Jennifer Msumba
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Jennifer Msumba

Wauchula, Florida, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2020

Wauchula, Florida, United States
Established on Jan, 2020
Solo Pop Indie

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Music

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"Jennifer Msumba Draws From Her Autism to Create Messages of Hope"

For 44-year-old Jennifer Msumba, music has always been a rhythm beating deep inside her soul, waiting for a chance to express itself. From a young age, Msumba would sight read music and play the piano by ear, learning classical music pieces heard from her family’s record player spinning in her childhood home. By the time Msumba was in third grade, she began violin lessons, and learned there was something different about her. She was an extremely talented musician, who also happened to be diagnosed with autism.

The road to Msumba’s current life, living in a supportive facility for disabled people, surrounded by her musical equipment, was not without obstacles. Msumba had a hard time relating to other people, managing her emotions and finding ways to express herself. She was moved to several residential homes and state hospitals before she found a good fit here in Florida. She took solace in playing music, and after meeting with her church’s worship leader one day, for whom Msumba plays the piano on weekends, she had the idea to begin writing songs to describe how she was feeling.

“I wrote my first song five years ago,” says Msumba. “I was in bed, ready to fall asleep, and the words just came to me, so I wrote it down. It was really exciting.” From there, Msumba bought her own microphone and downloaded software on her computer to create her own recording studio.

“I ended up writing a lot of songs during quarantine this year,” says Msumba. “I knew someday I’d make it to a recording studio, but thought, ‘Why don’t I just do it myself first?’” Msumba learned how to record and produce songs by watching YouTube videos, and during the course of the months-long Covid-19 lockdown at her facility, created her first album called “Music Saved Me.”

“The first song I wrote for the album is called ‘Finally Home,’ which is about my life growing up and how difficult it was,” says Msumba. “I improved my guitar skills for this album as well, learning chords and melodies and putting words to them.” Other songs like ″The Fish Don’t Care When it Rains,” are fun, light-hearted pieces to get listeners happy.

“Music Saved Me,” a 10-song album, was released on July 11 of this year, which Msumba still finds surreal. She receives comments and positive reactions from people all over the world, describing how they can relate to her lyrics. She has also received positive feedback on the album through her YouTube videos, which she posts to two different channels called “Jen Msumba Music,” created in 2014, where she posted a new song cover each day for one year, and “Rebranding Autism,” created in 2017, where she talks about her daily life and challenges she’s overcome with autism. These channels, one of which has more than 30,000 subscribers, help Msumba share her positive message with the world.

“I am a very optimistic person, and I want people to feel that optimism when they hear my music,” says Msumba. “Things are going to happen in life that will bring you down, maybe even for years, like me, but you can come out the other side. My mom always says, ‘Morning does come,’ whenever I’m feeling sad or anxious. There will always be a new day to start again.”

Despite Msumba’s autism, she has found ways to work with her disability and use it to her advantage when writing music. She finds that she hears things differently than most people, and has a unique perspective on life that others might not have. “I pick up on small details when I listen to music, whether that’s lyrical or melody changes, and I choose to highlight those details in my own music,” says Msumba.

Msumba also finds her music’s content to be different than that of the mainstream. “My life has gone differently than most people my age,” she says. “But I’ve tried to make all my songs relatable, whether I’m talking about an emotional struggle due to autism or not.”

For example, Msumba’s song “Beautiful Love,” is intended as a love song, but she knew it would be inauthentic to write about a relationship she’s never experienced. So she wrote the song about her dog who had recently passed away, and exchanged words for pronouns so that people could relate easily. “The song can turn out to mean whatever love you want,” says Msumba.

Creating music has helped Msumba’s conversational and social skills, and filming and editing YouTube videos allows her to practice becoming more animated in her facial features and gestures, a common struggle for those with autism. She has become more expressive and learned to read the expressions of others’ faces while editing. “It still doesn’t come naturally, but I’m able to practice,” says Msumba.

She has also made friends with a shared love of music, through her church band and while learning at the Music Compound, a Sarasota music school where Msumba has been a student for five years.

“It’s easier to make friends when we all love the same thing,” she adds.

This Friday, Sept. 18, Msumba will perform live with the Music Compound, performing four original songs. Monthly performances are hosted by the school, complete with professional lighting and equipment, and will be live streamed on the school’s Facebook page. Several other adult and high school students will also be sharing original music.

As for the future, Msumba already has plans for another album, and wishes to collaborate with musicians and form a small band to perform at local events.

“Music has always been the base in me. It’s like I’ve always had a rhythm beating in my heart,” says Msumba. “It’s a part of me that God gave, to share with other people and communicate with the world.”

The Music Compound will live-stream Msumba’s performance on Friday, Sept. 18, at 6 p.m. on the school’s Facebook page.

Msumba’s album “Music Saved Me,” is now on Spotify, Soundcloud and Amazon. - Sarasota Magazine


"Songstress Jen Msumba Overcomes Adversity with Full-Length Album"

The history of modern music is littered with artists whose personal challenges helped precipitate the quality and broad appeal of their work. Sadly, some, like Kurt Cobain or Jimi Hendrix, succumbed to their demons in the prime of their creative lives while others, like Johnny Cash or Anthony Kiedis, overcame and became models of perseverance. But for all of these artists, their struggles imbued their music with identifiable and therapeutic energy that speaks to the universality of the mortal coil. And if obstacles overcome make art richer, then Jen Msumba’s music is a treasure chest.

“I have autism and OCD,” Msumba says, “and that made it really hard for me growing up.” Bullies and in some cases, teachers, were signals that the world could be an unforgiving place for the neurodivergent. Her struggles led to low self-esteem and the erroneous belief that she lacked something the neurotypical had. “I wanted to be anyone but me,” she says, until she got her hands on a piano and discovered she had something of a latent superpower waiting to be revealed.

Music quickly became her most potent medicine, giving her purpose and confidence. She taught herself to play by ear and in 2013 made her first YouTube video, a piano cover of Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel” (her channel now has nearly 27k subscribers). As her prowess on the piano progressed, so too did her confidence. She went on to join her church’s band on the keys, taught herself to play the guitar and continued to enlarge her repertoire at home and at the Music Compound, where she has been a student since its inception. And tonight, she headlines the Compound’s monthly concert with a performance and the release of her first full-length album, “Music Saved Me.”

Written during quarantine, the album explores her struggles as a young woman before discovering music and herself. One song, “Finally Home,” reads like a letter to her younger self. “I really wish I could’ve known then that everything was going to be ok,” she says, “but without those struggles, I wouldn’t be who I am.” Other songs are more lighthearted, like “I May be Country,” which satirizes how out of place she feels in her long-term care facility in rural Highlands County, the same facility where she practiced her craft in front of the discerning and captive audience at her community’s general store. “My friends out here are painfully honest,” she says, “so I figured it was good practice.”

For Msumba, tonight represents another milestone on her long road to self-love, and she hopes listeners find something in her music that speaks to and empowers them. “One day when I was a little girl, I was at the grocery store with my mother and I kept jumping out of everyone’s way and saying ‘sorry.’ My mother said something that really stuck with me. She said, ‘Jennifer, you belong in this world as much as anybody else.’”

Live attendance at tonight’s concert is limited to student families, but the performance will be streamed from Music Compound’s Facebook page at 6pm. - SRQ Magazine


"Music Compound to Highlight Local Artists"

SARASOTA — A singer-songwriter, a music producer, and a talented guitarist perform original songs together for one night only at Music Compound on May 21st. The trio features Jennifer Msumba, Brandon "Wilson B” Wilson and Luis "Axel” Buenrostro. All three co-wrote and co-produced each song. Music Compound’s owner, Jenny Townsend, came up with the concept.

"They all have different skill sets,” said Townsend. "I thought it would be a great collaboration to bring three completely different artists together for this amazing program,” she said.

Msumba, Wilson and Buenrostro take lessons at Music Compound and haven’t worked together before. Msumba, who is autistic, is a multi-instrumentalist who plays keys, guitar, ukulele and violin. She overcame several life challenges including being bullied in school and has lived in residential schools and state hospitals since she was 15. Msumba survived so much in her life, it’s no surprise that she writes uplifting songs about overcoming difficulties.

Her original song, "Dandelion” is a personal song about staying strong in the face of adversity; something Msumba knows all too well.

"I compared myself to a dandelion in a world filled with roses and carnations and everyone tries to get rid of the dandelions,” Msumba said. "They’re really tough and they come back every year no matter what you do so I wrote it around that.”

Msumba’s favorite song the trio wrote together is a "Summer” song called "Summer Vibes” - a song about being positive and adapting to changes. It’s definitely a theme that so many can relate to during the pandemic. Msumba is excited about her rap verse and says the song is a "cool vibe.”

Wilson is a sax player turned beat maker and producer. He found Music Compound through a former sax teacher. It was there that he developed even more as a musician by singing and taking piano lessons.

"It opened up a whole new world of opportunity for me with music,” he says regarding his experience at Music Compound. Wilson considers piano his primary instrument and has been playing for seven years.

