RISING DUTCH-Ghanaian singer-songwriter Nana Adjoa released her highly anticipated debut album, Big Dreaming Ants last week.
Big dreaming, little ants, its just who we are.
The album follows a string of irresistible singles and powerful videos including, the anthemic ‘National Song’, ‘She’s Stronger’, ‘Throw Stones’ which received praise from the likes of i-D, Noctis, The Voice, C-Heads, Mahogany and Indie Shuffle to name a few.
Written and recorded in her own studio, the album sees Nana handling the majority of the instrumentation herself, using a wide palette of instruments.
A process that helped her to develop a multi-layered sound, rich in tonal textures, which is as intimate as expansive.
Talking about the storyline behind the album Nana explains: “Big dreaming, little ants, its just who we are.
“Zooming in on myself and my personal search for identity and then zooming out to see yourself as a very small piece in a bigger part, that as a whole is also on that same search.
“Themes like heritage, nationalism, internal conflict, change, originality and insecurity come along in that search. Opener National Song looks at cultural identity and neo-nationalism. “
“Every country has a national song, she explains. In the Netherlands, ours is translated from old Dutch.
“Everybody sings along but they dont know what it means.”
She elaborates: ”It made me question the tradition, and why we feel the need to belong to a nation when borders arent as clear as they used to be.
“The song is also about searching for ones own identity on a personal, cultural and global level.”
On Throw Stones, the artist sings about ’calming myself down in difficult times. This era of online life invites the uglier sides of ourselves to exist outside of just our thoughts. Its about regrouping and reflecting. You don’t always have to be ‘on’, you are allowed to make time for yourself.’
Intimate single No Room, deals with the concept of small-talk. Adjoa purposefully added metaphoric layers of sounds to the airy melody, from distorted voices to effect-heavy synths, all punctuated by steady handclaps, representing ’the noise that somebody makes when theyre talking to you, but not really saying anything’, she says candidly.
Elsewhere, sweeping guitar driven cut Shes Stronger, is about a friendship, which Nana recalls, ‘”made me realize that I wasnt as strong, or as independent as I thought I was”.
Closing track, I Want To Change, explains Nana, ”summarizes all of the thoughts that I was having when I was recording these songs.”
She adds: “Im having these dreams about what my life could be, but Im also seeing myself as a small part in this chain of people all these small pieces working on something, and they dont really understand how its connected or if its even connected.
“To me, it was like ants all working together for a bigger goal.”
Nana Adjoa is sonic explorer armed with a deft poeticism and a fierce sense of musicianship, a skilled multi-instrumentalist and trained jazz player.
Born in Amsterdam to a Dutch mother and a Ghanaian father, Nana joined her first band as a teenager, choosing to play bass because, ’every other instrument had been claimed’.
It was a lucky twist of fate, unbeknown to the musician, her mother had once been the bassist in a Ghanaian Highlife band and happened to have her instrument.
Accepted to study jazz (electric bass and double bass) at the prestigious Amsterdam Conservatory, Nana traded the restrictions of a structured curriculum for the free-flow of her own compositions.
Since her debut in 2017 – the vulnerable EP Down at the Root (Pt. 1) – she has been praised for her sonic explorations and effortless lyrical poetry.
Her second EP, Down at the Root (Pt. 2) and the Stereogum-approved A Tale So Familiar, increased support from international media.