If you follow me through the various social media platforms, you’d know that I’ve had an absolutely epic time during my first two days in the Windy City — and everyone I’ve met has been a wonderful and kind ambassador to their hometown. Man, right now, I feel as though Chicago can’t do me wrong. But on to the business end of things . . .
Nana Adjoa is an up-and-coming Dutch-Ghanaian singer/songwriter, whose father emigrated to Amsterdam in the 1980s and eventually married the Amsterdam-born and-based singer/songwriter’s “very Dutch” mother. Growing up, Adjoa spent a portion of her childhood in the rough and tumble, working class Biljmer neighborhood, a section once described by a local police chief a “national disaster area.” In press notes, Adjoa describes her upbringing as being fairly liberal until her parents’ divorce and their subsequent embrace of Christianity. “The second part off my growing up was with some Christian values, but by this point, I was getting to the age of making up my own mind,” the Dutch-Ghanaian singer/songwriter recalls in press notes. “It was a bit too late for me.” Eventually, there was a rift within her family with the Christians (Nan’s father, mother and brother) on one side and the non-Christians (Nana, her sister and the rest of the extended family) on the other. Understandably religion, as well as questions about her own gender identity and of being a black person in an extremely white environment have been regularly occurring themes and concerns in her work. “In fact, I think I still unconsciously use a lot of Christian ideas and metaphors in my music,” she adds.
Adjoa was accepted at the prestigious Amsterdam Conservatory to study jazz (electric bass and double bass); however, she found the the experience to not be what she had always imagined it would. “It was very much like school,” she says. “We thought we wanted to go to the most difficult department, that we wanted to be the best, but it wasn’t a very fun experience.” Around the same time, the Amsterdam-born and-based singer/songwriter began to experience a growing divide between the restrictive and theoretical compositions she was studying and the melodic, free-flowing music she’d play while outside. Adjoa began to realize that pursing a solo was the direction she needed to take, and so she formed a band and record her original songs, which has resulted in the attention grabbing Down at the Root Part 1 and the forthcoming Down at the Root Part 2.
“Honestly,” Down at the Root Part 2‘s first single is an effortless, neo soul affair that nods at Simply Bill-era Bill Withers, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott and others, as the song reveals a quietly self-assured singer/songwriter beyond her relative youth, who can craft a song that’s driven by an infectious hook and a lush melody; but as Adjoa explains, the song is an “outsider track” that grew from a simple piano backing into its vibey, jazz-like arrangement. “I didn’t even think it was going to make the record because it felt so different from the rest,” Nana says. “I guess it’s about how people are scared of the possibility of something bad happening. And that fear is really strange because you don’t know what’s going to happen. You never know what’s going to happen.”
Directed by Bear Damen, the recently released video for “Honestly” features Adjoa and her backing band, as the backing musical act for a surrealistic play; but underneath that are much deeper interpretations — including, the vulnerability of having someone capture your heart, and knowing that with a cruel or thoughtless act, that they can crush it.