Wilson released a three-song EP "Wilson Branded” last December. Wilson’s songwriting process includes a daily exercise. He writes poetry everyday to stay inspired and typically starts with lyrics first then creates the music around it. Sometimes he starts with a beat, then writes lyrics with the beat in mind. The 18-year-old will attend FIU this fall, to earn his Bachelor of Music in Music Technology.

Buenrostro has enjoyed the collaboration process so far. "I was always a solo kind of guy,” he said. "It’s just me and my guitar when I perform. And now opening up this whole possibility of jumping on a track and seeing the amazing work Brandon does with tracks and having the three of us on there - my ability to put electric guitar on there, which I haven’t performed with. It’s just been opening doors for me.”

Buenrostro graduated from Sarasota High in 2017. He considers John Mayer, BB King and Stevie Ray Vaughn as musical influences. He also says this experience has stretched his musical muscles.

Music Compound instructor, Aaron Schiavone, is the show’s coordinator and is tasked with consulting and keeping the flow of the rehearsals. He has worked at Music Compound for four years. He says the most rewarding part of his job is watching his students grow.

"In music, it’s not like you gradually get better, you’re practicing and practicing and then a flip of a light switch; you’re better,” he said. "And the few times I get to actually see in the moment - that’s probably my favorite part.”

The group began their creative process in mid-February and took three months altogether through Zoom and in-person meetings to complete. All three songs have been recorded and will be released. Msumba, an award-winning filmmaker, will turn the footage they filmed while creating the songs into a mini-documentary with hopes to submit to film festivals.

The public is invited to watch the performance via livestream on Music Compound’s Facebook page. The Original Artist Collaboration will be featured in the 7:15 p.m. show.

Music Compound is a music venue as well as an after-school program for kids to hang out and connect with like-minded people. Kids of different ages and varying styles are welcome to jam, perform and connect with other musicians. Check out their website for more information. - The Bradenton Times


Discography

  1. Wrong Kind of Pretty
  2. 'Cause It's Christmas
  3. 20,000 Ways
  4. 1991
  5. A Little Bit Happy
  6. A Little Part of Me
  7. Anger and Pride
  8. Applesauce
  9. Beautiful Love
  10. Black and Blue
  11. Call This Home
  12. Girl You're Gonna Fly
  13. My Mama
  14. You and Me
  15. Like an L That is Broken
  16. She's Not Crazy, She's a Dreamer
  17. Music Saved Me
  18. Runaway
  19. Dandelion
  20. Do You Even Like Me At All
  21. Come Over Here
  22. Dramastic
  23. Dreams
  24. Everything Keeps Changing
  25. Falling Stars
  26. Father, Watch Over Us
  27. Finally Home
  28. Fighting Dragons
  29. Game Face
  30. Good, Great, Lovely and Beautiful
  31. Growing Up
  32. Some Days Are Just Better Than Others
  33. Hot Sauce and Chips
  34. I Don't Give Up
  35. I May Be Country
  36. I Wanna Get Your Attention
  37. Minus Your Girlfriend We Make a Great Pair
  38. The Sun Will Rise
  39. You Rhyme With Orange
  40. I Can't Fix Your Broken Heart
  41. I Don't Give Up
  42. Heavy Hitter
  43. I'm Not That Complicated
  44. In The Books
  45. Introvert
  46. Fighting Dragons
  47. Stonehouse
  48. Storybook
  49. We Never Die
  50. Let It All Go
  51. Lord, Help Me to See
  52. Losing You
  53. Mama Don't Worry
  54. Monday Problems
  55. My Mama
  56. That Summer Song
  57. No Chill
  58. No Ordinary Spring
  59. Not Alone Anymore
  60. One In a Million Love
  61. One Way Street
  62. Rise Up
  63. Sheridan Road
  64. Shiny Things
  65. Small Town
  66. Snapchat Love
  67. Swiss Army Knife
  68. The Fish Don't Care When It Rains
  69. The Toned Down Version of Me
  70. There Once Was a Flower
  71. When We Talk
  72. Where Do Your Loyalties Lie
  73. You Cover It All
  74. You Look Perfect to Me
  75. You're There
  76. Your Peace

Photos

Bio

I'm a songwriter and musician originally from Massachusetts. I now live in Florida where I play keys for the Bayside Community Church worship team, as well as write and record music in my little cabin in the country.
My music reflects the things that I have endured as someone on the autism spectrum. Music has always been where I go to express myself when I couldn't any other way. I grew up playing the piano and violin, and later learned the guitar. I write songs about my life, but hopefully in a way that others can relate as well. I think as humans we all are connected through our emotions even if our experiences are very different. And I hope my music finds its way to those who need it.

Band Members