Nana Adjoa was gracious enough to play an exclusive at-home concert for WERS! The set, which features three songs from her debut album Big Dreaming Ants, will premier live on 88.9 this Sunday at 9pm. But we’re giving you an exclusive preview right here! Listen to the full concert above, and read all about Adjoa’s rise to fame below.
To watch more editions of our WERS At Home Concert Series, click here!
By Megan Doherty, Staff Writer
Nana Adjoa debuted her nuanced blend of soul, jazz, and folk music only a few years ago with her two-part EP series Down at the Root. After almost two years of writing, the 27-year-old multi-instrumentalist released her first album in September, entitled Big Dreaming Ants. Its ten tracks ooze thoughtful, bold, and genre-fluid musicianship.
GETTING INTO MUSIC
Adjoa was born in Amsterdam to a Dutch mom and Ghanaian dad. As a teenager, she joined her first band and chose to play bass guitar simply because all the other instruments had already been claimed. Luckily, her mom was the bassist in a Ghanaian Highlife band and gave Adjoa her old bass guitar.
When she got older, Adjoa enrolled in a prestigious jazz program at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam. However, that didn’t last too long. She quickly realized her artistic passions weren’t embedded in jazz. She wanted the creative freedom to rip apart defined genres and create music that fuses their various elements together. So, she joined multiple bands, started recording her own music, and entered herself in the 2014 Grote Prijs van Nederlandaz, the largest pop music competition in the Netherlands. After making it to the finals and having her undeniable talent recognized, she got a band and manager to launch her solo career.
NANA ADJOA’S FIRST EPS
Three years later, she put out her debut EP Down at the Root (Pt. 1). Its dreamy, guitar-driven single “No Sleep” garnered nearly three million streams on Spotify.
Her artistry kept expanding as she cranked out two more EPs, Down at the Root (Pt. 2) and A Tale So Familiar, the following year. Each EP brought wider critical acclaim. These releases opened doors for her to tour internationally and play festivals. Adjoa plays an impressive five instruments: bass guitar, upright bass, keys, drums, and guitar. She typically plays guitar on stage, but electric bass is still her main instrument.
THE MAKING OF HER DEBUT ALBUM
Back from tour and in her own studio, Nana Adjoa set out to write what we now know as Big Dreaming Ants towards the beginning of 2019. The studio was a quick 10-minute bike ride from her house, so it quickly became her second home.
Since she studied to become a jazz bassist, she incorporates aspects of jazz and its dynamic, melodic swiftness. However, that’s not all. She also brings the shifting rhythms heard in Ghanian highlife, a variety of layered tonal textures, and probing lyrics into her music. It can’t be confined to a genre or label because she simultaneously captures and expresses opposing sensations in her songs. It’s dainty yet rich and massive, and critical while maintaining an heir of optimism. Most of all, it’s a sonically pleasing and eloquent tale of Adjoa’s journey to discover herself.
On Big Dreaming Ants, her insightful words cut into and explore sexuality, gender, religion, and race. On “She’s Stronger” Adjoa reveals that she’s not the person she wants to be yet. It’s deeply intimate while still relatable. Throughout the track she brings us through the stories of her meeting different women who were somewhat similar to her, yet have inspired her to become a better version of herself.
The album’s closing tune, “I Want To Change,” references the album’s title. She sings, “Big dreaming, little ants / It’s just who we are,” indicating that she views herself as a small part in a chain of people working together to accomplish a larger goal. Adjoa expresses how she has all these bigger aspirations that push her to continue developing her artistry and new sounds. But at the core of her search for self and something deeper, she’s just a small person with large dreams.