Knoirts artFORM Weekly Words

by Stephanie Malik

WEEK 4: Vagabon

In order to celebrate the summer launch of Knorts’ first ever all black denim collection—Knoirts—we are initiating a weekly band series featuring interviews with some of our favorite artists who performed at the one-of-a-kind annual Form festival, which is held in the unusual community of Arcosanti, AZ. 

In addition to photos of these artists killing it in our new noir Knorts in various locations throughout Arcosanti, we ask them about their feelings on fashion, denim, and some other random stuff (cats v. dogs?). We will also be providing links to some of their music for you to check out too. 

Next up in the artFORM series, we mix it up with a freeform piece inspired by the music and the Common Thread portraits of Laetitia Tamko of Vagabon donning Knorts in Arcosanti. We highly encourage you to press play while you read.

 Vagabon photographed by Tonje Thilesen

Vagabon photographed by Tonje Thilesen

Vagabon is the stage name of Laetitia Tamko, a mesmerizing lo-fi, freak-folk artist burgeoning with talent, authenticity, and a highly unusual backstory. Born in Cameroon’s capital city of Yaoundé, Tamko moved to NYC at 13 with her family so her mother could attend law school. As a child in Cameroon, every Sunday her parents’ friends would gather together to play instruments and dance. Retrospectively, this is where Tamko’s informal musical training began by singing along with melodies learned from her mother and grandmother. It is important to note that this was done as a low key communal activity because none of these people considered themselves “musicians”—this was purely done as a social activity and past time for fun.

At 17 years old, Tamko’s parents bought her first acoustic guitar from Costco. Her informal musical training continued here with Tamko teaching herself to play her new guitar with instructional DVDs. Today, Tamko is a full-blown multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter, and producer who can be heard playing drums, keyboards, and synthesizers on her 2017 release, Infinite Worlds.

Make no mistake, Tamko’s artisitic path was not trudged easily as she faced immense pressure from her parents to put her education first. As a result, she had to conceal her second life as a musician while she completed her degree in computer engineering at CUNY's Grove School of Engineering. As if that wasn’t enough, Tamko also had to endure the dramatic cultural and social adjustment of moving from Cameroon to living in a sea of white suburban faces, which led to isolation and loneliness.

 Vagabon photographed by Tonje Thilesen

Vagabon photographed by Tonje Thilesen

With this knowledge of her background, one can already start to feel why Tamko operates under the moniker of “Vagabon.” Themes of a lost sense of home, wandering, and isolation permeate her music. Similarly to last week’s featured artFORM artist, Julie Byrne, Tamko appears to fit right in with the Form festival’s ability to attract highly unique and skilled musicians who identify to some extent with the identity of a vagabond.

Tamko consistently flays herself open on her records and has overwhelming discussed feelings of being “naked” after shows. This is unsurprising as her music rings of unguarded honesty and vulnerability. This music is transparently being made as a form of therapy and catharsis. Listening to the song, Persian Garden, one almost feels like you’re catching someone alone in their bedroom or as if you’ve come across a personal diary and are knowingly committing some guilt-infused creep reading while someone lays their soul bare on the pages. Then before you know it, you’ve read the whole thing.

 Vagabon photographed by Tonje Thilesen

Vagabon photographed by Tonje Thilesen