HOME FOR INSPIRATION: TAWIAH’S ACCRA REUNION

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Stopping traffic in Downtown Accra

by MOLLY SULLIVAN | photos by ABASS ISMAIL and MANTSE ARYEEQUAYE

A year after her first Skype Talk Party Series experience, TAWIAH’s much anticipated return to Accra proved to be well worth the wait.

An intimate evening with the Ghanaian British singer/songwriter began with an open Q&A, where questions sprung out about her creative process and the musicians that influenced her at ages 8, 16, 24, and now (her list included gospel, Wu-tang Clan, Erykah Badu, Radiohead, Me’shell Ndegeocello, the Spice Girls, and her own stuff)

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Posing with a thrift store owner in Downtown Accra

Accompanied by Tawiah’s commentary, we screened music videos from FREEdom DROP, her illmatic mixtape released last March. Videos for  “TearDROP”“FACes”, and “SEAlion”– all teased the crowd into stunned silence. Tawiah shared with us the inspiration for these songs, the vision behind the videos, and amusing anecdotes from her creation process. She discussed the decision to set the music video for “FACes” in Accra, the choice to deviate from the standard song structure with “SEAlion”, and her inability to sink during the filming of “TearDROP”.

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Posting up outside a clothing stall in Northridge

The evening concluded with a chillingly beautiful, live performance. Tawiah, poised for utter destruction, propped up her guitar on a knee, a loop station beneath her feet. There was a noticeable shift in the room when Tawiah began to sing – a collective leaning in of bodies gravitating towards the perfect plethora of sound making. The set included two new songs from a forthcoming album this year. Upon much pleading from the audience, Tawiah consented to perform again, this time with a slow jam remix of Soul for Real’s ’95 classic, “Candy Rain”.

Luckily, amidst the praise and congratulations from fans that followed, we were able to pull Tawiah aside for some final questions about the reception to FREEdom DROP, her two week visit in Ghana, and what to expect next from the musician.

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Checking out a shoe stall by the street in Northridge

ADA: What have you been up to since the last Talk Party Series?

Tawiah: Since then it’s been a sort of a process for me. I started thinking about my album. I got rid of my whole band and did one woman shows, which was really interesting because I’ve always had a full on band. But yeah, just stripped a lot of things back down to basics and kind of growing in the limitations, if that makes sense. And oh, I’m deep in the process of doing my album.

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Center Strip on the Kanda Highway

ADA: So why the choice to strip back down to basics?

Tawiah: Monies. [laughs]  I’ve got to pay the musicians and stuff. I love having a big band and having all of it. But it was like, if I want to make a bit of money for myself I’m going to have to kind of scale down. So I scaled all the way down to just me. But it was fun. I mean the first solo show I had was in Brighton because I was like, I’m not going to be in London yet. I’m just going to be a little out of London because I know too many people in London. And then second show I did was in London and it was wicked. It was a good response. I mean, I can’t wait to have a band back again, but its been good doing the solo shows.

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ADA:Is the next album a solo piece or are you back with the band?

Tawiah: Nah, the full band. I’ve had the boys in the studio for a straight week. It was beautiful, man- vibraphone, bass, guitar, drums, piano, a grand piano in the studio and the madness of synths. And then I had these three awesome backing singers from London, they sound like one voice – it’s insane. So, yeah, feeling pretty blessed to be able to do it. I’m by myself with no one directing it but me. It’s kind of daunting but exciting.

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Playing around at an abandoned chicken coop in Northridge

ADA: Are you enjoying directing by yourself?

Tawiah: I guess so, yeah. I had an experience where I had an A&R, and we just bumped heads all of the time. For me, it didn’t really work. He’d be like, “Well, why don’t you do something like so and so?” But I’m not them. I’m me. I tell you no lie, it’d be like, “You’re great, but you just need to dumb it down a bit.” And as soon as I heard that, I kind of disconnected from the whole process. I don’t do obscure, alien, jazz-shit -which would be awesome, to be fair. I’d definitely bump it. But I just write honest music, and that’s the music I gravitate towards. When people are honest, I get that. And it comes through the music. I felt like I was being pushed – in this situation – to not be sincere. It didn’t sit well with me. People would be like “Play the game, man. Just do the thing”. But I don’t feel right, and I have to feel right to share any message. Yeah.

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Airing out her mane in sunny Accra

ADA: How has this stay in Ghana been so far?

Tawiah: I’m pretty sad about it. To be fair, if I didn’t have to go back and work on my album, I’d probably stay. I came out for my great-grandmother’s birthday. She turned one hundred which was awesome. I just can’t stop staring at her. It blows my mind. Eighty years ago you were twenty, you were grown, and now you’re one hundred. I had a little chat with her the other day, and I recorded it on my phone. So I’m going to have her on my album -she’s going to be featured on my album. I got her to sing our favorite song. So I’m pretty excited about that.

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ADA: How did you find you first live-Talk Party experience?

Tawiah: It was cool. It was pretty daunting at first. I’ve always been better at singing songs then talking. But I enjoyed it – I really did. It was nice to just sit and have a conversation with some folks that are halfway interested. Always good.

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ADA: So what’s up next?

Tawiah: Back to the studio. I figured it’s gonna be cold and gray, and it’s gonna be London. I’m gonna be extremely depressed the day I get back from Ghana, cause I’m not going to wake up to birds and all that. So I figured the only thing to do is go straight into the studio. I’m managed in New York. So the plan is to finish the album, and then head to New York for a bit.

ADA: Expected release time for the album?

Tawiah: Fingers crossed, if everything goes according to the plan in my head, by autumn.

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NO PARKING! NO WAITING! NO STOPPING!

Stay Tuned in to TAWIAH @TawiahMusic

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