Interview: For Gaidaa, This Was Meant to Be
We talk to the rising Sudanese-Dutch singer about her process, family expectations, and her standout COLORS performance.
Although Gaidaa's father was once a musician, he didn't want her to do music, and her mother was also on board with this. Typical of African parents, their refusal came from a place of protection and concern for her future. They were hoping she would go to school, get a good education and establish herself in a steady and safe career. And so, for a long time, they paid little attention to Gaidaa's interest in music. But once, when Redbull came to shoot at their house in November of last year, the weight of her looming career started to dawn on them, as well as her perseverance and the support they saw around her.
Gaidaa has always been called to music. The Sudanese-Dutch singer's sound has a free, unfettered structure, less of a structure even, and more of an insistence on honesty and catharsis. She started at her craft professionally in 2018 and after the single she released then titled "A Storm On A Summer's Day" did way better than she expected, she became even more convinced that music was something she could seriously dedicate her time to. And between faking going to school (which she eventually dropped out of last year), going for recording sessions, and getting her family mad at her for that, she was able to create her 2020 debut EP Overture. The album sees her gliding through different forms of emotions, through a meld of genres that oscillates between soul and R&B. We can hear Gaidaa coming to terms with desire, and most importantly, delivering her thoughts in the most honest and unassuming ways possible.
We spoke with Gaidaa about her relationship with music, her journey to finding a balance between her work and family expectations, her COLORS performance last year, and why you will likely find her at a train station, which, unsurprisingly, is where she is while we speak over Zoom.
Gaidaa - Stranger (feat. Saba & Jarreau Vandal)youtu.be
Hi Gaidaa, how are you doing?
I am okay, I am trying to catch a train. It is where I spend most of my time, to be honest.
(Laughs) Right. You've talked a bit about your parent's refusal to let you do music, how do you get the time to do music in the midst of everything going on?
I think because it's mostly the only thing I care about so I've made it a priority. I live in Antova and it is pretty far from the Netherlands where there is a better music scene. I had to force the time, I was sleeping on studio floors, I've made a home on the train. And my parents are often worrying about me being at the studio every single day and for a while, they kept asking me where is the music you keep saying you are working on.
How did you manage to make music at the time with the limited resources and support you had?
I was mostly networking. I would meet up with random people at parties or wherever and go to their home studio to make music. Before I got a home studio myself, I made music all over the place.
Tell me about your process for making music.
I know it sounds really corny but I just try to listen to myself and give myself the freedom to do whatever and most of the time something comes and stays. Most of the time, I come from a freestyle approach, someone could be playing a tune and I'd just freestyle, freestyle, freestyle until it starts to say something. And in many ways, that process is cathartic. And this also applies to my songwriting, which I also try not to force.
When did you know that you had to do music?
There wasn't really a particular moment, but I was a huge consumer of pop culture and discovered different music from Justin Beiber to Amy Winehouse and Tori Kelly, who made me pick up a guitar. But in many ways, I would say I have always known.
What influences your music?
I definitely get some of my influences from my Sudanese heritage in a subconscious. It comes out in my experience, and I'm innately drawn to certain rhythms and my heritage finds it ways on certain melody choices I make and how I see the world.
Can you talk a little about your COLORS performance?
Yeah, that performance happened in a really anxiety-driven time, but it was also a really dope opportunity. I was on tour at the time but I was so anxious about what was going on in Sudan and in the middle of that I got an email from COLORS regarding a campaign they were doing for the situation in Sudan. I was really honored that I could do that because it was about something I cared about and was a humbling experience overall.
Gaidaa - Morning Blue | A COLORS SUDAN SHOWyoutu.be
An interesting thing about your album is how every song seems to speak to the next one, was that intentional?
It was intentional, but it wasn't intentional in the process. I did the songs as I experienced them. A song like "I like Trouble" was when I decided to say fuck it, I am going to do music. And one of the last songs, "Say yes" was written two days before we were supposed to turn in the project. The song happened accidentally, but it still fits into the work. And at the time, I was just ready to receive the blessings of life and so that is where it came from. But overall, it was me meeting myself and being confronted with what my values are, and recreating myself as I go.
What is it like making music as an emerging voice?
Stressful really. But you know, I just have this faith that everything will work out in the end. Pursuing music is already a risk and coming to terms with the fact that I chose to do this, I am reminded that I have to be a bit stronger. But going into my second project now, I am mostly doing it from my own space without the input of all the people I used to work with and that means I have to trust my own voice more.
Anything you picked up from making music in isolation?
I think it was good for me because before now I didn't know how much space I could take up, what I was supposed to do if I even knew what I was doing. But now, I know I was born to do this and I move on from other parts of my work knowing that.
Watch her latest COLORS performance here.