- By Rebecca Swash and Katie Thompson
- Reporters at Newsbeat
Imagine listening to music and seeing colors. Yes, you read correctly.
This is exactly what happened to singer and songwriter Tamera, due to a neurological characteristic she suffers from.
She has synesthesia, a condition that merges the senses so that instead of feeling them separately and involuntarily, they are automatically brought together.
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For Tamera, that means she has a “color palette in her head.”
“When I listen to RnB, I usually see deep blues and purples, emerald greens,” she explains to Radio 1 News beat.
“When I listen to Afrobeats, for example, I see oranges, like burnt oranges, very bright yellows and lime greens.”
It is said to affect around 4% of the population and can manifest in many forms as it can affect tastes, smells, shapes or touches.
The Radio 1 Introducing Artist of the Week says synesthesia helped her write her songs.
“For me personally, I’m very visual when it comes to music or sounds,” says Tamera.
“So I guess that really helps me when I’m in the studio because I can hear a beat immediately. I kind of have a color scheme in my head.
“I just feel the colors and sometimes I see like a whole movie scene, I describe it as a whole scene, a set-up, and what I feel would happen to that music.”
”I find myself with my feelings”
The 25-year-old says she only recently discovered that synesthesia “is a thing”, but she’s not the only musician to suffer from it.
Pharrell Williams, Billie Eilish and Lady Gaga also have synesthesia.
For Billie Eilish, it inspires her creative process.
“All my artwork, everything I do live, all the colors of every song, it’s because those are the colors of those songs,” she said.
Pharrell has previously said that “it’s the only way” he can “identify what something looks like”.
“I know when something is in key because either it matches the same color or it doesn’t match. Or it’s different and it doesn’t look right to me.”
The UK Synaesthesia Association says it is not a disease or condition and is not harmful at all.
Some research has shown that synesthetes reported themselves to be better at visual imagery than the general population, and some specific memory advantages were also recorded in them.
“It’s always been normal. It’s always been that way,” says Tamera, from Gravesend, Kent.
“It’s a tool I’ve used for a very long time to help me write songs.”
Tamera, who you may remember reaching the X-Factor finals aged 16 in 2013, describes how sometimes when she’s in the studio session she writes about what she sees rather than how she feels.
“I feel like writing can be a very visual thing,” she continues.
“Whatever the craziest scene that comes to mind or a beautiful color palette that draws me in and moves me, then I’ll just write about it.”
This condition influenced his latest project, Afrodite, and its music video.
“If a song is going to come out, it’s been 100% obsessed with me when it comes to the visual side.
“The colors around all the singles have been red, orange and browns and it was 100% deliberate because that’s what I saw throughout the writing of the project.”