After releasing a string of EPs over the last few years, Amsterdam-based multi-instrumentalist Nana Adjoa let her imagination run free on her debut album Big Dreaming Ants. The result is a ten-track effort that is quite unlike anything else you’ll hear this year, bouncing back and forth between elements of soul, folk, jazz, and more while her razor sharp lyrics dig into deeply intimate but relatable topics like race, gender, religion, and sexuality.
To celebrate the new album, which is out now, Adjoa sat down to talk Big Thief, having a board game made about her, and The Matrix in the latest Indie Mixtape 20 Q&A.
What are four words you would use to describe your music?
Alternative, lyrical, soulful, dreamy.
It’s 2050 and the world hasn’t ended and people are still listening to your music. How would you like it to be remembered?
Music that offers solace and is adventurous at the same time.
What’s your favorite city in the world to perform?
Berlin. I had some great experiences there, and I love the feel of the city (or Casablanca―the crowd was totally insane).
Who’s the person who has most inspired your work, and why?
I don’t know. I feel like mostly the people I have enjoyed being in a band with or have enjoyed sharing the stage with have all inspired me, more than bands or people I listen to.
Where did you eat the best meal of your life?
It’s been over 10 years, but I think I love my father’s Ghanaian cooking more than anything.
What album do you know every word to?
Maybe Songs In The Key Of Life by Stevie Wonder.
What was the best concert you’ve ever attended?
A couple come to mind at this moment, making it impossible for me to choose just one. So let’s stick to two :) A Mavis Staples concert in Rotterdam, which brought tears to my eyes within the first couple of sentences she sang. What a powerful woman and what a voice. And something totally on the other side of the spectrum, Massive Attack show(s). I’ve seen them a couple of times now, but their first two shows I went to really gave me the chills. They have these great visuals, with messages they translate to the language of the country they play in, so for me in Dutch. With a lot of political engagement. Both Mavis Staples and Massive Attack left me feeling charged and ready to face anything.
What is the best outfit for performing and why?
Something simple and comfortable. I feel really uncomfortable on stage wearing “something special or something out of the ordinary.” It kind of makes me feel like a fool, and distracts me from just enjoying the playing of music. Of course I don’t wear my comfy sweatpants on stage, but something that looks proper enough for management to be happy, and something comfortable enough for me not to be distracted by it.
Who’s your favorite person to follow on Twitter and/or Instagram?
What’s your most frequently played song in the van on tour?
To be honest, I never used to listen to music very much in the van, but we recently did start a collaborative playlist we can all add music to. I foresee that a lot of the Red Hot Chili Peppers will be added.
What’s the last thing you Googled?
I was looking for a photo shop in Amsterdam where they can develop black and white photo rolls. Sounds a bit pretentious haha, but these are the first black and white photos I made, so the next step is to get them developed somewhere and see how they turn out.
What album makes for the perfect gift?
To give to someone, any J.J. Cale record. To receive, I’d love a record/band I don’t know up until that point in time but is a great unknown treasure, preferably from some decades ago.
Where’s the weirdest place you’ve ever crashed while on tour?
I guess it was when I was playing bass in this other band years ago. Someone was nice enough to lend us their apartment in Denmark (I think it was Copenhagen?), but the bedroom where I stayed had some weird features including blacklight settings haha.
What’s the story behind your first or favorite tattoo?
Don’t have any, yet.
What artists keep you from flipping the channel on the radio?
Nina Simone, Frank Ocean, Radiohead, Christine & The Queens, James Blake, Bob Marley & The Wailers, and many many others.
What’s the nicest thing anyone has ever done for you?
For my (17th? 18th?) birthday, two of my friends made an actual board game for and about me. “TriviNaNa.” It was a nicely put together board with random pictures of me and random rules. All of the questions were about things like my height, which toothpaste I used, what my favorite bands were, etc. Great piece of work, and a very funny gift.
What’s one piece of advice you’d go back in time to give to your 18-year-old self?
Don’t be afraid to be yourself and find out along the way who you really are. It’ll be alright.
What’s the last show you went to?
The last show I went to, pre-corona, was a fantastic one: Big Thief playing Paradiso (Amsterdam). This was in the beginning of March, so just before we went into our lockdown here in The Netherlands. It’s a beautiful band, and I had seen them once before at a festival (Best Kept Secret). I love the main hall of Paradiso―it’s got a church-like vibe―so it was extra great to get to see them again in this setting. The audience was blown away, and they really played incredibly well. So a very great last concert to be at. I’ve been to some theatre stuff in the last few months, but no concerts yet.
What movie can you not resist watching when it’s on TV?
The Matrix (as well as the two sequels). One of my favorite movies of all time. When it’s on, I right away get sucked into this human vs. computer world, and I have to watch it out.
What would you cook if Kanye were coming to your house for dinner?
Hahaha, wow. I would probably make vegetarian lasagna. I’m not a great cook to be honest. So keep it simple, and make sure I have a very nice natural wine to go with it. Does Kayne drink?
Big Dreaming Ants is out now on Bloomer Records. Listen here.