Harmonious Hanwah on Music, Swaziland
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.
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-