Interview

Voodoo Pussy: Meet Azizaa, the Ghanaian Artist Challenging Western Religion

We talk voodoo, Yoruba spirituality and Beyoncé's 'Lemonade' with Ghanaian singer Azizaa.

Ghanaian artist Azizaa first bewitched us with her unique brand of "Voodoo Music" last year when she dropped the song and video for her single "Black Magic Woman." The singer vehemently criticized Western religion and what she believes is its toxic hold on Ghanaians. Her delivery was clever and assertive, and she had the stylistic prowess to match.


Not much has changed since then. The singer's conscious decision to embrace more traditional forms of African spirituality continues to guide her artistic endeavors and we continue to be intrigued. The singer says that her upcoming album Vodua will give listeners a deeper look into her complex spiritual world.

We got a glimpse ahead of time by checking in with the anomalous artist. We talk voodoo (of course), Yoruba spirituality by way of Beyoncé's Lemonade, and the creation of her aptly named new single, "Voodoo Pussy," which the singer describes as "an ode to women everywhere who know the power of their magic box."

Read the conversation below featuring photography by Dexter R. Jones.

Azizaa. Photography by Dex R. Jones.

Can you give us some background about yourself and how you got started?

I come from a family that sings, almost everyone is a musician in my family. It also stems from our culture. In the Ewe culture, there's a song for almost everything.

Can you tell us how voodoo has influenced your art?

I think voodoo is what I call art, because I am unable to find an English word for it.

Is there a difference between voodoo and religions like santeria?

I believe they're the same thing. Santeria is heavily influenced by the Orishas system from Yoruba culture whereas Voodoo is the ancestral way of worship from the Dahomey culture. It's technically the same or a similar form of spiritual practice from two different cultures.

What do you think of Beyoncé’s Orisha symbolism in her recent Lemonade release, does it make you feel better to have people more aware of the culture?

Absolutely! I was happy to see Lemonade. For me its an introduction of the African deities/Orisha to the masses.

Let's talk about "Voodoo Pussy" and the rest of the album. Tell us about this new release.

I recorded #VoodooPussy at Villain sounds in Ghana. It was produced by Kuvie, the same producer who produced "Black Magic Woman," then I brought it up to Brooklyn to RadianLab and got it mixed and mastered by Moni Delgado who also added some sick background vocals. Some songs on the album are produced by other producers. I like to experiment with how I create my sound and art, but I like to stick to the people I work with for the simple fact that my voice requires a sound engineer who gets it, besides, I don' t like special effects on my voice.

Azizaa. Photography by Dex R. Jones.

Your previous single "Black Magic Woman" denounced Christianity, will the rest of the album follow that theme?

Yeah, pretty much. The album is called VODUA which means "The Deity" so the album has a bit of a trap, where you get a peep into the demented mind of a "Black Magic Woman" and you get to see how I interact with the spirits I see and dance with.

What other projects are you working on right now?

I have a jewelry line called KORGA Pieces. 'Korga' means something beautiful to adorn the neck with, and as part of our culture the size of your neck piece speaks volumes about your elegance so it takes weeks and sometimes months to create a Korga piece. The black piece I had on my neck in the black magic woman video took 6 months to create and required 8 hours a day of work. I just introduced my intimate jewelry collection to the website

Keep up with Azizaa on Facebook/ Twitter/ Instagram  and via her website.

Music

6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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