Everyone has a lockdown ritual of sorts. Many spend evenings watching TV or FaceTiming loved ones, but for Dutch-Sudanese artist Gaidaa each day is spent standing outside trying to soak up the sun. She’s photosynthesizing, recharging and reconnecting with the things that ground her – like family, her mother-tongue and soul-bearing music to sing to round the house.
Her music often reflects this stripped-back simplicity, pairing her delicate vocals with live instrumentation and rhythmic snares – owing to her love of artists like Hiatus Kayote and Amy Winehouse. She’s spending time enjoying the opportunity to slow down. “I’m trying not to give myself a shitty time for not getting things done,” explains the 20-year-old. “I can have guilt-free chilling and I gave myself this mental space which in turn is actually making me more productive.”
After the release of her latest sleek track, ‘Falling Higher’ (which has a neat video-game style lyric video), we talk through her selection of lockdown tunes and her perfect post-quarantine dinner party.
gal-dem: Let’s just talk about your playlist, it’s called ‘ma vibe’, why is this the music that you love?
Gaidaa: This what I’ve been listening to at the minute more than anything. This collection is very, very me. I’m a mellow person for sure, but I just like people who have jazzy influences themselves. I really like soulful stuff that’s not necessarily ‘THIS IS SOUL’, you know, like in your face. Basically, my vibe is whatever I can sing or cry to in the shower.
Why did you choose these artists, what do they mean to you?
Like, Emmavie is fucking amazing, that’s my girl, so she makes it into my playlist. These are all quite open artists, not necessarily in how they speak to people but just in their music are very vulnerable artists.
Who are the people that inspire your own sound?
Lauryn Hill and Amy Winehouse. Their style is simple but strong; it could just have a bass or just the keys but even when you strip everything away, you still feel everything you’re meant to. They’re smart as fuck and hard as fuck and they have a lot to say. I still have much to study from them.
“With Lauryn Hill and Amy Winehouse, even when you strip everything away, you still feel everything you’re meant to. I have much to study from them”
If you can describe your sound in three words.
I can only give you two. I would say, ‘honest‘ and ‘soul’… I guess they kind of mean the same thing in reality, because if you’re being honest you’re showing your soul.
So actually, you gave me one word out of three. That’s concise.
I’m shit at interviews because actually I’m still discovering myself and who I am. My opinion changes every 30 seconds (laughs).
You’re on a journey, we like that. Lots of people are using lockdown as a chance to learn, for example, I’m failing at picking up another language on Duolingo – but you already sing in multiple, how many can you speak?
English, Dutch and I’m supposed to speak Arabic. I definitely understand it. My grandfather passed away last week on my dad’s side and it really kind of shook me because I felt like I didn’t get to connect with him enough because my Arabic wasn’t as on point as I would like it to be. It kicked me in the chest to like finally get back on my Arabic again. The past couple days I’ve been really inspired and trying to figure out a way to expand my vocabulary, watching more movies and having my parents speak to me in only Arabic. Family in Sudan are giving me WhatsApp Arabic lessons.
I’m really sorry to hear that. Your song ‘Morning Blue’ is sort of like an ode to Sudan, and you obviously have roots there. What is it about the country that inspires you artistically?
I only started going to Sudan actively three years ago, and that had been my first trip since I was about nine. Every time I go, literally, the trip recharges me for the rest of the year. I get to the point where I’m like, ‘oh no I’m empty’, but then that place makes me feel like myself again. That may sound corny, but I’m just like surrounded by people like me that I didn’t know necessarily existed. I’ve never really grown up like other people around me that were corrupt ass young Sudanese Muslim kids – that like lowkey are not that Halal, but like… You know… we’re trying. (laughs). It’s a country that carries a lot of trauma and has just constantly been ignored and sidelined. The people have been through so much. I definitely want to be making more Arabic music and incorporating that in my own way. In December I performed there and that was just like completely insane. I didn’t really realise the number of people who were supporting.
“Sudan is a country that carries a lot of trauma and has just constantly been ignored and sidelined. I definitely want to be making more Arabic music”
So lockdown has lifted and you’re allowed to invite any musician to dinner and they will accept the invitation as they’re happy to leave the house. Who’s coming?
I would definitely invite Nai Palm from Haitus Kayote, just to learn and listen to her speak, I think she’s an amazing woman. I’d hit up Frank Ocean and say, ‘I know you don’t want to leave the house even without quarantine, but come out’. And actually J. Cole. I think we’d have good conversations. My brother is a massive fan and I watched some interviews and we think in very similar ways. Granted, I was like, about to get my period and I had no idea so I kept crying, but man I had an emotional connection (laughs). His whole crew is Sudanese, the guy he founded the record label Dreamville with is Sudanese.
What are you going to cook?
Fried Chicken. That’s all I can cook.
You can find the playlist Gaidaa made on gal-dem’s Spotify: