Poised for the release of his forthcoming project, ‘When The Past Bloomed’, Goya Gumbani discusses the making of his latest video, a one-of-a-kind approach to music, and embracing your unique self through style.
Goya wears three limited edition Belstaff Trialmaster Jackets, available now at exclusive retail partner FLANNELS.
A king-sized jug of ginger and mint tea sits on Goya Gumbani’s desk. A haze of steam wafts upwards as he sips, the perfumes of his brew almost transcending the digital screens that divide us.
Steaming cuppa aside, there is something inherently warm about Goya. His laughter expanding to fill the room as our chat crosses from the serious to the lighthearted at the drop of a pin. Goya is humming the soundtrack to a distant memory, “You must’ve fell and bumped your head”, he lilts, singing the lyrics to Sunshine Anderson’s “Heard It All Before”. He’s recounting the memories of sweltering summer days spent in the back of his mum’s black Mazda, “she had this shit on repeat”.
New York born but now London based, the artist’s wellspring of inventiveness and individuality undeniably flows in from the heart. Goya is well aware that music is one of the most priceless artforms of the human condition, a means to communicate with people in earnest, regardless of our polarity. “These creative expressions, they’re as important as drinking water or breathing,” he emphasises with a matter of factness.
Exploring his catalogue is like uncovering a musical oasis which assembles the smoggy sounds of south and east London with Brooklyn’s homey grit. Enter the ether of sample-based loops, boom bap beats and his own nuanced interpolation of jazz. In 2018 Goya took his first ostensive dive into music, sharing his self-produced debut EP, ‘Morta & More Doves’. A couple of years later, he started receiving global recognition the likes of Boiler Room, COLORS and Louis Vuitton, accomplishments that serve as a small testimony to the intensity of his inquisitive nature.
His latest music video, ‘Cloth & Polish’, follows last year’s ‘Face In The Storm’, presenting an ode to the preservation of your sense of pride through style in its purest form. “The idea is that in two to five years, a fashion brand might see that video and feel inspired by it. Moodboard energy” he says with a confident smile. The visuals depict the musician polishing his leather shoes, an example of Goya’s knack for turning a modest detail into maxim. “My friends call me Kendrick Loafer”, he explains, “Everybody that knows me, knows I embody that loafer swag. I really wanted the music video to simply be about that.”
The link-up with FLANNELS and Belstaff then, is a perfect fit. Wearing the unique collector’s items throughout his photoshoot, the classic style and high quality are echoed by Goya’s poise. As demonstrated by the styling, the collection can be worn effortlessly with bright yellows and fuchsia pinks, as well as with more classic tailored pieces. We caught up with Goya Gumbani to rundown discuss the making of this latest video, his one-of-a-kind approach to music, and how he embraces his unique self through style.
Let’s start with your latest video ‘Cloth & Polish’. It feels like the overt message is about taking pride in your style…
Yes, most definitely. I’ve been someone that really likes loafers for a really long time. This is truly me. I’ve been putting that visual image together in my head for about three years and I kind of just wanted the video to be a full representation of me. I’ve always loved things like hats, sunglasses, just drip. My friends call me Kendrick Loafer, everybody that knows me, knows I embody that loafer swag.
I really wanted the music video to simply be about that. It was really a ‘self-care’ video. The song is more about the thoughts that come to mind when you’re in that self-care moment. The idea is that in two to five years, a fashion brand might see that video and feel inspired by it. Moodboard energy. Cementing my love for fashion.
Stepping into certain fits can shift your whole mood and embolden your sense of independent spirit. What version of yourself do you feel like you are embodying when you put on this new Trialmaster jacket?
When I wear the Trialmaster, I feel myself. It’s a unique collector’s item as it’s a limited edition, with a great fit, classic style and such high quality. I really love clothes and putting fits together.
What are some things about this latest collection from Belstaff that have really caught your eye?
The way the Trialmaster Concept reworks the original blue shell is so interesting, you can feel the legacy whilst also wearing something new. It looks to the future with a modern edge, and is lightweight and semi-transparent so you can see the signature checked lining. It’s special wearing a brand like Belstaff with so much heritage. It’s not about just seeing something dope and wanting to get your hands on it. It fits with bright yellows and fuchsia pinks, and also goes with more classic tailored pieces. This shoot allowed me to really embolden my own sense of self that people will know: this is Goya. Goya’s rocking it.
