From Boy George to Victorious Festival – singer Amba Tremain has made her mark on Portsmouth’s music scene and beyond
As she stands in the spotlight with a microphone in her hand, Amba Tremain knows this is what she was born to do. ‘Performing is in my blood,’ she says, ‘and music is my life.'
Known for her extraordinary work with hundreds of youngsters across the region, it’s no secret that Amba has firmly made her mark on Portsmouth’s music scene with her achievements.
From the unstoppable Urban Vocal Group to her popular band Blame Jones, Amba says her life revolves around music.
And it all began when she received a grant to study at Tring Park, an arts and educational school in Hertfordshire.
Amba is the oldest of six sisters and says the being musical runs in the family.
After having a ‘great time’ at music college, she returned home to Havant with her qualification but little inspiration.
‘I received little guidance when I left but I had this sense that I wanted to do something huge with my life,’ says Amba, 38, who now lives in Gosport.
Shortly after her son was born when she was 20, Amba was subject to a vicious gang attack in Leigh Park in 2001.
‘I was a victim of wrong place, wrong time. It was a turning point because I became a recluse,’ she explains.
‘It was around that time I was handed the number for the TV show This Is My Moment.’
Hosted by Spice Girl Mel B, This Is My Moment was a singing competition show that changed Amba’s life.
‘For the first audition, you had to sing down the phone for 30 seconds. It was very real time stuff,’ she laughs.
From 55,000 applicants, Amba was whittled down to the top 50. From there, she travelled to Manchester for live auditions.
‘I ended up winning the show with 300,004 votes and £152,000. But there was no after-care, no record deal and no one to help me. I just went home to Havant,’ explains Amba.
‘It did change my life – some things for the better and some for the worse.
‘Money can make people take advantage of you. I put £30,000 into a record deal and two guys just walked away with it.
‘I never looked back though. The money helped me and my family.’
After winning the show and returning home, Amba began job hunting.
‘I began contacting schools and Cowplain Community School replied. They said they saw me on the telly and asked if I was interested in vocal coaching.
‘I had no idea how much I would love working with young people,’ she smiles.
Within months, Park Community School, Horndean Technology College, Southdowns College, Barncroft Juniors and Oaklands School were on her list of vocal coaching jobs. And her passion for teaching led to her working as a youth worker for Motiv8 for three years.
‘I went from working in lovely schools to working with children who had nothing.
‘It gave me some amazing experience but I thought my place was in a school. The feeling that musicians get when they walk out on stage is the feeling I get when I walk into a classroom.’
But what Amba calls her ‘life’s focus’ is the Urban Vocal Group (UVG), which began when she met Charlie Fletcher in 2007.
‘Charlie was teaching percussion and he approached me asking if we wanted to start a group. I never expected it to be this amazing,’ she smiles.
UVG was born out of eight young people attending a singing group on a Monday night at Havant. Now it’s a renowned singing group which has headlined Portsmouth Guildhall and played at Victorious Festival. Today, there are around 120 members of UVG.
‘It’s amazing how huge it’s become,' says Amba.
‘UVG is my baby. It’s my life’s focus.’
In 2017, Amba and Charlie won The Guide Awards’ Special Achievement Award for their work with young people and promoting music, which also coincided with the group’s 10th anniversary.
‘It’s great when parents are shocked and proud at their child singing on stage. They say “they never would have done that before” so it’s good to know we make a difference.’
Alongside running UVG, Amba has also toured with Boy George as a backing singer and is featured on his album This Is What I Do.
‘I did two stints in Paris as part of his solo album tour. The first time was with my sister Leonie. It was amazing – he’s a lovely man.’
And however far away her music career has taken her, Amba says Portsmouth always feels like home.
‘The arts and music scene in Portsmouth is so amazing to be a part of,’ smiles Amba, ‘however far you go, they always welcome you back.’
Alongside UVG, Amba is also the head of vocals at WaterBear College, Brighton.
‘I also lecture for the BA Music Industry Innovation and Enterprise degree. This job has helped me discover how much I love teaching,’ she explains.
For her, music is a lifestyle as she spends her weekends either supporting her musician son Josh – the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree – or gigging with her band Blame Jones. Comprising her sister Leonie, Andy Dixon and herself, Amba says the band has received some unexpected success on Spotify.
‘We have had over 250,000 monthly listeners recently and our songs have been featured on BBC’s The Greatest Dancer and ITV’s Love Island. It’s been great for us,’ says Amba.
Adding another set of strings to her bow, Amba has also studied for a photography degree and has just released a new remix with Deltiimo called Boy If You Want My Love.
Looking to the future, Amba has plenty of things to be excited about.
‘UVG has got some big things happening this year. I will also be graduating soon which is exciting,’ she squeals.
‘My life just revolves around music. And I feel like everything is only just beginning.’