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Shaz is Sharon Amos, a singer and songwriter, living in Los Angeles, California.
Back To My Roots is Shaz’s debut album as a solo artist, inspired by her native country of Kenya, where she was born and raised. Fluent in the African language of Kiswahili, Shaz grew up listening to pure African music that has informed her life and shaped her vision for this project.
Completing the world music album has become her life's work. Shaz’s style is Africa-inspired so her long-awaited ambition is to encapsulate the true spirit of its people in the songs. At the center of Shaz’s vision are the Maasai tribe, who live around the game parks of East Africa. Many are in danger of becoming extinct and tribal music may soon be lost forever. Our mission therefore is to capture as much field recording of their essence and fuse it into Shaz’s music to give it its true African accent.
Shaz spent her childhood in Africa, leaving when she was 18 years old to go to university in London, England. There, she established a career in the music industry, forming a band and calling it Masai, after her musical inspiration. The band enjoyed a modicum of success and Shaz fought to find her feet in the pop world.
Shaz’s father was from Oxford in England, but moved to Africa with his mother when he was a child. Known as MJC (Michael John Clyde), he fell in love with jazz, became a musician, and played in dance bands which were televised live on Kenya Broadcast Television every Friday night. It was during this time that MJC met and later married Elizabeth.
Shaz’s mother, Elizabeth, had been born in Tanzania, to a Swiss father and French mother. She grew up speaking the native language of Swahili, and was also fluent in German. A beautiful, loving and giving mother, who consistently put her family first, Elizabeth and Shaz remain the best of friends; she continues to be Shaz’s rock throughout this project, and has been a great source of inspiration.
Shaz’s life changed dramatically when her beloved father fell ill when she was in her 20s. Wanting to be closer to him, she gave up her music career in the UK and relocated to the United States, where her parents had since moved.
It was during her father’s illness that Shaz met her husband Dan, a talented music producer, who at the time was working for the likes of Mick Jagger, Rick Rubin, Johnny Cash, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Audioslave. During their relationship, Shaz and Dan realized they both held a similar work ethic and a passion for soul music. Dan has now dedicated himself 100% to the Back To My Roots project. They record in their studio every day: writing, singing and producing.
After getting married, Shaz and Dan had a son, now four. Shaz’s dad sadly didn't get to meet the child, who was born six months after Mike died in 2007. He had known they were expecting his grandchild though, which has been some comfort, and he knew (before they did!) that it would be a boy. They named the baby Tsavo after Shaz’s father’s most cherished place in Africa, one of the country's oldest and largest national parks in Kenya.
Shaz has further motivation to go home: to fulfill a promise she made her father before he lost his long fight with cancer. He asked that his ashes be scattered over the place he spent the best years of his life. In that last conversation, he also told Shaz that she needed to follow her heart, keep singing, and never give up. Kenya made Shaz different, he said, and she should embrace that.
Shaz’s hope is to chronicle the journey back to her roots in memory of her father. Her connections in Africa will allow her unprecedented access to tribes in various parts of the Masai Mara as she would use licensed game trackers to gain access to villages and to their musicians. Shaz’s family and friends in Africa cover every field – and are all on hand to contribute to this wondrous adventure of music. Shaz wishes to fly in the open-top Gypsy Moth airplane, which was used in Out of Africa (the Oscar-winning 1985 film about colonial Kenya that all her family appear in), over the Karuru waterfalls to scatter her father’s ashes.
Dan will take his music equipment into the bush to capture the chemistry of the country and the purity of these incredible sounds through live recording. Shaz’s band members will accompany her on the trip; they would be able to study the dynamics of the local music and learn African guitar and drums. They will get the opportunity to play alongside the native musicians, providing a unique exchange between tribal and western world music.
The fundamental purpose of this project is to give something back to Africa. Any money made by the Maasai from the record can go into their community, and this is over and above our plans for charitable follow-up. Shaz appreciates that Kenya has given her so much – she would like to give thanks for her start there. We want her music to inspire and educate, and contribute to the Maasai’s legacy of hope for the country that raised her.
On the completion of the record, Shaz & Dan’s production company, Tamu Productions, hopes to create the Tamu Productions Music Foundation, enabling children to have early music teachings in their schools. Shaz’s wish would be for their Tamu Charity to help feed thousands of families in Kenya. It is hoped that once we get started, we’ll have plenty of similar charities to link up with there.
Shaz would love to see her dream of creating a truly collaborative world music album become a reality, and the result be a composition for the world that is historical and will stand the test of time.