Har­mo­nious Han­wah on Mu­sic, Swazi­land

Sunday Observer - - SCENE -

De­cem­ber 3,

I2017 t’s al­ways re­fresh­ing speak­ing to peo­ple with a vast knowl­edge of their craft as they tend to em­pha­sise the key things that make what they do ex­tra­or­di­nary.

Han­wah is a singer/ song writer who was born in London and set­tled in Swazi­land with her mu­si­cally in­clined par­ents. Han­wah re­calls a child­hood full of mu­sic, where she would sing while her par­ents watched on. She ad­mits that she has been in­flu­enced by her par­ents but tries hard to find her own sound and style.

We find out more about Han­wah and in keep­ing with this weeks theme, we ques­tion how she finds the race is­sues in the in­dus­try.

...about Han­wah

My name is Han­wah. I’m from London-(ish). I was born into mu­sic. My par e nt s are bot h pi­anists, there is a clas­si­cal in­flu­ence from my mother and the jazz comes from my fa­ther. I started play­ing pi­ano when I was five, but strug­gled to achieve in the more clas­si­cal pro­gramme. I would sing jazz while my dad played pi­ano restau­rants on the week­ends but I didn’t con­nect to the sen­ti­ment of the old stan­dards. I just wanted to make my own mu­sic. My style is a re­sult of years of go­ing my own way and ul­ti­mately com­ing back to where I started.

...Han­wah’s mu­si­cal in­flu­ences

I pulled away from the sounds I was born into and opened my ears to ev­ery­thing else. I had fallen for mu­sic from Hip Hop, to Folk, to Garage, to the UK Rave scene to Metal, Dub, Balkan, the list goes in­def­i­nitely on…and thanks to the vast­ness of the mu­sic I was ex­posed to in the UK I pride my­self in find­ing some­thing to con­nect to within any genre.

But then there are those who forged their sound, and for me that hap­pened both in the UK and here in South­ern Africa.

Nina Si­mone is a singer that cap­tured my at­ten­tion at 14, singing in restau­rants, to this present day… (still singing in restau­rants)! Syd Arthur in­tro­duced me to the in­tri­cate melodies and time sig­na­tures of the Pro­gres­sive Folk scene. Hia­tus Kaiy­ote bought back the Soul in a deeply in­no­va­tive way.

But the magic hap­pened when I moved here and found my­self re­con­nect­ing to my jazz roots af­ter hear­ing an Ab­dul­lah Ibrahim tune called ‘Chisa’ which I re­mem­bered my Dad play­ing when I was young. Since then I have been hooked on the jazz pi­anists of South Africa such as Moses Taiwa Molelekwa, Bokani Dyer, Andile Ye­nana and the beau­ti­ful bass of Her­bie Tsoaeli.

...Han­wah’s de­pic­tion of the cur­rent state of the mu­sic in­dus­try

I don’t know or mu­sic in­dus­try.

I have never been in­dus­trial about my mu­sic - some­thing has al­ways pulled me away from trust­ing the in­dus­try as a whole. But maybe it’s more about trust­ing t hat my s ound is ready.

I have def­i­nitely felt a lot of sup­port this side of the world, and I would say more so than in the UK, but again… I’ve grown here. Its hard to tell if its c a us e of t he colour of my skin of just the peo­ples love for oth­ers. But my mu­sic has found its home here as have I.

My growth is at­trib­uted to move­ment. To leav­ing my com­fort zone, my coun­try. To hav­ing chal­leng­ing con­ver­sa­tions.

To bend­ing my mind to the way another thinks. To soli­tude. To ac­cept­ing sup­port a nd s up­porti ng ot her s . Stag­na­tion does not ex­ist here. If these prin­ci­ples are not prac­ticed in life be­yond mu­sic the mu­sic won’t come. un­der­stand

...Han­wah on how her mu­sic is ac­cepted

It’s not about ‘ac­cept­ing’ mu­sic. We don’t ‘tol­er­ate’ mu­sic… it ei­ther moves us or it doesn’t. I feel like those who are moved by my mu­sic are be­cause they see that I am too.

And it’s ok if not. Mu­sic is a uni­ver­sal lan­guage but t her e are many dif­fer­ent di­alects and we don’t all com­mu­ni­cate in the same way. As an artist I find it is im­por­tant to know and the ac­cept this to avoid be­ing frus­trated and de­vi­at­ing from do­ing the kind of mu­sic you speak well.

My sound is a fu­sion of South African Jazz and Pro­gres­sive Folk of the UK. I love deep grooves and play­ing with silly time sig­na­tures. My favourite time to play is in the early morn­ing with cof­fee. So I sup­pose wak­ing up in­spires me! A new day, new po­ten­tials, morn­ing sun, moun­tain shade…

...On sex­ism and racism

My big­gest hur­dle has been un­der­stand­ing these is­sues and de­con­struct­ing the an­swers I find when I ask my­self, “What does it mean to be white?” or “What does it mean to be a woman?” But this has not stood in the way of my mu­sic, only added fuel to the fire. Mu­sic has been a lan­guage I have used to con­nect to peo­ple with wildly dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ences , per­spect i ves and opin­ions to me, al­low­ing for a gate­way into these harder con­ver­sa­tions. None of us can es­cape these so­ci­etal con­structs, but I look to mu­sic for co­he­sion, un­der­stand­ing and con­nec­tion.

And when the hurt can­not be healed, I sit at my keys.

In this way the prob­lem be­comes the so­lu­tion.Peo­ple have been qui­etly and gently sup­port­ive of my jour­ney. At least that’s what I hope, I have no fears or reser­va­tions about what I do. I just do me. Peo­ple re­late to me in that way and I think I am able to touch them once they see me for me.

...Where Han­wah can be found

You can hear my mu­sic in col­lab­o­ra­tion with other lo­cal artists at events or­gan­ised by my­self and "The Kitchen" team. We are a group of creatives that aim to con­nect mu­si­cians to au­di­ences and to each-other through three main branches of our project.

We felt the best way to do this was by util­is­ing spa­ces that al­ready nat­u­rally bring peo­ple to­gether, that are ac­cessi- ble and in­clu­sive, rather than lust­ing over the spa­ces we don’t have. And "the Kitchen" was born.

The first branch takes the form of fundrais­ing par­ties, with live mu­sic, food, jam ses­sions, open mics and cel­e­bra­tion to be had.

These aim to raise funds ond two branches.

Branch two aims to fa­cil­i­tate par­ties in more iso­lated, ru­ral ar­eas of Swazi­land by util­is­ing com­mu­nity kitchens. We feel mu­sic must be shared and reach as far as it can. It is im­por­tant for peo­ple to have a con­crete con­nec­tion to live mu­sic and per­for­mance to al­low for their own po­ten­tials or sim­ply to cel­e­brate life.

Branch three aims to cre­ate an on­line plat­form.

Where we will share short doc­u­men­taries of Swazi artists and be­yond. The show will be a per­for­mance by ran­domly picked artists fa­cil­i­tated and doc­u­mented in their own homes, or kitchens even. We feel like this for­mat will.be an in­ti­mate and hon­est pre­sen­ta­tion of each artist. Each con­trast­ing deeply but within a uni­ver­sal for­mat. for the sec-

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