Tamara Nivillac


Tamara Nivillac

It’s safe to say that music is in Tamara Nivillac’s blood. She was born Tamara Alejandra Nivillac (1984) on the island of Curaçao into a musical family; Her mother was a singer in the music group Caribbean Corals, her older sister is Ana Iria Nivillac, a renowned singer on the island, and her cousin is none other than the singer Junior Tecla, of Rootsriders fame.

The beginning
A curious twist in Tamara Nivillac’s story is that from the onset it was actually her sister that was primed to be the singer of the family and she herself was interested in a dancing career. And this was no frivolous interest either; she was in folklore, salsa and modern dance groups and everything.

But after hearing her older sister rehearse pretty much every day after school and seeing her win singing contest after singing contest, she was inspired to test her own pipes.  And what do you know it turned out the family had another songbird.

The song festival
So at the age of 12 she decided to sign up for a song festival, much to the surprise of everyone. She came in second, which in itself is no small feat for someone who is participating for the first time, and this motivated her to keep moving in the direction of performing on stage.

Her performance also inspired a cavalcade of support from her teachers and peers at her alma mater Maria Immaculata Lyceum (MIL), an atmosphere which would go on to become conducive to the advancement of her career as she performed at many school fairs and was a member of several school choirs.

A star is born

This in turn inspired her to participate on the first edition of CuraStars(at that time called Curaçao Talents) sometime after she graduated from MIL and started attending the University of Curaçao. She won the contest and after her victory all the doors opened for her in Curaçao.

She performed at pretty much every show and venue on the island, recorded radio jingles, went into the studio with Curaçaoan music legends like Ced Ride, and also represented Curaçao in cultural exchanges across the region in countries like Suriname, Venezuela and Cuba. Her voice was everywhere so it goes without saying that she became a household name on the island.

The move to the Netherlands
But after a while her ambitions for international recognition led her to make a decision to move from the island in 2009. Destination? The Netherlands, which was quite an audacious move because this was a bigger pond after all.

She had to start from zero, but she immediately got to work releasing singles and she eventually joined the Rootsriders, a Dutch-Caribbean Reggae/Pop music group known for their Tribute 2 Bob Marley live shows. This steadily increased her popularity until 2016, when it exploded in earnest.

How? Well, for starters, the single “Mi Ku Bo”, her collaborative effort with Cape Verdean artist Dina Medina, became an international sensation and the accompanying video is a nominee at the Skempi Caribbean Music Awards 2016 for Best Video of the Year.

This was an offshoot of her CuraMeetsCabo initiative which spawned a series of soldout concerts in Rotterdam. What does CuraMeetsCabo mean exactly? It is a musical collaborative music project between artists from Curaçao and Cape Verde, whose Creole language bears a striking similarity to the Papiamentu of the ABC islands.

“Hello” in Papiamentu!
How did this come about? Well, this was another one of her success stories of 2016 as it all started with her cover of Adele’s smash hit “Hello” at the beginning of this year. As we all remember that song had the world completely in its grasp and gave rise to covers in a myriad of languages.

In the midst of the craze, Tamara Nivillac noticed that no one had done a cover in Papiamentu. Thus she took it upon herself to pen one down and release it to the world. The accompanying video clip unleashed a barrage of positive reactions on social media in the ABC islands and the Netherlands, where many Cape Verdeans live (especially in Rotterdam where Nivillac also resides).

The song eventually reached their attention too and their reaction was immediate. Many got in touch with Nivillac, sending her messages like “What language is that you’re singing in? It is almost entirely intelligible to us!”. Naturally, this made her very curious and with some research she found that the two countries have quite a few things in common when it comes to culture, history, and language.

This inspired her to reach out to Cape Verdean artists living in Rotterdam, among them Dina Medina, and so CuraMeetsCabo was born.

The year of Tamara Nivillac!
And all those efforts and successes in the year 2016 have also garnered her a Best Female Artist of the Year nomination at the Skempi Caribbean Music Awards.

And this is only the beginning for her as she plans on touring the world and sharing the beauty of her native Curaçao and her native Papiamentu with many international crowds, starting with the crowds of Cape Verde, naturally. Probably also the crowds of Portugal as she is very well known there as well.

Dreams, Passions and Projects
It is also one of her dreams to release a book of poetry in Papiamentu and she also plans on releasing her first EP sometime soon. If she can find the time to finish it, because she is extremely busy doing the touring thing as she tours with Rootsriders four times a year.

But that doesn’t keep her from making moves in the world music scene, among which are a single she recorded in New York with Meta Dia, the Senegalese international Reggae/Afro-Punk powerhouse. It is set for release sometime next year.

You will be hearing more from this extremely talented singer, probably in a theater setting at some point as she really has a soft spot for performing on a theater stage and telling the audience a story through song.

We can’t wait!

In the meantime…

Listen to more of her on Skempi!

Gerson Eleonora (1987) has a passion for writing, whether it be short stories, poems or the biographies, reviews and music articles displayed here on the site. He is an aficionado of everything Caribbean, it’s almost as if salt water runs through his veins.
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