‘I don’t like being boxed, that’s the thing with me,’ he says, firmly. ‘I don’t really have a genre or style of music that I do… I just like to do music.’
Tellaman, born Thelumusa Owen, hails from Durban, KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa and his story begins as a budding 15-year-old self-taught producer and musician. Growing up, he was surrounded by different forms of music and once he had made up his mind to pursue a musical career, there was no better influence spurring him on to realise his musical aspirations: his mother.
‘My mom used to make me sing at home and at church. I didn’t really like it at the time cause I was into soccer. So she saw something and actually made me want to carry on.’
By 2008, Tellaman had given in to his musical calling and began writing and producing his own music from his bedroom. But his big break did not come until 2014 when he got the opportunity to work with Soul Candi Records on their Soul Candi Records ’15 collection.
I can say that I am proud of Mind vs Heart because I basically did everything myself; from producing to songwriting to mixing.
As somewhat of a novice in the game, his exceptional musical talent captivated the Soul Candi producers; so much so that he featured on 12 of the 30 songs that were on the record. He reminisces on his first major single, Drinks and Music, on which he featured Okmalumkoolkat.
‘Okmalum’ was my first major feature. It was quite a dope experience to have him on my first single.’
Fast forward to 2016 and Tellaman’s career hit an upwards trajectory that had his name on the lips of a seemingly growing audience. In June he released his first individual project, a mixtape titled Mind vs Heart. Sitting down in a restaurant in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, he gives off a euphoric grin and I see a twinkle in his eye as he talks me through the mixtape.
‘I just wanted to release something for free because it had been so long since I released anything, the project was for the fans.
‘I can say that I am proud of Mind vs Heart because I basically did everything myself; from producing to songwriting to mixing.’
Tellaman explains that the response from his project has been phenomenal. It has a mixture of different sounds that collectively come together to illustrate his musical prowess. Although the mixtape was well-received by the masses, he modestly confesses that his feature on DJ Speedsta’s Mayo was the track that made people take better note of him.
Tellaman has a surprisingly phenomenal track record of artists that he has worked with in his considerably tender music career.
For the past few months, Mayo has been banging clubs and blazing on numerous radio airwaves, but its genesis was marred with distressing news for the musician.
‘The day I was recording the song I got a call from back home telling me that my little brother had just passed away so I just had to cancel everything and go back home.’
He concedes that he didn’t have a lot of time to record his verse on the track because he had to be with his family so the fact that Mayo continues to receive positive reviews amazes him.
The young singer-songwriter comes across as a reserved and humble individual. As he shares his stories he smiles a lot and makes a valiant effort to get his point across. In his spare time he listens to a lot of music of which he has a quite distinct taste in that he describes as ‘soulful’. Some of his favorite artists include Common, Jhene Aiko, The Internet, James Fauntleroy, Elli Ingram and Young Thug. He also enjoys the soothing sounds of jazz music.
Tellaman has a surprisingly phenomenal track record of artists that he has worked with in his considerably tender music career. It boasts the likes of AKA, Nasty C, Kwesta, Dream Team, Kid X and more in his native country; as well as the likes of Rancido and Pascal Morris from the Netherlands, to name a few.
Thus I was pleasantly surprised when he answered, ‘Nasty C’, to my question of which local (South African) artist he would love to work with.
‘Nasty and I have worked together so much and he’s like the only artist I’ve always wanted to work with, even before the both of us became famous. This is because I believed in him so much.’ The sentiments echoed just go to show how highly he rates his friend, house-mate and musical peer.
On the other hand, some international artists which he expressed a desire to work with include singing sensation, Frank Ocean, and mega producer, London on da Track. He feels that these artists’ sound is so futuristic that their genius goes overlooked.
For me, the biggest genres in the country are house and hip hop and I’ve always been a part of both.
His love for different kinds of music and his eagerness to learn from everyone around him makes him different from other mainstream artists; he’s always looking to do something fresh.
‘Some people would come to me for beats; some people would come to me to write for them and others would come to me for features. For me, the biggest genres in the country are house and hip hop and I’ve always been a part of both. So I feel like I’m part of the music scene rather than being part of just hip hop or just house.’
Tellaman laughs as he admits that over the past two years his life has changed. As he travels a lot between provinces he finds that more and more people recognize him and how some people eyeball him with slight confusion in an attempt to recollect where they recognise him from.
But keep an eye out for him – he’s got some interesting plans ahead, including some new singles, music videos and features. Watch this space.