NADIA WASHINGTON – SINGER-SONGWRITER
Nadia Washington studied at the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas, and later at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. She noticeably made waves with her debut album Journey in 2010, showcasing her powerful yet silky voice and finesse for songwriting.
“I remember being 4 years old, tucked away in a corner while my mother (Nelda Washington) would play piano and sing at a nice hotel in Texas. Some days she could not find a baby sitter so she would take me with her. That was the beginning of my musical education,” – she recalls her first musical memories.
Born in Dallas, though currently residing in Brooklyn, New York, it is clearly Nadia’s turn to make her presence felt in the world of music. Here she shares her thoughts with We Be Spirits on the controversy surrounding ‘free’ access to music, the artists she’s into at the moment from the US, and her interpretation of a classic Duke Ellington quote.
Who or what music would you say has influenced you the most creatively-speaking?
My mother, who was also a singer-songwriter and composer. Stevie Wonder, Pat Metheny, Betty Carter, Rosa Passos – just to name a few.
What does music mean to you?
Music is a powerful and spiritual art form that express the human condition!
Are there any individuals or groups in the current music climate in the States that you’re especially excited about?
Yes there are a few out there: King, Esperanza Spalding, Emily King, Charles Turner III, Jaime Woods, Brianna Thomas, and Charenee Wade. I’m blessed to call many of them friends!
What do you think is required of you on a human level when performing live?
Trust and gratitude; first and foremost to God for giving you the gift. Trust him to use you as a vessel! Trust that you are there for a reason, and that you have done your best to prepare for the performance. Be thankful that you are able to do what you love and that people take the time and spend money to come and listen to you.
What is your opinion on the current industry-wide debate on Spotify, streaming and ‘free’ music in general?
I hope that soon there will be a way for songwriters to get a chance to see the money that they deserve. Right now it does not serve the creatives, it serves the labels and executives. I love the idea that people have the opportunity to listen for free but something needs to change so that everyone can be accommodated.
Do you have any concrete African musical influences, be they genres or artists?
Yes I do! Khaira Arby, Dimi Mint Abba, Salif Keita, Angelique Kidjo, Lionel Lueke and many more!!
In 1941 (Sir) Duke Ellington said; “I contend that the Negro is the creative voice of America, is creative America, and it was a happy day in America when the first unhappy slave was landed on its shores.” What do you make of this?
Recently, a friend of mine reminded me of a quote: “Necessity is the mother of invention” and creativity is born from anguish! I believe that’s where Duke is coming from. Through the pain of oppression and suppression, Africans in America created beautiful music and art that is the sound of America to this very day!
The word spirit in ‘We Be Spirits’ refers to the way spirits are considered in some parts of the African continent; beings we are connected to and influenced by but who are not necessarily part of the physical realm. What does the word evoke in you and how do you relate to it?
I believe we are all spirits warped in flesh and that whatever we do, how we treat each other, what we say to others and to ourselves affects the spirit world. Therefore we do have the ability to tap into all kinds of spirits, whether good or bad. I do too feel a deep love, appreciation and connection to Africa and I’m full of pride that it is a part of my heritage! I would love to go there one day!
Can you tell me about any current or future projects that you’re involved in, and where we can catch you in the near future?
I’m really excited to be finishing a project in the near future. I’m also anticipating the release of a compilation CD, Supreme Sonacy, on which I wrote and performed along side Ray Angry of the Roots and Kendra Foster of Parliament-Funkadelic and D’Angelo’s Black Messiah.