By day, Samuel Sserwanga (pictured top right) ‘geeks it out’ as a System Administrator in Belville, Cape Town. During the remainder of his waking hours, however, he can be found passionately writing, performing, or kicking back to the laid back, Blues-Pop-Fusion style music that he creates as the frontman of the Cape Town based band, SamJam.
I recently caught up with Sam to ask him about what he is doing to realise his childhood dream of being a full-time musician.
As an individual performer, Sam has an easy and confident energy around him. He regards himself as a ‘multi-instrumentalist’ and feels equally comfortable on drums, vocals, the acoustic or electric guitars, and even as a solo performer.
“For me, being a musician is the dream,” Sam shared. “While I am only able to live a part of this dream at the moment, the plan is to be fully into it in the future. My dream of being a full-time musician has never really changed, but the challenge of breaking into the South African music market, where one needs to work twice as hard as you ever expected, is real.”
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
Sam shared that it was roughly halfway through primary school, as a ‘beginner’ piano player, that he started to believe that music might be a bigger part of his future.
“I did not quite know how it was going to pan out back then. Later, in high school, I was part of a youth group at a local church and joined the youth band, playing drums and guitar. From then on I started getting involved in the church music team.
“After high school, I still found myself involved with the band and with various other bands around the city. It was only when I started writing and singing my own songs in 2007 that I began to understand and ‘get’ the bigger picture for my primary school vision.”
Sam officially launched his music career in Port Elizabeth (PE) in 2007 with regular solo gigs at the Four Winds Music Folk Club. He later began to perform with the PE-based Rock Band, The Righteous, with whom he still has a collaborative music relationship.
Now in its fourth year of creative cohesion, SamJam consists of drummer Trevor Febbraio (pictured above middle), bassist, David Raath (pictured above left) and Sam on vocals and lead guitar. Sam, Trevor and David met in 2011 during Sam’s first year at Music College.
“The College was the perfect place to recruit band members. I had a show coming up and, although I love playing all the instruments, this is very impractical for a live performance. So I approached the guys to see if they would be interested in putting a band together.”
According to Sam, Trevor is a businessman, while David performs with other bands, making him the “most full-time musician in the band”.
“David, Trevor and I are good friends who like to hang out with each other. Playing music is just one of the many things that we do together,” Sam explained.
When I asked Sam what he feels each individual member brings to the band, his answer was simple and tongue-in-cheek: “Trevor is just Trevor and David is the comic of the band. They bring the Jam and I bring the Sam I suppose…”
CHALLENGES ALONG THE WAY
Sam was honest with me about some of the challenges and obstacles that he has experienced so far in pursuit of ‘The Dream’.
“Trying to maintain a ‘day job’ and still staying motivated enough to get home and work on my music career has been a challenge,” Sam explained.
“Learning, musically, ‘on the job’ has also been stretching: You can start out with a specific music style or approach and, then, learn something new. This means you have to change how you do things, or even change musical direction completely. So, you have to be flexible as a musician, which is learned, rather than something that comes naturally.”
THE BIGGEST LEARNING CURVE?
“The biggest lesson I have learned so far is ‘to just keep swimming!’ Don’t give up on pursuing your passion. It is going to be HARD work to do so, but you have to keep yourself motivated. ‘Slow and steady wins the race,’ as they say.
“Oh, and another saying that equally applies is: “Work smart, not hard”. Be sure to put some thought into what you are doing. Plan your work; don’t just do it ALL or all at ONCE – that is just a recipe for burnout!”
WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS
Sam explained that SamJam has only recorded a few of their tracks so far but there has yet to be a SamJam CD.
“Recording our music has been on the list of ‘to dos’ for a long time and I would like to get going on that. For the last year SamJam has been building and gaining momentum as a band, with the plan to play a number of big shows scheduled for 2016.
“At the moment we are focusing on playing at smaller, local shows and at markets, cafés and weddings, while building up more content for festivals like Rocking the Daisies and Up the Creek.”
FOLLOW the band:
Visit the SamJam Website
Follow SamJam on Facebook
Tweet SamJam directly: @Samjammusic