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Aadae: It's Not Easy To Wear A Crown

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Unfortunately, due to the ongoing pandemic, Aadae's performance which was due to take place on 16 April at the Abbeydale Picture House has been cancelled but we still wanted to share her interview with you. Enjoy.

"How do I pronounce your name?" This understanding of how important it is to be able to say somebody's name correctly warmed me up to Aadae. That was the first question she asked and it was only right that I returned the favour. "Uh-Day," she offered to my relief, as I had run through her name in my head and both versions, it turns out, were incorrect. I congratulated her and registered my excitement about her upcoming show for the We Were Born Queens music series running from March to May in Sheffield.

What should we expect from your show?

You should expect a show full of uptempo and downtempo songs. A lot of the songs have stories behind them so I tend to draw people into my world by giving them a background story. Expect high energy and a really fun, engaging show.

What are the origins of your music?

It's a mixture. I grew up in a very Christian home so that lays a foundation for what I do. The church I went to was completely in Yoruba - all the hymns were in Yoruba and this feeds into what I do. I've been influenced a lot by Fela Kuti because my dad was a huge fan and we listened a lot to his music and that of other Nigerian artists, but I grew up in Peckham which has a mix of so many cultures so I was exposed to lots of different types of music like 2-step garage, reggae, Afrobeat, dub, and obviously, gospel.

Do you write most of your own songs?

Yes, I write all of my work but I also co-write with other people where they have an input into what I do. I feel like when different energies come together something new is always made.

Which collaboration is the highlight of your career?

Collaborations? No one has ever asked me this question before (laughs). I think it will have to be my long-term producer, engineer and friend Brett Shaw. He mixed my album. We have real creative synergy when we get together. He worked with Florence and the Machine and is really legendary so that has to be my collaborative highlight.

How has being born in Nigeria and raised in Peckham impacted how you present your art musically, culturally and socially?

It's definitely impacted it a lot. I was born in Nigeria but came here when I was six months old so I don't have any memories of being a child there. I went back in later years and it's definitely part and parcel of what I do and who I am at my core. Even growing up in London, the Yoruba community in Peckham is strong and so we kind of can't get away from who and what we are. It gets even more interesting when you mix that with being of UK and British culture. I'm really touched that art with my kind of identity has artistically blown up and is touching the world.

What inspires your art?

Be proud of your roots and who you are. It's something so beautiful and admirable. I am who I am, but who are you?

We all have to take our crowns and own ourselves

What are you currently working on?

I am working on two projects but I'm not sure when their release is going to be. One of the projects is very upbeat and full of festival overtones, with lots of percussion with rhythms and drums.

The other project which is interrelated explores the world music capacity and specifically African music, 2-step garage, dub and reggae, Afrobeats, and there's also soul in there. In summary, this one is my interpretation of all of the music that is within my culture of where I have grown up in London. These projects are accompanied by different artwork for each single. The pieces of artwork are each collected from a big overall artwork. It's really cool.

You recently launched an art exhibition named after your song, 'Fly Free'. Tell us more about it.

Yes, that was awesome. I worked on that exhibition with a curator and two photographers who are friends of mine. We just wanted to create something that celebrated diversity within British culture so we went around taking pictures of Peckham, where I still hang out and only left very recently. This is a culture that people may not be aware of.

It looks really amazing. Are you bringing it to your show in Sheffield?

Probably, it's definitely a possibility. I have discussed it because it went down really well. It was almost like the photographs were flying in the air and people could see the photos, touch them and interact with them.

Being both a performing and visual artist, I am curious to know what your creative process is.

Wow, it's really funny because my creative process involves a lot of research and it also involves ongoing note-taking everywhere I go, of things I see, things I dream of and then later on, I refer to them and put them all into my songs and that's where I draw my inspiration from. My process is different to most people because I tend to write in little sections gradually and not full songs. It's almost like a collage and they all come together to make a beautiful piece of art.

When you wake up in the morning, what's the one song that you have written that comes to you without thinking about it and you find yourself mid-song?

You know, I actually listen to myself quite a lot! I think one of the songs that comes to mind at the moment is anything new that I'm working on. If it's good, I'm always going to remember it. And also 'Fly Free' because it's very catchy. I hum to it on the la-la-la part. It's a really cool piece of music.

What is 'Die Happy' about?

I love the song 'Die Happy'! Initially, it was written slightly different to how I've arranged it. It's a song that talks about living well enough so that when that time comes you can just go happily and in peace. We struggle so much in life and I feel like a lot of people have a lot of regrets in their final hours.

What does the theme of 'We Were Born Queens' mean to you?

For me, it's a theme that ties in really well with one of my recent songs, 'Glorious'. That song is about ownership and understanding how glorious and how royal you are. It's not easy to wear a crown, but we all have to take our crowns and own ourselves. That's how the theme impacts me. It's about taking ownership of who we really are.

Tchiyiwe Chihana

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