‘Touching people’s hearts, that’s the most important thing’ – the lyrical wisdom of Jasmine Jethwa | whynow

Speaking over Zoom, from one North London kitchen to a South London bedroom, 21-year-old Jasmine Jethwa and I are chatting about her creative shift from dance to music.


“I was dancing for most of my childhood, I was doing 18 hours a week, but I fell out of love with it. It’s very disciplined, and as I got older I wanted something with a bit more expression.” In her familiar and sweet-sounding voice, Jasmine describes the turning point of learning keyboard chords from YouTube. From this discovery of alternative self-expression, she moved colleges to pursue music more seriously.

As a singer-songwriter, Jasmine takes a keen interest in verbal expression. “Words, poetry, language, has always been something I really love to learn about and develop,” she says, “I wanted to be an incredible songwriter, and the only way you can be that is if you know language and have a full understanding of it.“

I wanted to be an incredible songwriter, and the only way you can be that is if you know language

Listening to the music of Joni Mitchell, Simon & Garfunkel, Leonard Cohen and Tracy Chapman, Jasmine looks up to those with similar dual talents: “I like the ‘classic-ness’, it’s rich with words, putting them with melody and making it work.”

Being ‘classic’ is clearly important to Jasmine. Although her skills could have taken her towards being an RnB artist, Jasmine chose a more folk-inspired, instrumental sound, which is distinctive for a youthful, London voice. She describes her music as “folk-driven with an RnB twist,” which she explains in more detail: “I want to make classic songs and my own twist on that are the harmonies I decide to use, and the instrumentation behind it. But if you look at the lyrics and the song in its simplest form, that to me is a singer-songwriter folk song.”

Conversely, she is aware of how some artists are making music and what it says about the track: “Sometimes production, harmonies and details can cover up whether the song is actually that good.” This is the direct opposite approach to Jasmine, “You feel if something needs to be tinkered with. You can ruin it by tinkering too much.” A self-declared “perfectionist”, Jasmine prefers to “fine-tune something until it can’t be any better.”

When it comes to writing, she describes a “specific” process, involving a deep sense of self-introspection and accuracy: “I’m feeling an emotion and have to be clear on how I want to articulate it. So you need that logic side and your emotional side, because you need to feel it and write it.” This level of self-awareness and balance is impressive, and lays a solid foundation for success.

A self-declared “perfectionist”, Jasmine prefers to “fine-tune something until it can’t be any better”

Jasmine doesn’t do everything alone, however. She has found people she can “count on one hand” that she’s “really comfortable with”, with whom she creates. “I’ll go into the session with someone that I trust, they’ll play something, which will spark something off in me, then I sing out a key melody.”

“In that melody, a lot of the time the lyrics come out.” This organic process can be felt – there is no sense of pretense or unnecessary additions in language or production, which could overshadow her message or bewitching voice.

Always writing from experience, Jasmine is adept at compartmentalising her emotions while recording: “I sing from a place of feeling, and it doesn’t normally take me that long to connect back and focus.” The therapeutic reward is felt once it’s all over. “The cathartic thing that comes over me,” she adds, “happens after the song’s done, and there’s nothing I want to change. I can sit back with it, live with it and enjoy it for what it is.”

Released in February of this year, ‘Running Circles’ was Jasmine’s first release. A guitar-centric ode to a frustrating situation, it was a while in the making: “It’s been a long journey getting to this point of releasing something independently. When it came out I was glad that nothing came out before.”

The cathartic thing that comes over me happens after the song’s done, and there’s nothing I want to change

“I can listen to ‘Running Circles’ and enjoy it, and not think, ‘I should’ve done this, I should’ve done that’.” The accompanying video, shot in film across her part of London, introduces Jasmine as an artist, showing the duality of her timeless sound and modern surroundings.

The second single, ‘Empty Waters’ is one of Jasmine’s favourites. Released a few weeks ago, “It’s a metaphor about someone having a dependence on something, kind of watching but also being a part of it by being surrounded by it, and what’s that like, losing someone to it.”

Even more-stripped back than her debut, it hit a milestone by being included on Spotify’s New Music Friday playlist: “It’s all so new and weird but I love it. It’s heartwarming to know that other people are connecting to what I’m saying, because ultimately that’s what I want my music to do.”

These two singles make up half of Jasmine’s debut EP, Hurricane. Titled after a track on the project, ‘Hurricane’ is the most hopeful song of all. The lyric, “If I could pretend I’d be a hurricane…break what’s causing you pain”, was the inspiration for the title, which is about, “not feeling too pessimistic about what was going on despite the circumstances demonstrating something different to what I actually wanted.” With the heaviest production, including a chill-inducing crescendo, ‘Hurricane’ feels the most powerful and heart-felt.

It’s heartwarming to know that other people are connecting to what I’m saying, because ultimately that’s what I want my music to do

The final track, ‘Turn Off The TV”, clearly denotes the end of something, even though emotions are intertwined. “I just pictured where I was, sitting on the sofa, singing this song and saying goodbye. It’s definitely definite in what it wants.”

As we all are, Jasmine is getting used to the change of pace. But she’s making the most of the time to learn guitar: “If I’m writing with someone and I want to articulate a chord change or a mood, then it would be easier.” As well as reading and enjoying the peaceful atmosphere, she will continue writing in hopes her words find more listeners: “The more people it connects to, the better.”

With her chief aspirational figure being her mum, whose Buddhist ideology helps her daughter to “never feel like I’m trapped”, Jasmine has a strong support network around her.

Though she says her confidence on stage needs boosting, she is looking forward to being in front of a crowd again, especially now her music is out: “Internally, there’s quite a big difference when you’re singing songs that no one knows, and then singing when you’ve got stuff out.”

Touching people’s hearts with my music, that’s the most important thing for me

For a young, talented woman from Croydon, Jasmine could have become a very different type of musician. Bucking the trend of popular RnB, her style of articulating emotions is already resonating with people. With wish list collaborators such as James Fauntleroy and Bon Iver, Jasmine has her sights set on a creative place beyond the city that raised her.

“Touching people’s hearts with my music, that’s the most important thing for me” – this sentiment runs throughout our discussion. She is happily inhabiting an alternative side of music, a position which will likely pay off given Jasmine’s individual fusion of vulnerability and wisdom beyond her years.

Rampa  They Will Be