Born to a Ghanian father and a Dutch mother, the rising Amsterdam-born and-based Ghanian-Dutch singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Nana Adjoa joined her first band when she was a teenager. She choose bass because “every other instrument had been claimed,” she recalled with a laugh. Perhaps it may have been a lucky twist of fate. Unbeknownst to Adjoa, her mother had once played bass in a Ghanian Highlife band and still happened to have her guitar.
Later, the JOVM mainstay went on to attend the prestigious Amsterdam Conservatory, where she studied jazz — electric bass and double bass; however, she began to realize that her musical passions lay elsewhere. She joined a variety of local bands, began writing her own music and in 2014 entered herself in the Grote Prijs van Nederland — the longest-running and biggest pop music competition in her homeland. Adjoa made it to the finals, but most importantly, she gained a band, a manager and the confidence to launch a solo career.
Interestingly, since the release of Down at the Root, Part 1 and its follow-up, Down at the Root, Part 2, Adjoa has developed a reputation for being restlessly creative, crafting material centered around an adventurous yet accessible sense of musicianship and deft poeticism. Building upon a growing international profile, the Ghanian-Dutch artist released her critically applauded Wannes Salomé-produced Big Dreaming Ants, late last year.
Continuing upon the momentum of last year, Adjoa begins her year with a live, three-song set for NPR World Cafe filmed in Amsterdam. The live session featured live version of the the following album tracks:
“She’s Stronger,” a slinky yet expansive New Wave-like number with a rousingly anthemic hook that describes the deep, inner reserve of strength and resiliency that women routinely pull from through their daily existence. It’s arguably one of the harder rocking songs of Adjoa’s eclectic and growing catalog.
“No Room,” a song that’s slick and seamless synthesis of Afro pop and indie rock, centered around a shimmering and looping guitar line, looped vocal samples and Adjoa’s achingly tender vocals. The song seems to evoke a narrator, who’s stifled and restricted, and desperately trying to break free.
“National Song” a slow-burning and gorgeous lullaby sort of song that on one level warns of the dangers of nationalism and on another level, details a narrator, struggling with her own identity and place when she generally doesn’t fit into one particular box, one particular race or even one particular nationality.
Each of these songs are probing, nuanced portraits centered around deeply personal observations and thoughts, delivered with an unflinching honesty and self-assuredness. And it shouldn’t be surprising that the Dutch JOVM mainstay was also named an NPR Slingshot Artist to Watch for 2021.