Hadiza is a talented songwriter, keyboardist and performer who describes her music as "not quite soul, blues, folk, jazz, rock or classical but it sort of is?" One listen to her debut EP, Gone, shows how much Hadiza's songs sit at the crossroads of all these styles while revealing a young songwriter finding her voice. Originally from Iowa City, Hadiza wrote most of the EP's songs over a two year period and is currently at work on a full album. We're fortunate to share an interview with this emerging artist. Enjoy.
Please introduce yourself. Describe your music for new listeners.
My name is Hadiza [Kubura] Sa-Aadu but I release music and perform solo as Hadiza. It's hard for me to actually describe my sound but I suppose there are elements of jazz, soul, classical, blues, folk, and rock that all kind of show themselves here and there. I usually try to avoid describing my music with any specificity, but for those of who must have something I guess I would say my music is melodically and lyrically driven and usually starts with some riff or chords on the keys, then a vocal melody, then lyrics and then I get together with the band. It's not quite soul, blues, folk, jazz, rock or classical but it sort of is? Maybe this is just a ploy for new listeners to take a listen ;)
Describe the road to your recent EP, Gone. How long had you been living with the songs?
It was probably spring of last year when I sat down with my partner to plan out our releases (she has her own solo project and we also make music together as an electronic/experimental duo called Collidescope). I knew I wanted to build up to a full length LP and had been feeling quite anxious to get something out with my solo project because I've been writing and performing for six years now. I was considering releasing two EPs six months apart to make room for completely new songs for a later full length but eventually decided to do the one EP.
The oldest song on Gone is "Langue Maternelle". It's a song that came out of me summer of 2016 when I was taking care of my grandmother after a mastectomy in Ghana. All of the songs on Gone were written between fall of 2016 and spring of 2018, so for the most part, these are the newest songs that I've performed on a regular basis. I'm reserving my oldest and newest (as in never performed) songs for the upcoming album.
In September of 2018 we went back to our home town Iowa City and tracked instruments with in our friend JL's basement. We recorded instrument tracks for six songs (two of which will actually be on the album). Madi played guitar and JL added drums. We then did the bulk of the work at home in Kansas City. Madi re-did some guitar takes and added bass. I re-tracked a couple keys and added main and backing vocals. I also tried my hand at mixing, but Madi held the reigns with that and she also mastered the final product. I think I started the album art in late November and worked on it up to a couple days before the actual release. We were trying really hard not to do what we did with our Collidescope EP the year before where we were literally putting CDs together the day of the show and good on us, we finished everything a couple days before the actual show which was a double release show for both mine and Madi's solo project "Babydoll" at our favorite venue in Iowa City, Trumpet Blossom Cafe.
What did you learn from recording Gone that you’ll take to future projects?
Oh so much! Technically speaking, I got my fair share of experiential knowledge of mixing, and I learned how to really navigate Ableton when I was engineering my own vocal sessions.
The project also confirmed for me that you should never compromise on your art. A couple of days before the release show I was in Iowa City and Madi was back in Kansas City because she had to work. I noticed that the high part of the backing vocal tracks was missing from the end of "Source" and I personally found it to be subpar to the original mix. I'm certain no one listening would have felt anything was missing but it didn't sit right with me. Somehow the track got deleted but I obviously couldn't just re-record it into Ableton since I wasn't at home with Madi. I ended up rerecording that track on my phone and sending it to Madi for her to mix it in. It was a push, but it was worth it and we both felt really satisfied with our scrapy-ness to solve a would-be disappointing situation.
These days I've been applying and developing the technical knowledge from working on Gone into working on my album. I've already grown so much just in knowing what to Google to figure certain things out production wise. I'm not starting at complete zero with knowledge so I feel way more confident with the Ableton audio engineering aspects of things. It's cool because it's allowing me to rework older songs in ways I wouldn't have ever conceived with just the keys as the composition tool.
