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UW students form R&B band SAPPHIRE CITY

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Sapphire City 1

The newest pop music to hit Seattle’s indie scene is coming straight from UW. SAPPHIRE CITY, a pop and R&B music group formed by two UW students, released their first single, “GREEN LIGHT,” on July 1, and have since performed at various venues across the city.

Theresa Ambat, a 2020 graduate, and Rosario Tarabi, a fourth-year student graduating in 2023, became friends and eventual bandmates after meeting each other in their church’s music program. Ambat, who was coordinating the program when the two met, said she was immediately struck by Tarabi’s music skills.

“We found that we just work really well together doing music,” Ambat said. “Our voices go very well together. I’m a very picky person when it comes to collaborating with other musicians … [Rosario] was just so easy to work with, we have the same musical brain.”

The duo’s friendship formed right at the brink of the COVID-19 pandemic. While most things across the world halted, their friendship did not. The two collaborated virtually by sending music files back and forth that they each added onto. Ambat focused largely on producing the beat, while Tarabi would craft the lyrics and vocals.

The music of SAPPHIRE CITY has a distinctly pop and R&B feel, a far cry from where they first envisioned their music going. Ambat and Tarabi originally planned on creating faith-based music together, but quickly realized their music was going in a different direction. The two have also individually pursued singer-songwriter folk style music, and are excited about the experimentation SAPPHIRE CITY allows them.

“I think the music that we’re making now is the best of both worlds,” Tarabi said. “It sits right in our comfort zones, but we’re gradually pushing ourselves out of that too which has been really cool.”

Before their first single was released, SAPPHIRE CITY performed their first live show at The Vera Project during the UW Songwriters Circle showcase in the spring. The showcase gave many students in the RSO the opportunity to perform live for the first time in a space among their peers. Ambat said she was grateful their first performance happened in “a safe and welcoming environment.”

“It was super fun, I was nervous how people would receive it but once the beat dropped for our song, [the crowd cheered]” Tarabi said. “People seemed to like it, it was really rewarding.”

SAPPHIRE CITY will be playing two upcoming shows in the Seattle area, one for Sofar Sounds on Aug. 27, as well as opening for local artist Seiichi on Sept. 2.

In addition to working on an EP that they hope to release in the next few months, SAPPHIRE CITY hopes to discover their peers in the Seattle pop scene. Seattle has been home to big music names in the rock and grunge genres like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, but Ambat and Tarabi are still looking for a dedicated pop sphere in the city.

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“I think we really want to break into the Seattle pop scene,” Ambat said. “That’s the one thing we’ve been thinking about a lot, like, is there even a pop scene in Seattle? Is there an R&B scene? We know a lot of indie rock artists and grunge, but we’re looking for our pop friends.”

Both members of SAPPHIRE CITY attributed their success and skills largely to UW’s Songwriters Circle. Ambat and Tarabi have both held officer positions in the club throughout their time at UW, and both appreciated the community they gained through joining.

“I feel like we’ve learned so much just being in connection with other musicians,” Ambat said. “I’ve never found a community that was so supportive of each other … They’ve definitely been a help to our band quite a lot.”

Tarabi echoed this appreciation for the Songwriters Circle at UW.

“[The Songwriters Circle was foundational to] who we are as musicians,” Tarabi said. “The stuff that we learned from being in the Songwriters Circle helped us [years later]. All of that added up so well.”

As I spoke with SAPPHIRE CITY, it was clear that the two have a deep appreciation and admiration for each other’s skills. They seem to be each other’s biggest fans, and are grateful not just to be making music, but to be doing it together.

“This band really is such a grounds for creative freedom,” Ambat said. “We’re taking bits and pieces of things we know and things we want to play with, and breaking out of what is familiar … Having this platform to just be free is a really huge thing for us. We’re really excited to just take it to wherever it needs to go.”

“And I have a great collaborator,” Tarabi interjected.

“Yeah, me too,” Ambat agreed.

Reach General Sections Editor Natalie Roy at Twitter: @nataliedroy

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