Photo Credit: Karen Rosetzsky
Finding where you belong is a struggle most of us will encounter at least once in our lives. For some though, it’s a lifelong search. Whether it’s within your own family or in the world, artists like Nana Adjoa explore their own internal journey towards fitting in and finding a place in this big, strange world. We talked about all of that and then some as we explored her family, music and more – like her new album, Down At The Root Part 2, out now.
Kendra: Did you know that you wanted to pursue music when you were growing up, or did you have a more of the typical “grown-up” dreams like doctor, lawyer, fireman?
Nana Adjoa: I never really thought much on the future until I was supposed to, in high school. Around my 17th I was bouncing back and forth between the idea of studying History or Psychology. Just because it seemed interesting at the time (still does), not knowing what I would practice after university.
Anyway, some of my bandmates and music friends where totally set on going to the conservatory. That’s when I first started thinking, maybe to be a “professional musician.” So I prepared myself for a year for the audition and got accepted to the jazz department as an (electric) bass player, just barely. And then I got into the whole music as session player world, which I grew out of again.
Kendra: You’ve mentioned the sort of wall between you and your family because of religion. Has that impacted their support of your music?
Nana Adjoa: No, not at all. My mother especially has really supported me every step of the way. My parents are both music lovers, and my mom actually plays the bass herself. So that’s something we share.
Kendra: How different do you think your sound would’ve been if you’d come up in a run of the mill, cliche family, and setting?
Nana Adjoa: That’s hard to say. In Dutch we say: Elk huisje heeft z’n kruisje’, which roughly translates into “every house bears its own cross” AKA every home has its own story. So I do think whatever family you grow up in, it will be an emotional cornerstone in your writing. Unless you write totally non-personal stuff. Style wise, I might have had a bigger dose of African and black music in general than some of my white peers. But then again, also got this big pile of classic rock CDs from my cousin when I got more into rock as a teenager. So you also definitely on purpose try to seek outside of your home music collection.
Kendra: We’ll never know though because you sound the way you do and it’s just great, especially “Part of It.” What emotion was in control of you when you penned this?
Nana Adjoa: The feeling of trying to connect when you feel “left-out.” The misfit-feeling. I experience it as a feeling that will make you want to join any kind of group/movement/family and be like that group (a group you don’t necessarily fit in). Or the feeling to want to turn your back on any group. Which means joining the ‘not in a group’-group of people. Either way you still end up feeling left out and trying to connect to something else.
Kendra: People often say your music is like poetry. With that, if you were going to partner up with a famous poet (dead or alive) for a concert/poetry slam, who do you think would mesh well with you while you played Down At The Root Part 2 and why?
Nana Adjoa: Very nice question, but I must confess I don’t know any poets that well, haha. I feel a bit lowbrow in that area. It something I’d like to and feel like I should explore as soon as possible. Let’s say Leonard Cohen! I love his words, tone and his semi religious charged themes.
Kendra: On top of being at odds with your family because of religion, you also had some internal struggles with gender and racial identity. As someone who is mixed herself – I felt you on that. Do you feel that part of who you are has gotten easier to deal with as you’ve gotten older?
Nana Adjoa: I think I’m starting to understand myself and others better as I get older. But that doesn’t necessary mean it has gotten easier to be ‘myself’. To understand your identity, and your own and other peoples problems with it, is not really a solution. But (I hope) there is still a lot of time to figure things out. I do think it’s a good question to ask yourself every five years or so.
Kendra: You’ve got Down At The Root Part 2 out now. What else is on the horizon for you?
Nana Adjoa: New music! I’m writing a lot of new stuff, and I can’t wait to write even some more. Also touring the globe is obviously every musicians dream, so working on that plan as well. And I should get into poetry more.