I think the MOST important thing is twofold: I learned is to give myself enough time to deliver a fully formed package -- meaning, take the time to consider how to present the music and cover art along with digital distribution. And with a small investment there are resources out there to make things easier, it doesn't all have to be completely DIY. This might paint me as somewhat naive, but to be quite honest I didn't even think about presentation or packaging or distribution outside of posting on Bandcamp and sending to local radio stations in the process of making the music and cover art. I was laser focused on finally getting some of my songs out to the world even in a small way. I truly didn't even think about ways to make the packaging of the CDs look like I didn't print out copies of the cover art cut them and hand assemble the CDs. Ha. I think because Gone is an EP and not a full length, I just didn't really prioritize this release in terms of setting up a Distrokid account to get it everywhere or researching companies that put your cover art on CD cases. We've had a really DIY approach to things but next time around I'm definitely going to give myself at least a couple of months to execute a fully formed distribution strategy that includes nice packaging for the CDs (and possibly vinyl pressed but we'll see). All in all I'm not going to hold myself to hard deadlines if I don't feel like the whole package will be ready.
I wonder if you could illuminate the quote you have on your Bandcamp page: “To cope, to thrive, to die, to breathe. To deal. And when the limit hits, it's transcendence.” How would you connect this to your music?
What I'll say is this: The quote is really just a raison d'etre for my making music. So the quote itself is not so much connected to my music as it is a description of the vessel I use to process the highs and lows (mostly lows to be honest) of life. When you hit the point where your feelings have shifted about a situation, condition, treatment etc you're effectively an alchemist. My music is my alchemy. For other people their alchemy is writing or science or entrepreneurship. I am now in a position where I feel overwhelming gratitude that I have the ability and drive to use music to thrive in an often violent and ugly world. It's a form of therapy that is unmatched. It's a way to learn and know myself and mark my progress as a human being. That's the 'transcendent' part.
What music are you currently raving about?
Two different friends of mine introduced me to two artists that I'm currently really into. Jon Bap and Spelling. Jon Bap actually played in Columbia last month but I missed the show! He does kind of avant-garde, soul music that's super melodic and I listen to the album "Let it happen" almost every day since my friend introduced me to him.
Spellling is kind of a goth/r&b experimental synth/delay driven artist who writes "haunted" songs. I really love what she's doing. She recently released an album called Mazy Fly that everyone should listen to.
I'm also in LOVE with Adia Victoria and was really sad she had to cancel her show at RecordBar. She's an incredible blues musician who is quite outspoken about being a Black southern woman in a white male dominated genre (despite the fact that the blues originated from Black America). I love her power and the fact that she is truly reclaiming the genre. Definitely check out her latest album "Silences".
What’s ahead for you in 2019?
I'm working on my full length album! Hopefully I'll release it by the end of this year! Before that comes, we're also working on our second Collidescope EP which we'll release probably early fall. Other than working on releases we're playing as much as we can between Hadiza. and Collidescope in and around Kansas City and planning mini tours around the midwest. And also working a day job. Busy to say the least.
1) Almanac of the Dead by Leslie Marmon Silko. It really resonates to me now because its a winding story with diverse characters (centering Native Americans) and takes apart the creation of present day America (as ruled by the white man).
2) I Heard God Laughing by Hafiz. Hafiz in life was a sufi poet. I've been exploring Sufism quite a bit these days and these poems are very grounding reminders of Self and surrender to the divine within.
3) Mulholland Drive. First I'm a huge fan of David Lynch. If you haven't seen this movie it starts off with kind of campy acting with an amazing twist that just kind of splits your head open. I love mind bending movies like these and David Lynch is notorious for that. It's such a well crafted film and plot.
4) Four Women: The Nina Simone Phillips Recordings. These are live performances by the High Priestess of Soul someone who was a true pioneer, activist, trailblazer, and truth to power speaker. She's hugely inspiring to me because she was outspoken about the treatment of Black people during the Civil Rights era and specifically talked about the plight of dark skinned Black women during a time when no one dared to broach the subject. She did this through song, stage and interviews and never shied away from the truth. She paid the price for it through her career, but never through her integrity.
5) The Best of the Black President by Fela Kuti. I love Fela Kuti. He was a Nigerian musician blending highlife (which is native to West Africa), jazz, and funk. An eclectic and energetic performer and activist he also is a huge inspiration to me as he spoke out against neo-colonialism and imperialism.