I meet Ami Warning during her stopover in Berlin in June where she played a gig together with her father. The bassist and full-time musician Wally Warning grew up in Aruba and brings a soulful touch to music making and shaped his daughter’s musical upbringing. “Family inspires me a lot”, Ami says over a Latte on a sunny morning in Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg. One of the songs on the Mixtape is dedicated to her father. Simsalabim translates to a heart aching ballad wishing for a loved one to recover from a disease which renders one unable to help.
Family also shapes the life of Ami outside of music. During the pandemic she opened a Kiosk in her neighborhood in Munich together with her mother. “My father is very determined and a true musician, which I admire but my mother inspires me with other things. She has a giant heart and the lengths she goes through to make the customers happy are inspiring”, Ami says.
While her father used to be, and continues to be a musical collaborator, Ami Warning made the conscious decision to follow her own path and started releasing her solo music at age 18. Back then the artist used to sing in English. Kurz vorm Ende der Welt is her second record in German. There is a certain warmth to the way Ami Warning sings in German. She manages to bend the otherwise often harsh and edgy sounding language over groovy soulful arrangements. On her self-produced record, she cracked the code of placement and minimal instrumentation, which gives the music as special touch and makes it flow more than one might expect from German language music.
“Some people told me to not release it in this state and that it is unfinished. But it is the closest to what I like, and how I am. It was really empowering to see the positive reaction to something I created entirely by myself.”
Intersections of Genre
After four records, Ami speaks about her music with confidence but refreshing humility. She is always thinking of how to grow and learn new things. “There are so many things I want to explore with my sound. My big goal is to create a new mix of genres – something between Reggae, Soul, and Hip Hop. When I think of German music, I see so much opportunity to do something else with it than the German pop scene.”
And Ami is right. Her sound clearly distinguishes itself from the usual offerings of the German music scene – which shift from German language Rap and Pop to German artists choosing to sing in English to achieve a more international sound. “I am especially interested in the genre Reggae”, says Ami who was shaped by listening to artists like Bob Marley during her up brining. “It has such a stigma nowadays in Germany of being just this happy-things when it really is so much deeper.” One of her favorite songs by Bob Marley is She’s Gone, which strikes the balance between having the leisurely groove of Reggae rhythms while encompassing a deeply moving emotion.
One of the most poignant songs on Ami’s record is Hallo Kinder (hello children). “It is to all the kids out there”, she grins. While the song is upbeat, it is about reclaiming the youthful ideas and creativity denied to impressionable children by adult authority. “I remember my music teacher always criticizing me for the way I sing. She told me it was wrong, and that I needed to change the way. The song is about not letting go of one’s ideas.” The positive reaffirmation is not just something that kids need but that can also be applied to adults. It is sometimes only in looking back that we realize that our teachers or other role models were not the ‘truth bearers’ that they appeared to be from the perspective of a youngster.
Ami’s approach to making music guards that playful eagerness to discover new things as a treasured quality. It might have come from always having been encouraged to pursue a musical career, but also from the determination that the singer found in her love for exploration and expression.
“You have to stay courageous. It is boring to just write the kind of music that you know will be liked. I believe that we should seek out the places of discomfort to challenge ourselves to grow. It can be scary and painful – the process of recording the Mixtape – but in the end I dared to pursue what I wanted, and I am happy.”
Ohne Schmerz Kein Glück
This year she also collaborated with other people from the music scene around Munich. Werden 12/12 is a strong political statement song by Roger Rekless and Horst Wegener on which Ami Warning features. It calls out the racist structures, violence, and micro-aggressions People of Color are still faced with in Germany. “I am still learning”, Ami says about her experiences of living in Germany as a Person of Color. “Roger is very active, and he can express things so well. For me it is still difficult. These moments pass so fast and sometimes I cannot react because its often-backhanded compliments that are racist.”
Werden 12/12 is a powerful musical way of fighting back and expressing the struggles of many PoC growing up and living in Germany. As Roger Reckless sings, they do not want to be pushed into roles assigned to them by white German society of being either the ‘criminal’ or the ‘perfectly integrated one’ who always has to be on best behavior but to live their lives without stereotypes assigned.
Mixtape full of Surprises
Without pain no happiness – is written on the singer’s artist bio on her webpage and that bittersweet statement captures the strange melancholia inherent to her music. In the edgy German lines, she hides the pains and pleasures of personal and universal experiences.
Ami Warning’s music inhabits an interesting intersection. It is neither soul nor Hip Hop nor Reggae but all of those things at once. And her ability to play with the German language allows her to create a mixtape full of songs that are not what you might expect from German music.
Photos by Liv Toerkell.
Every Monday the treasure hunt squad from the NBHAP staff is bringing an exciting new artist to your attention along with a 30-track-strong Introducing Playlist over on Spotify as we add ten strong songs by fresh acts on top of it. Feel invited to follow the playlist and give these talents a good spin.
This week’s picks include brand new music from artists like Fazer, Douniah, and Fiva. Come and hit the play button.