Every day, new artists burgeon onto the industry scene, skyrocketing to fame through various social media platforms, Tik Tok being the most prominent. Some new faces in the music industry are coming from halfway across the world, including the likes of Benee and the Kid Laroi. Some artists, though, begin their musical careers right here at the University.
To get a look behind the scenes of the modern music industry, The Cavalier Daily spoke with fourth-year College student Akimi Gyamfi, an artist on the rise. Gyamfi discussed what brought her into the music industry, how her time at the University has influenced her craft, social media's influence on music and her new single “Schadenfreude.”
The conversation began by discussing her early ventures into the arts.
“When I was a little kid, I mean my mom would just be jamming out on the way to school,” Gyamfi reminisced. “Mostly like R&B, Neo soul Erykah Badu, Norah Jones. And then I really got into choir. I'd say [for] probably 12 years all the way through high school advanced choir.”
Her interest in music may have started when she was young, but Gyamfi’s time at the University has been an important point in her musical career. As a member of Hoos in Treble — an a capella group on-Grounds — Gyamfi often collaborates with other musicians. While collaborating with other musicians, she is able to hone her musical skills and develop as an individual artist.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Gyamfi began writing her own songs. This was a drastic shift from solely performing covers from famous musicians during Hoos in Treble performances and on her personal Youtube channel. As Gyamfi began writing original music and posting more videos on social media, people in the Charlottesville music scene began to notice.
Third-year College student Elie Bashkow, a music producer at the University, contacted Gyamfi in January to work together on a new song. Gyamfi and Bashkow’s collaboration led directly to the creation of “Schadenfreude.” During this time, Bashkow introduced Gyamfi to her current label, Tropic Records.
“While [Bashkow] was mixing ‘Schadenfreude,’ [Tropic Records] really liked it and one of the founders wanted to master the song for me,” Gyamif said. “Because they liked it so much… they talked to Elie and they kind of nudged Elie to [speak with me] about Tropic Records,” she said. In Feb. 2022, Gyamfi announced on Instagram she had become a part of Tropic Records, hinting at a future music release.
Even before joining Tropic Records, Gyamfi used social media to share her music. Currently, she has over 70,000 total views on Instagram and Tik Tok combined. Even though she has found success with social media, Gyamfi maintains navigating social media as an artist is difficult.
“Making content is exhausting,” Gyamif said. “Hundreds of thousands, probably millions of people [have] already [posted similar] content, and so it's finding something that distinguishes your music from others.... But it's also been wonderful because I get to connect with a lot of people who I have never met before.”
Later in the interview, Gyamfi gave an answer to what inspires her music.
“I would say that a lot of my songwriting is from my own lived experience,” Gyamfi said. “I think going through life — especially in my early 20s now — it's really about figuring out what I'm doing … I weave together the rough and smooth, the revengeful and forgiving, the calm and windy.”
Her approach to songwriting is executed masterfully in her song “Schadenfreude.” The song discusses the feeling of Schadenfreude, a German word which refers to the pleasure derived from another person’s misfortune. In the track, someone has betrayed Gyamfi, and instead of feeling sadness, Gyamfi revels in the consequences the other person will face.
The combination of the instrumental and Gyamfi’s vocal performance is fully capable of expressing delight for the person who has wronged her. The slow, repressed vocals are interpreted as a woman scorned holding back her anger as she patiently awaits the other person's demise. Gyamfi also plays with a feeling of relatability, believing that others can understand where she is coming from in enjoying someone else’s deserved pain.
“Schadenfreude” has already received some attention from listeners, gaining 1,005 streams on Spotify within the first day of release. With this in mind, listeners should definitely give “Schadenfreude” a try. Gyamfi’s artistry is a direct homage to many of the classic sounds of R&B and neo-soul, and “Schadenfreude” is one of hopefully many new songs that fits into these genres beautifully. Moreover, the song’s vibe is perfect for a warm, summer night out with your friends or for cruising down the street in a car.
The single is available on Spotify and other major streaming services. More songs are coming within the next few months, with an EP expected soon.