Asanele Shaun Mfengu


artist you should know: nvmi shares his vulnerable moments on his debut ep “let me in”

September 3, 2021

There’s a level of intimacy I experience when I listen to an honest artist who isn’t afraid to show vulnerability in their music. It’s a type of feeling that draws you closer to the person behind the music, leaving you feeling as if you’ve made a lifelong friend. This was my experience when I first heard NVMI’s music, whose real name is Unami Kombanie. From the moment I heard the title track “Let Me In”, my curiosity piqued and I was compelled to invite NVMI to my world. At exactly thirteen minutes, NVMI becomes your close friend who’s just sharing candid moments from his journal. We sat down with NVMI to find out more about his journey and what inspires him.


Where does your musical journey start? When did you decide to take the plunge and pursue music?

My journey started when I was seven years old when my dad bought me my first guitar and taught me how to play. I remember practicing with him every night in the beginning and then I gradually picked up the piano, bass and drums. Growing up, I was in the church choir and I took music lessons at school, so music has always been a big part of my life. From my early teenage years, I’ve always been a part of some sort of band, so I can’t say there was a specific moment when I decided to take the plunge. The transition from instrumentalist to producer/artist happened when I moved to America in 2018. I didn’t know anyone there, and because I wasn’t playing with any bands, I pivoted into producing and songwriting. The thought of releasing music as a solo act slowly took shape over the many months as I found my voice and the ideas started sounding like actual songs.

What impression do you want to leave when a person is introduced to your music?

I read something earlier this year that really stuck with me. It said something along the lines of “the greatest thing you can give someone is the gift of your vulnerability”. That really has stuck with me and I think that’s my gift to the world, vulnerability. Music is therapy for me, it’s like writing in a journal and those become the stories I tell. As people, we live so many shared experiences and my hope is people connect to those that I share.

What was your inspiration & creative process making this project?

Falling in love is a universal experience that unfolds in so many ways. It requires you to open up to someone else and put your heart on the line. You’re forced to confront your insecurities and your past while embracing the beauty of the present. Let Me In is a diary of that experience of falling in love for me. The moments of vulnerability we shared, the promises we made, and the forever that we wished for. Creatively the process was very fluid and organic. I was really just making what felt right at the time and sending ideas to my friends. There were no solid plans for release or a project at that time. When I eventually decided it was time to release something, I looked at what I had in the vault and it was all loosely connected (somewhat unintentionally).

How would you like to grow as an artist?

When I listen to a lot of the older stuff in my vault, none of it is great really but it’s like that with anything you start, it’s going to suck in the beginning and you have to be willing to suck at something before it comes together. With everything I’ve learnt I still feel like there’s a lot of room to grow technically as a producer and I’d like to spend the next period of this journey focusing on my production skills. As a writer I’ve always written about love and past relationships because I love love but there are so many more things I experience that I’d like to start sharing and writing about. I want the stories I tell to have more depth and colour and that’s going to take some intentional practice. Collaborations too. I’d love to collaborate more across different genres because I grew up listening and playing almost everything.

Your favorite track on “Let Me In? And why?

I’ve been thinking about this for a while and it has to be “what u need” which features The Woodź. I’d just learnt a new sampling technique at that time and I remember how excited I was while making the beat a few days before a session we had. In the beat I also added an IV-VI-V chord phrase at the end of every cycle which I loved (the IV-V-VI chord progression or any variation of it is my favorite)  When I played it for him, it just clicked and he recorded his parts in less than 10 minutes. I recorded my vocals later that evening and after listening to what was basically a demo at the time, I felt like we had something really special. Without realizing it then, that was effectively the first complete song on the EP.

Can you also share 5 facts about NVMI that fans might not know?

  • I’m a qualified chartered accountant CA(SA).
  • I’m a big nerd: the Star Wars/Harry Potter type. I really enjoy reading and I watch a lot of documentaries on history and finance. I love being new information in general, trivial or not.
  • I’ve listened to 4AM by Jvck James every day for the last 2 years
  • I’ve lived in 4 different countries: Zimbabwe where I was born, South Africa where I was raised, Canada and the USA where I worked for two years
  • I’m quite shy, it’s taken me some time to come out of my shell, so when I tell people that now they don’t quite believe it but I am.

You can listen to NVMI’s “Let Me In” HERE and you can follow him on @unamikombanie on Instagram.