Mary Otumahana aka WondR WomN has been making her mark on the Tottenham music scene for some time now, as well as turning heads in the UK and abroad. Known for her brand of honest and refreshing hip hop, she is also the founder of The RecordShop; a free recording studio programme for 16-25 year olds based in the heart in Tottenham. Rachel Ho caught up with her ahead of WondR WomN's performance in Spain this weekend.
Photo from Facebook: Mary Otumahana aka WondR WomN
Where did you grow up and what did your parents do?
I grew up in East Finchley pretty much my whole life. I went to school in Muswell Hill and went to Kingston University. I grew up with my mum, who has always worked in the hospitality sector, mainly within Healthcare, supporting people with disabilities.
What is your relationship to Tottenham?
Tottenham is the place that gave me the opportunity to launch my business. Growing up I had been to Tottenham a few times to meet friends, but I began frequenting Tottenham through my work with an organisation called ‘somewhereto_’ who used to provide free spaces around the UK and they managed a space in Tottenham, which is where I set up my company, The RecordShop.
Photo from Facebook: WondR WomN at The RecordShop
Tell us about your music and how you got into it.
I have always loved music as far back as I can remember, but one of my earliest memories is probably watching my mum’s VHS, that had loads of music videos recorded. What stood out in music to me were melodies and harmonies and as I got older I began exploring songwriting, playing instruments such as the keyboard, however I found myself through rap music and pursued this further. Very early in my career I was inspired by the likes of 2Pac and Eminem and I delved deeper into lyricism.
How does being a woman influence your music?
As Hip Hop is a male-oriented genre, I have always been inspired by more male artists within Hip Hop. When I was younger I did not pay attention to the significance of gender within music, therefore I was not aware of how my content or stories differed from my male counterparts, and I wanted to be slightly different and not create music that was specific to being a ‘female’, as I found that when female rappers did this, it sometimes took away the attention from their skills.
However, as I grew older I became more aware of the importance of music from a socio-political standpoint and how an artist, song, musical content etc. once in the public domain, will always be analysed in relation to its cultural significance.
Therefore, I always bare in mind how I can use being a woman to my advantage as an artist, whether that's accentuating this through dressing in pink (haha) or simply providing an alternative perspective, but at the same time I always want to come across as authentic as possible.
Photo from Facebook: WondR WomN performing at Imaginary Millions
You also founded The RecordShop. What is it and how did it come about?
The RecordShop is a free recording studio and artist development programme for young people, based in Tottenham. I created The RecordShop based on my own experience as a young artist, who felt that there was a lack of music opportunities available for the average local young person who is into music, therefore I set up The RecordShop as a platform for myself and others to further their musical aspirations.
I had always wanted to set up my own studio and in 2015 I decided that it was the right time for me to get started, so I envisioned what The RecordShop would look like and wrote a proposal, which was more like a business plan, and I shared my idea with ‘somewhereto_’ who supported my idea and allowed me to access their free space in Tottenham.
Photo from Facebook: WondR WomN in action at The RecordShop
As a woman, how do you think the Tottenham has changed? What would you like to see change?
Tottenham has become more of a creative hub with more opportunities for businesses, start ups and young people. I would like to see more synergy between the corporations and the community, as not everyone within Tottenham is fully aware of the amazing opportunities out there. As a woman, I feel that I have gained more support for my venture over the years and more recognition for my music. I am so grateful for the platforms in Tottenham that continue to support female artists and entrepreneurs. Whenever I perform I have noticed many girls/women really feel connected, which is something I did not anticipate but it is definitely an eye opener and has shown how impactful representing women in ‘male spaces’ can be.
Photo from Facebook: WondR WomN
Favourite thing to do in Tottenham?
My favourite food spots at the moment are Brown Eagle and Loven Pizza and my favourite music venue is The Post Bar. I love attending live music nights in Tottenham and as Tottenham is so huge, I’m always discovering new spots to check out. I’ve recently discovered this ‘Iced Chocolate’ at Craving Coffee and it’s my fave summer drink!
Find out more about WondR WomN and The RecordShop: