Although the actual context is truly challenging, creativity never stops blooming in every part of the world. Gaidaa – a Dutch-based singer – is the perfect illustration of how to seize opportunities as an artist in such a context, managing to release an album and an EP during the first year of this pandemic thanks to the support of the Berlin-based platform Colors.
More than a lesson on resilience, Gaidaa is a true inspiration when it comes to celebrating and honouring heritage. In 2019, during the political crisis in Sudan, she wrote a peaceful and meaningful song to bring awareness to the current state. Growing up in the middle of two different cultures – the Netherlands and Sudan – the investigation of her own identity led her to the beautiful artist she is today. Through this complexity, a unique artist with an authentic voice has risen.
As a child, you were truly encouraged to do music by your father – who is also a musician. Would you say your first contact and memory related to music are influenced by your familial environment? Is this what makes you start a career in this industry?
I don’t feel like I was really actively encouraged to do music by my father as a child. When looking back at my childhood, my dad’s constant singing and playing music around the house was most likely my first interaction and sparked my interest in music. Although my parents always encouraged me to be creative, both parents definitely placed emphasis on finishing school and university before ever pursuing music.
Throughout your life, I assume that you’ve been influenced by a lot of types of music, could you give us some examples of artists that inspired you the most and why?
I used to be pretty bad at answering this question, but now that I’m older I admire artists like, Amy Winehouse, Jazmine Sullivan, Nai Palm, Frank Ocean, Lauryn Hill… All these artists are obviously super talented but I feel like their strength lies in their ability to be vulnerable. That’s what I’m drawn to. All these artists are very different and approach their music differently, but I just love their wittiness and honesty in their writing and their authenticity and uniqueness in their craft.
Most of the resources online refer to you as an R&B/soul artist, how would you define your own universe when it comes to your music?
I mean, people are free to interpret the music as they like. I personally don’t really place a label on the type of music I make, because it’s ever-evolving. My music is malleable and I hope it stays that way. Like most of us, I’m influenced every day by a whole wave of things I can be inspired by, whether I know it or not. I’m not afraid to try things and want to keep expanding the musical scape I’m in. Though it may sound vague I always refer to my music as ‘soul music’ not necessarily as the genre soul but rather as in music from my soul (laughs). Maybe that’s a bit corny but yeah soul music, honest music. Music that comes from me, and can sound like whatever I feel.
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You grew up in the Netherlands while being raised in a Sudanese culture through your parents. Being submitted to two different cultures that are quite different, and at the same time complex and interesting, what was your experience like, social structure-wise?
As much as now I’m really grateful for a dual experience, when I was younger (and still now in a different way) I really struggled with it. The constant questioning of where I felt like I belonged definitely manifested itself into a huge identity crisis (laughs). I was also raised in an international school, so, while I also didn’t feel Sudanese enough, I also didn’t feel Dutch enough. Although I was attending an international school, I had never really been around other Sudanese kids with my experience until I was like 16. I had a lot of different perspectives to hear and pick from growing up, this was great until people expect you to stick to one, when I just wanted the combination.
You first started your collaboration with Colors with the title Morning Blue – an ode to Sudan and a call to harmony and peace in the country. This video was part of an entire project by ColorsXStudio related to the political crisis occurring in the country in 2019. How did that come about?
Morning Blue came out of a very anxiety-driven headspace and time of political unrest and crisis that was happening in Sudan back in 2019. Colors was making an effort to try and garner awareness for what was going on and reached out to ask me to be a part of the project. I was honoured and ended up (after a long period of just anxiety and writer's block) writing the song and heading to Berlin to film it. In the end, this was my debut, and I was really grateful it was able to be meaningful.
"Sabah Alnour, Sabah Alkheir" – two lines that are part of Morning Blue. What message did you want to share through them?
"Sabah Alnour, Sabah Alkheir" literally translated is "morning of light, morning of goodness." In Arabic, that’s the way people say good morning. When someone says "Sabah Alnour" you say back "Sabah Alkheir." During the peaceful protests and sit-ins, people were chanting this in the morning to wake protestors up for a new day. The way I intended this line was both to urge people to wake up and look around at our fellow human and reality, but also to remember to keep our intention pure and the fight peaceful.
Your last collaboration with Colors was in 2020 when you released an EP during a live show in New York City. Do you think platforms such as this one are the most efficient ways for emerging artists to share their music and reach a relevant and quality audience?
I wouldn’t know what’s the most efficient, but I do think Colors is a great platform that has such a beautiful stage and audience for us artists. They’ve done a great job of honing an audience that loves music and is open and ready to listen without it being a popularity contest. I am personally super grateful for the constant belief and support Colors has shown me as an independent artist.
You released an album, Overture, and an EP during the first year of this pandemic. What would you say are the opportunities and challenges of being an emerging artist in such unexpected times?
I think there’s a lot of challenges that come with being an emerging artist during unprecedented hectic times like these (laughs). Transitioning into this new way of working alone is energy exhausting because at the end of the day there is no blueprint.
Not to be dramatic but it feels like the imaginary blueprint is burning (laughs), so we adjust. Shoutout to social media though, luckily people are wanting to listen to music and consume content (laughs), and I’m still able to reach my audience. But it is hard, trying to write songs and make new music from the same corner I’m living my whole life from, aka my room, but I guess that’s also a vibe.
You’ve collaborated with rapper Saba and DJ Jarreau Vandal in a song called Stanger. Although collaborating between artists of the same genre is common, going outside the norms and mixing your style with electronic vibes is quite innovative. Do you plan on expending this type of association with DJs in the future?
I loved working with both Saba and Jarreau Vandal, and really grateful to have them on the project. I’m super open to keep working with DJ’s. I don’t have specific plans though (laughs). I just love to experiment and try things and go with the flow, I don’t think there is or should be any rules to making music.
Like artists such as Emmavie or Noname, you are part of this new era of artists creating an alternative form of R&B and soul. Far from singers such as Sade or Tony Braxton, today this genre feels more hybrid and complex. How do you think this movement is going to evolve in the years to come and what will be your contribution to it?
Well, I think more and more alternative artists are going to continue to emerge with our take on things we’ve heard in life (laughs). I think this new era of artists is just going to continue to expand inevitably. There are so many talented people around the world with specific experiences and opinions. My contribution is simply to keep making honest music, collaborate with others that inspire me and stay sincere in what I do. We as people are a hybrid of different and complex experiences and elements. Artists and our music are a reflection of our experience as humans.
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