Have You Met.. Nana Adjoa

Describe the creative culture in the city you grew up in?

When I was young and my parents were still together, their music collection often blasted pretty loud through our home. They listen to Funk, soul, 90’s R&B, reggae, Ghanaian highlife. Also when we went to birthdays or parties on my Ghanaian side of the family, there was always LOUD music. Other than listening and dancing to the music at home, there wasn’t anything especially creative in my upbringing. We moved out of Amsterdam, when I was around the age of 5, to a small town not far from the city, I don’t really remember it as a creative or cultural place.  

What were early experiences in music, did you start with playing instruments or into producing with a DWL?

Once at primary school, when I was really young, we learned over a course of a week, this classical choir piece we would perform together with a proper choir. I don’t know remember why or for what occasion, but I think it was Verdi’s Dies irae, Lacrimosa. I enjoyed practicing the words I didn’t understand, and I enjoyed the sound of people singing together. I also briefly had keyboard lessons, which I disliked very much, so I quit pretty soon. And then at the end of primary school, I started playing bass, which felt awesome right away. 

What made you get into music, who were the people around you which influenced you?

Me and my friends wanted to start a band when we were at the age of 10/11, and I picked up the bass for that purpose. We were initially inspired by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. And then we also played songs by Rage Against the Machine, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, etc.

I read that your Mother was in a Ghanaian highlife band, how influential was she in deciding to start music as a career?

We’ll not so much starting a career. It wasn’t until after me and my friends came up with the idea of starting a band, which meant me picking up the bass, that I found out my mom had this while history. She did give me my first lessons and has been very supportive from the start. She let us use the basement/cellar as our rehearsal space, and she was very encouraging when I tried to go and eventually went to the conservatory.

How close are you to your Ghanaian heritage, will you look to incorporate Ghanaian highlife in the music?

I’m still learning a lot about my Ghanaian heritage and the Ghanaian music history. I grew up with listening to that music, but after my parents got divorced, I was raised by my Dutch mom. It’s been a while (10 years) since I went to Ghana, so I would love to go there again and learn more about the culture while being there, as a oppose to just reading about it. 

How have you tried to change approach going into your most recent album, in comparison to your previous EPs

The writing and recording went more simultaneously, which resulted in a lot of the demo material to end up on the record. I started out alone, and a producer joined in halfway. Also, the approach in recording my voice was a little less shy and more sure than previous works. 

If you weren’t making music, what would you be doing? 

So many possibilities! It’s really hard to imagine myself doing anything else now. I probably would have gone to university to study either History or Psychology, but I don’t know where those paths would have brought me, though. When I was 18 I went to those introduction days (open days?) at the UvA, but I auditioned at the conservatory and got accepted and went along with it. 

Are there any producers/artists/instrumentalist you work with really well, what makes your relationship work?

For this record, I worked together with Wannes Salomé for the first time. But I loved working with him. He’s technically very skilled, we have a similar and broad taste, so when I or he had an idea, we could try it out very fast and didn’t need to talk much about it. I love it when you work with someone and you don’t have to talk a lot about the music, but just play and try stuff out. 

Are there any artists in the Netherlands we should be paying attention to?

There are definitely some very cool artists over here. LUWTEN, Zeeland, Jo Goes Hunting, Sofie Winterson, and Feng Suave.

What’s your relationship like with your label, and why did you decide to release with them?

I’m with Bloomer Records, which me and my managers basically set up to release my music ourselves. So at the base, we have a small and super dedicated team I’m working with, and then we work together with a lot of different people and parties from all over the place. 

Describe your album in three words

Contemplating, contemporary, dreaming. 

Dutch-Ghanaian Multi-Instrumentalist Nana Adjoa’s Debut Album ‘Big Dreaming Ants’

Dutch-Ghanaian multi-instrumentalist Nana Adjoa’s debut album Big Dreaming Ants’, is out today. This week Nana dropped the powerful visual for her lead single, ‘National Song’ which looks looks at cultural identity and neo-nationalism.

Nana Adjoa explains, “Every country has a national song. In the Netherlands, ours is translated from old Dutch. Everybody sings along but they don’t know what it means.” She elaborates, “It made me question the tradition, and why we feel the need to belong to a nation when borders aren’t as clear as they used to be.”

The song is also about searching for one’s own identity – on a personal, cultural and global level. On ‘Throw Stones’, the artist sings about “calming myself down in difficult times. This era of ‘online life’ invites the uglier sides of ourselves to exist outside of just our thoughts. It’s about regrouping and reflecting. You don’t always have to be ‘on’, you are allowed to make time for yourself”.

Written and recorded in her own studio, the album sees Nana handling the majority of the instrumentation herself, using a wide palette of instruments. A process that helped her to develop a multi-layered sound, rich in tonal textures, which is as intimate as expansive.

Talking about the storyline behind the album Nana explains, “Big dreaming, little ants, it’s just who we are. Zooming in on myself and my personal search for identity and then zooming out to see yourself as a very small piece in a bigger part, that as a whole is also on that same search. Themes like heritage, nationalism, internal conflict, change, originality and insecurity come along in that search”.

You can purchase the album on Bandcamp

Check out the video to National Song below, and let us know what you think: