Interview with Amané Suganami

Photos of Amané Suganami

Two years ago, we set out on a journey to capture the spirit of London and pay homage to the materials, forms, and techniques which informed centuries of innovation in on of the world's greatest cities.

In doing so, we quickly realised that it isn’t enough to simply reflect the past. That legends are only born when you take what has come before you, living it, breathing it, before re-engineering it to express something new about the world as you know it.

And so we’ve developed four timeless frames which hark back to the simple elegance and handcrafted artisanship of the past while embodying the rich, innovative spirit of London today. Fittingly, we call them Legends.  

Learn more about Amané Suganami, the inspiration behind the Amané frame

Tell us about yourself, your background, what you’re up to.

My name is Amané, I’m a keyboardist and electronic musician based in East London. I grew up in the midlands and rural Wales and moved to London when I was 16 to study and pursue a career in music! At the moment I MD and play keys for singer Jorja Smith as well as play keys in bands Maisha and Where Pathways Meet. 

What are some of the forces which have influenced your approach to making music, or your work in general?

There are some specific recordings that have been really influential in my development as a musician. Like Miles Davis’ version of “All of You” from the ’64 concert was huge for me. I’d never heard a band interact and play with such freedom and spontaneity before. It really shaped my approach as an ensemble musician to want to create a dialogue between the leading musician and the accompanying musician. 

Who have been influential people in your musical career and how have they influenced the way you approach writing, composing or performing?

Being surrounded by so many great musicians since I’ve been in London has always been very inspiring. I’ve spent most of my time being a sideman for many different musicians across many genres and I always learn so much from each one of them about their approach to music-making. I’m still discovering what works best for me, a slow but enlightening process.

What do you feel you’ve gained by studying the tradition, the history and the greats of the artform? What does that bring to your work that wouldn’t be there otherwise?

Studying the past has informed a lot about my playing. I’ve spent the last couple of years learning about the greats of jazz music and a deep study of what and how they played. This has helped me to have a deeper connection to the music which I feel I wouldn’t have otherwise. 

When you’re writing, recording or performing, how does the study of the past come to life in what you do?

Trying to capture those amazing moments in music and bring it into my own is something I am trying to do and is hopefully starting to come out in my playing. I’ve recently been getting into the subtle changes that happen in the background and can completely lift and shape a piece of music, how one subtle change can bring the music to life. I think it’s so hip when you get it right and is something that I am trying to bring into my own music-making. 

How do you reconcile your relationship with music’s history with the desire to create something which speaks to your own time, place or culture? Are tradition and innovation mutually exclusive?

I believe that history isn’t just something that belongs to the past, it’s something that we carry with us as we move forward; so we need the history of the music to inform what we are doing now. I think when you listen to the most exciting and pioneering musicians on the scene at the moment you can hear the tradition in their playing, but they have developed in such a way that it sounds new and exciting. 

Describe your relationship with London? What’s great about it, what’s challenging about it? How do you balance these?

London is probably my favourite place in the world; it has such a unique energy to it that I love and I can’t see myself living anywhere else in the world right now. London has such a powerful output of different creative forms (music, art etc.) that is being seen across the world, I really feel that it’s one of the most exciting places to be right now. It is easy to get lost in it though and maintaining yourself and your wellbeing whilst trying to keep up with it all is definitely a challenging thing. 

What makes London a great place to be creative?

The people and the energy that London has makes it a comfortable place to be able to create and express yourself in a way you want to and not to be judged. There is a space for everyone to be who they want to be and that is one of my favourite things about London. On one night in London, you can go to and see some really out experimental music, go down the road and you can end up at a rave. 

Why do you do what you do? What makes it special to you or the people around you?

There are many reasons as to why I do music, but for me, one of the main things is that total freedom of expression and emotion that I feel when I’m making music. 

Tell us about anything you’re working on now or anything you have coming up!

I have quite an exciting couple of months coming up. I’m going on a European and North America tour with Jorja Smith across October through to the end of December and Maisha will be releasing their debut album on Brownswood this coming November. 

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