing I need from you //
to be true and release me…”
– Shukura Chapman “Release Me”
We wrap the performance and look across to the big field in the middle of the park – it’s bathed in the most stunning golden glow. We ditch our gear with Natana and race down to take a few portraits in the last of the light.
“It’s so great working with people who are genuinely in it just for the sake of making something” Shukura says to me,
“It’s exactly why I do this” I reply.
And it’s true. It’s days like this that constantly confirm and motivated me onto the next project. Meeting people like Shukura provides so much motivation and inspiration, and I hope that that is reciprocated to the artists. I believe that in a world full of underlying agendas and intentions, it’s so important to hold onto the ability to just create.
The performance of “Release Me” can be found at the top of the article x
Enjoy – more projects on the way so keep in touch.
Feel free to leave a comment below and let me know what you think of the project so far.
– JY x