Using music as a platform for the importance of voice and sharing personal history are the overarching themes that pervade Ntu’s work.
Nala Duma, a Tisch sophomore in the Clive Davis Institute, is a dancer, producer, singer and songwriter, and most notably, the man behind Ntu. Growing up in Northern Virginia, the multi-talented performer discovered his affinity for production and choreography after becoming infatuated with musician FKA Twigs.
“I heard FKA Twigs [in my] freshman year of high school and I became obsessed with that,” Ntu said. “I was like, ‘What are these sounds she’s making?’”
After his sophomore year of high school, Ntu began toying around on GarageBand on the Macbooks distributed by his school. Prior to NYU, Ntu came from an area that was predominantly upper-middle class and white, which heavily influences his music today.
“Generally, the environment was surface-level fake-liberal, and then, underneath [it was] pretty conservative, so a lot of the ideas I had — musically or aesthetically — I wasn’t super comfortable sharing that,” Ntu said. “Me and my best friend in high school led the BSU [Black Student Union], and we were going hard for curriculum decolonization stuff. We got backlash for that, some death threats. It was funny.”
Ntu channels the negativity of this time into art, using it to inform the creative process. In addition, Ntu finds inspiration randomly throughout the day — documenting it as poetry as he goes, integrating it into sounds later.
“Music to me is this bottled time thing: whenever you hear something that really resonates with you, you go straight back to that feeling. I think it’s a bunch of timestamps,” Ntu said. “I want my music to be a safe space for other people. I hope that people take away a sense of peace from whatever I put out.”
The Clive Davis Institute is an environment that places a large amount of responsibility on the artist. While there is an abundance of resources, the program tends to favor those that fit into a certain brand which typically does not include experimental hip-hop or R&B. According to the artist, you can get the best experience when you fully know where to look and your artistic identity. Despite such shortcomings, Ntu makes it work, reaping the benefits of the seeds that he puts in.
“[Clive] is a space where you get out of it what you put in,” Ntu continued. “If you know what you want and who you are, then it’s great.”
Performing live plays a major role in creative life at NYU. He has taken the stage at H0L0, Trans-Pecos, Arlene’s Grocery, NYU and a couple New York City rooftops. Ntu uses this to determine what he is not satisfied with and where he wants to grow in his art.
“[Live performances] are really important because you get that visceral person-to-person reaction to your music right away,” Ntu said. “Everyone sees themselves in a certain way, but it’s a different story what your audience sees.”
Ntu has a variety of his music out on Soundcloud and one electrifying single out on streaming services and is working on an album. In addition to the completion of his album, he has high hopes for the future: earning a Best New Music recognition from “Pitchfork,” embarking on tour and producing as much art as possible.
Email Avani Jurkahan at [email protected].