Published by BBC NEWS - 18th February 2022


Image source, Nwaka

Imagine listening to music and seeing colours. Yes you read that right.

That’s exactly what happens to singer and songwriter Tamera due to a neurological trait she’s got.

She has something called synaesthesia – a condition which fuses your senses, so instead of experiencing them separately and involuntarily, they are automatically joined together.

For Tamera, it means she has a “colour palette in my head”.

“When I listen to RnB I usually see deep blues and purples, emerald greens,” she tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

“When I’m listening to say Afrobeats I see oranges, like burnt oranges, yellows and really bright lime greens.”

It’s said to affect about 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 having synaesthesia has helped her with her songwriting.


Image source, Nwaka

“For me personally I am very visual when it comes to music or sounds,” Tamera says.

“So I guess it really helps me when I’m in the studio because I can hear a beat immediately. I’ll have like a colour palette in my head.

“I just feel colours and sometimes I’ll see like a whole movie scene, I’d describe it like a whole scene, a set-up, and what I feel would be happening to this music.”

‘Getting me and my feels’

The 25-year-old says she only recently found out synaesthesia “was a thing” but she’s not the only musician with the condition.

Pharrell Williams, Billie Eilish and Lady Gaga also have synaesthesia.

For Billie Eilish, it inspires her creative process.

“All of my artwork, everything I do live, all the colours for each song, it’s because those are the colours for those songs,” she’s said.

Pharrell has previously said “it’s the only way” he can “identify what something sounds like”.

“I know when something is in key because it either matches the same colour or it doesn’t. Or it feels different and it doesn’t feel right.”

The UK Synaesthesia Association say synaesthesia isn’t a disease or illness and is not at all harmful.

Some research has shown synaesthetes self-reported greater visual imagery ability than the general population, and some specific memory advantages have also been measured.

Pharrell Williams

Image source, Getty Images

“It’s always been normal. It’s always been that way,” Tamera, from Gravesend, Kent, explains.

“It’s been a tool that I’ve used to help me write songs for a really long time.”

Tamera, who you may remember from reaching the X-Factor finals as a 16-year-old in 2013, describes how at times when she’s in studio sessions she’ll write about what she sees rather than what she feels.

“I feel like writing can be a very visual thing,” she continues.

“Whatever brings the most crazy scene into my head or a nice colour palette that is getting me and my feels, then I’ll just write to that.”

The condition has influenced her latest project, Afrodite, and its music video.

“If a song is going to be released it has 100% been obsessed over by me when it comes to the visual side.

“The colours around all the singles have been red, orange and browns and that was 100% deliberate because that is what I was seeing the whole time I was writing the project.”

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