We interviewed fierce Thai-Trinidad rapper Tsunari on her latest single, ‘Since Young’, which aims to tell her life’s story, as well as her place within the Thai tap music scene.
Through her fiery singles such as ‘Fruity Loops’, ‘Mula’, and ‘No More’, Tsunari is one boss B that should not be trifled with.
Born in the UK to a Thai mother and a Trinidad father, her diverse ethnicity has seen her experience discrimination and racism whether living in England or Saudi Arabiam the latter of which she encountered terrorists invading the school she was studying at, as a result of 9/11.
Through these moments, she transformed these challenges into power, becoming ambitious in her career of Thai rap.
Her latest, ‘Since Young’, explores her life’s beginnings in her hometown of Korat to the present, a consolation of making it through the bad times.
‘Since Young’ offers to tell her the story of her life, combining the smooth flow of drill beats with that of Thai instruments.
We interview the fierce rapper about the her latest single, he love of hip-hop, and her place within the Thai rap music industry.
AsiaLive365: Hi Tsunari! For our readers at AsiaLive365, tell us more about yourself. How was life growing up and how did you get into the world of hip-hop?
Tsunari: I was born in the UK, but my mom is Thai and my dad is from Trinidad. I was raised in Thailand for most of my life as well as spending some time in Saudi Arabia. The culture shock between those two countries were not as bad, but what made it bad was I was bullied back in Thailand which I’m cool with it now.
I definitely went through some challenges growing up in Thailand. I felt like I didn’t fit and nobody understood me. Plus, I didn’t have any role models who looked like me to look up to so I felt like I was alone and that made me really shy.
So one day, I found music as a form of therapy. It was a calling for me to take this journey seriously, so I started singing at the age of 12 through Thai traditional luk thung music. I had a lot of fun doing activities as a young student in the city of Korat.
When older people found out I wanted to pursue a career as an international artist, most of them told me it was impossible as I didn’t the beauty standards. I was like, ‘Really? Whatever.’
So I launched my YouTube channel as a way to gain opportunities. I was around 15-16 years old. I went viral through song covers with the hopes of catching the attention of some producer from America or England. That didn’t happen, but I didn’t stop to push myself and continue doing this job.
When I got signed, they told me you got the talent but we don;’t know how to market you. They told me I have the talent but I don’t have the looks. So I’m like ‘Shit What’s next?’ I did everything that I could in my power and it still wasn’t my time in Thailand. So I decided to save up from performing in small local gigs. When I got enough money, I choose to be in my comfort zone, and go out there into the wilderness in london and take a risk and start over it and go for it. i always believe this life is one shot ok cool drop out and follow my dreams in London.
AL365: How did your time spent in London influence your music?
Tsunari: I spent around six months in London without doing much music because as a young person moving to a new country, you have to survive and figure out how you’re gonna live and pay rent. I was waitressing and modeling until my current manager discovered me through a casting website and helped shaped the way I am now.
London is a melting pot of culture, people, arts, history. Moving to London really helped create the person I am today. Not just as an artist but as a woman. I felt like me five years ago, and now I am way stronger, wiser and more confident. So I’m ready at whatever obstacles are thrown at me.
AL365: Why hip-hop?
Tsunari: I feel like hip-hop is more than just a genre, it is a culture. It is full of history of happiness and pain, full of stories from people of all various backgrounds. It was originally from black people, which they went through slavery. When I grew up listening to hip-hop, I was alone and it resonated with my soul. Sure, my first choice in music will always be pop and R&B but hip-hop is big love for me and I love to mix the genres together.
AL365: Your latest song ‘Since Young’ deals with your upbringing, and how you have been fighting since you were young. Why did you want to tell your story with this song?
Tsunari: I decided to use the UK drill genre paired with the Thai instruments, the latter of which just so I could be a representation of who I am in a way because, you know coming from the UK, it played a big part of who I am today.
I really enjoy drill at the moment, and I’m proud of being from the city of Korat, so I needed to tell my story in a musical way. But make it hard-hitting and fill it with testosterone and endorphins.
People know drill but when they hear the Thai phin and khene instruments they think it’s “cold” which means its really dope. They always love it when artists make something that’s from their cultural background, something that’s so unique. I love it and I’m just proud to put that into my music.
AL365: What’s also impressive is that your music is bilingual which breaks language barriers, so that’s pretty awesome. What do you hope to tell your fans with your music? Because I think your tracks has always been about empowerment and confidence.
Tsunari: Every song that I release, I have a similar core message. My message is: ‘You are the boss bitch. You are the boss of your life. The pen to your paper, the pen of your own future.’
So whatever you do, you have control over everything. They have control over their lives, it’s just up to them to decide whether they want to do it or not.
AL365: You also mentioned that your life has been through some struggles. You were affected by 9/11?
Tsunari: Yeah, oh my God! That was a long time ago! I was studying in Saudi Arabia in kindergarten. As it is a strict country, all the Americans and Europeans who were working there moved out because it wasn’t really safe for them.
One day, the principal called up and announced that terrorists were threatening gonna to bomb our school. So basically a threat. I was living in an American compound. If they bombed the school, all the residents in the apartments will be affected. Because in that compound, there was school, a mosque, a hospital. If it had happened, I would have been dead and I wouldn’t have been here! It’s mad, my dad and I still talk about it to this very day.
AL365: Well your music has become very viral now! For your previous single, you collaborated with MILLI, who’s quite popular right now. How was the experience like working with her?
Tsunari: It was fantastic. It was unfortunate that I wasn’t in Thailand at the time, so we didn’t get to meet in person and work in the studio together. We didn’t even shoot the music video together as everything was done via zoom and email. So formal haha!
I love the fact that she stands for the Thai teenagers, and act as a voice for the new generation. I felt like its such a perfect message that we had in the song. It was about how no matter what obstacles or bad experiences come into your life, all you need to do is flip it away because you are a strong bad B.
AL365: What do you think of the current Thai hip-hop scene? What can you bring to the table?
Tsunari: Well I think the scene is growing which is nothing short of amazing. I love that it’s expanding and more people are into it.
What I can confidently say is that I’m bringing in more feminine energy to the hip-hop industry because honestly, let’s just say, there’s just too much testosterone. Like how many female rappers are there? Less than five?
AL365: Seeing as you are mixed race, how do you feel about that within the THai music industry?
Tsunari: If it was seven or eight years ago, me being half-black would be a bit of an obstacle. It’s sad to see that they put people who didn’t fit into the beauty standards into a box. They tell us things like ‘You could only be a comedian’, or ‘You could only be a servant’ which is a mockery. Like c’mon, we have more than that to offer!
But things are changing now which is amazing! Previously, we had a new Miss Thailand Universe that’s headed somewhere progressive for the Thai industry, telling Thai women it’s okay to be skinny and not fall under any stereotypes. That you have the ability to succeed!
AL365: I’m pretty curious, who are you currently listening to when it comes to drill music?
Tsunari: I personally love UK drill. Unknown T is my #1, he’s the superstar drill artist. He raps, but he also knows how to mix melodies into his drill tracks which makes it very catchy. I had the chance to see him live in concert and it was lit.
AL365: What do you hope to do next year?
Tsunari: I’m hoping to visit Thailand sometime in January. I will get the chance to meet my parents, collaborate with Thai artists. I’m also releasing my first EP ever next year. I’m hoping to expand the Nari Gang family empire!
AL365: Go Nari Gang! Thank you Tsunari, enjoy your stay in London!
Tsunari: Thank you, ‘P’Nicky!
Listen to Tsunari via Spotify below.