Where would you see yourself wearing it?
I feel like this is a great festival jacket because it’s water resistant and weather protective, as well as being lightweight so it would work layered.
You have taken it into your hands to understand the facets of putting together a song as a whole. Like a stylist who takes it in their hands to understand the tailoring process. Is there something new you’d like to add to your repertoire of skills next?
I’ve been directing videos now. I’ve gone into that realm. When I first started making music I didn’t really understand everything that went around music. I didn’t put the time into the video-side of things in the past, I would just make the song, then hand it over to the director to make the video. But with that I feel like translation would get lost in the process. I had to finish it to really get the whole message across.
I’ve just directed my second video, coming out on May 26th. And now I want to help my friends get into that side of things too, so my friend Fleece Files, I’ve helped him on his first video. Pink Siifu put me on to that. I was speaking to him and he was telling me he directs everything now and he just told me, ‘Don’t be scared. Open the door, walk through it and you might fall down but you’ll get back up’.
There’s some tracks of yours that really take me back to some of that legendary mid-90s boom bap era. It’s incredible how you can put such a novel twist of your own into it. When do you feel like you developed that ability to be so playful with sounds?
2018. Prior to that I was making music but not releasing, I was just trying to find my playfulness. A friend of mine called Rago was making music, we made a project together in 2018 that funnily enough, never came out. The day I first wrote that verse and showed it to him, I remember it like it was yesterday. It was cold as hell, we were making music in Rago’s garage that he had turned into a studio in Peckham. It was so cold. The beat was so good though, and I wrote this verse and it moved me and I realised I could actually do this shit for real. Really sad that the tape never came out, but I’m trying to make it happen.
You once described music as a vessel for you. Do you ever notice your relationship and experience with music change as you grow?
I do. I feel like the music I was listening to five years ago is very different to what I listen to now. I used to listen to a lot of boom bap, hiphop, rap, R&B, reggae and neo-soul because that’s what my mum used to play. When I moved to London I had a lot of Nigerian and Ghanaian friends, so that’s when I started to realise the connection between myself, rap and hip hop. I feel as my musical knowledge grows, my taste for music expands. I never used to listen to electronic music, but my girlfriend plays a lot of that so I’m listening to it more. Before, if I was in a club and they started playing some Disclosure or whatever, I’m out of there. My heart rate ain’t even moving at that pace.
What’s your earliest memory of music?
The first CD I bought was Jay Z’s “American Gangsta”. I always remember my mum playing doo-wop. It was summer time, my mum in her black Mazda, had this shit on repeat. And one more, when I was in fourth or fifth grade, we had this talent competition in school and I wanted to be a dancer. We were dancing to this song called “We Need A Resolution” by Aaliyah, we all had the white tees with our names in spray paint on it. That was the first thing I did without my mother or father’s influence on my musical intake. My pops was a proper Muslim, and he would have these songs where they were reciting the Qur’an over a beat, some kind of inoffensive percussion.
Something that has been talked about in your past interviews is the relatable nature of your music. You’ve described your music as a vessel, purely a means for self-expression.
When I make music, I go for what I feel most connected to and I work through honesty. When other people feel connected to it, that’s even better. As an artist, sometimes it’s hard to wrap your head around the kind of impact your art has. My friend was telling me the other day, her mother, who’s Dominican, learnt English from soul music from the 80s, like Ray Charles or Sister Sledge. I just thought, ‘Damn, these artists would never have thought about their music having that kind of impact’. It’s not about the glitter, fame or glamour. Just to connect with someone like that on a human level is a privilege, there’s no words that can describe how crazy that is.
‘When The Past Bloomed’ is your new album out this month. Can you tell me a bit about that, and anything else you’ve been working on?
Alongside directing videos, I’m making clothes and that’s all coming out alongside the project. I’m doing a loafer collab with Horatio, also some knitted berets with Nicholas Daley. And the vinyls for my last record ‘Face In The Storm‘ are out, and I’ve got my radio show Chicken Foot Soup that’s on once a month with NTS. I’m performing at Glastonbury this year too. In my head I’ve got 50 things going on, but I’m loving it all the same.