Kadija Kamara started taking music seriously when she was 16. After joining various girl groups - she decided to do things her way by forging ahead as a solo artist in 2005. Her session work, helped shape her distinctive sound, culminating in her debut EP, “Changes.” The first single “Talking 2 Myself” dropped in summer. Kamara tells DS about her fusion, ‘Alternative Soul’ sound.
Her concept is simply. You have alternative pop and rock, so why not soul?
“When I look at iTunes and other music sites they categorise music by alternative pop and rock, but not soul. It’s bizarre as there are many different types of soul and they can open the bracket wider because lots of artists can’t be boxed,” says Kamara.
“My music is mainly soul orientated but I have a passion for other elements and genres. I didn’t want to be confined with neo soul or just soul as it limits your success and people’s views of you. When I write, my tracks can have an influence of rock, pop blues, jazz, afro-beat or anything. I try and make everything sound like my music as I don’t want to be too diverse and so people question what I’m doing.” So, she adds live acoustic sounds, Cajons, wind-chimes, Glockenspiels, and wood blocks, over her smooth melodic notes and sensuous tone to create honey soulful bliss.
So, with that out of the way, we get down to her four-track EP released in February this year. It must be difficult choosing the songs for a first impression to the world.
“I chose them because of the way they molded together plus they showed different sides of me in a small dose. It incorporates my expression of ‘Alternative Soul’ with different writing styles and themes covering Latin – rock –pop and acoustic soul.”
As well as singing and songwriting, the release highlights an array of this London newcomer’s talents. Remarkably playing four instruments; drums, keys, guitar, percussion meshed with composing her music and working on production too, Kamara really does have it all in the bag (and I’m sure it’s a stylish designer one!).
“Well,” she laughs, “Obviously I’m more skilled with certain instruments than others and I only dabble with production. I produced, “Talking 2 Myself” and “Deeper Than This.” They are the first two tracks I have ever produced. Obviously I’m better now,” she laughs at the thought.
She says the only reason why she got involved with production was because she became frustrated with the seemingly fruitless task of looking for the right person who understood how she wanted her music to sound. “That’s why I picked up the guitar and started playing,” she says, “As it helps with songwriting structure and melody. But I only play to write and perform my songs.”
And what a brilliant job this D.ivinely I.nspirational V.ivaciously A.stounding D.I.V.A.has done. The first single and video for the retro soft rock/soul, “Talking 2 Myself,” was released this summer. The video shows a frustrated Kamara against a backdrop of the sights of London (Now playing on DS website). “I’m really excited about those and what’s due to come. The video had to be just right,” she explains, “Talking 2 Myself,” is based on respecting people in general. I believe I’m a fair person and I try to think positively all the time. Some people find that strange and ask, ‘Why are you always happy?’ I say lots of people are putting out negative messages and there is not much positive stuff out there. I try to be witty with it.” Kamara continues, “So the track was about guys respecting women. When they talk to you their approach is just wrong. Some feel they can get woman by talking sleazy but it’s not cool or attractive. Despite me saying be respectful it still happens, as they just don’t get the message!”
And the other three tracks have similarly meaningful messages. She says, ““I’m Endeavored,” is about love, life and loving people around me – friends, family who have been there for me. It’s directed to a particular person who really helped me out and I felt a lot of love for them.” She continues, “Changes,” that’s the emotional track,” she laughs, “When I wrote that I was going through heartache and various personal things. I wanted to write about that, plus love, life, society and reflection.”
When I ask if the relationship in “Deeper Than This” ever developed she says, “I took that from two different situations, but one of them didn’t develop. It’s about liking somebody, knowing it could go further, but the other person is hesitant. That’s when you try to show them that they can look deeper than the surface - look at my mind and speak to me and get to know me. Unfortunately, that person wasn’t ready.”
The programme, “Dating In The Dark,” springs to my mind, and we decides that, “If only people were not so fickle they would take the time to know a person and would find more connection spiritually.”
Kamara, honed her craft through working on background vocals, sharing a stage with a diverse range of artists, from jazz musician Abram Wilson, to house vocalist Vanessa Freeman. She sang house, neo soul, pop and jazz. She says, “It was a great learning curve. It helped me see how they operate so when it got to the point of me going solo I knew what I wanted from what I didn’t.”
Since then she has opened for iconic singer/songwriter, Omar, and also performed on the same stage as American singer Anthony Hamilton at the Indigo o2. Collaborations are going well, with new material recently released with DJ/Producer Joey Negro and more to follow in the future. Kamara says, “I’ve also worked with Bugz in the Attic,and had dance releases with DJ/ Producer Neil Pierce through Soul Heaven. I did something with up and coming house DJ Chris Samba and his partner Ronilo, called “More” which did especially well in South Africa.” She adds, “I’ve also worked on hip-hop tracks with Sway. It’s brilliant as it gives me an insight into other genres.”
“Changes,” the EP, is selling well on iTunes downloads and pressed copies too. “I’m just happy that it’s out as it has brought a lot of new fans to me. Plus it’s great when you are gigging and people come and ask for something to buy, as before it was really frustrating as I had nothing for them to take away,” says Kamara.
She’s been brilliantly received by audiences at the Roundhouse, Jazz Café and 100 Club, and is now looking to play international dates. Remarkably she still manages to hold down a 9-5. “I work in TV. I’ve been working in media since I graduated from Uni. Just working, paying the bills and paying for my music!”
It must be hard juggling the two with late nights and early mornings. She says, “It’s quite mad at the moment. I feel like I’m working round the clock. I go to work, then to gigs, or rehearsals. I don’t know where all this energy is coming from (laughs) I suppose when you’re passionate about something you just find the energy, it comes from within. It’s not always gonna be like this, one day I will be able to give it up!”
Kamara’s distinctive hairstyle style and image has been fashioned by her for her. I ask her if anyone else contributed. “It’s just me. I’ve got other influences but I’ve changed over the years so much that people began telling me I looked different every time I performed. She says, “So, I thought what image represented me as a person and my sound in order for people to remember me. I used to have relaxed hair, and then weave, but over two years ago I decided to go natural and cut my hair off. Since then I’ve been inspired by people!” She sites inspiration from Sean “Diddy” Combs protégé Janelle Monae, eccentric androgynous 70’s diva Grace Jones who are both au naturel.
Kamars says, “I know Monae’s hair is similar. She’s amazing and promotes positive music. I admire strong black women and people who represent great things. She’s definitely one of them. It’s great the way young girls are drawn to her and can learn from her, even if it’s just the way she dresses - you can still be sexy in a suit and beautiful.”
After flicking through hair magazines and looking at models Kamara played around with styles to finally find what felt good for her – funky, retro, elegant chic with flaming red lips. She says, “I dress different to those other artists. I mix and match. I did some modeling for a couture designer who lends me pieces. Simone Williams is a friend of mine, as I used to model for her years ago, so I wear her designs too. I think of myself as a creative as I used to draw and do fashion. I have a good eye when it comes to dressing and wear what feels comfortable rather than being dictated to.
Dedicating the EP to her late father and brother, Kamara reflects, “My brother passed 10 years ago and my Dad last year on New Year’s Day. They always supported my music and came to my gigs. I want to know that wherever they are they are looking down on me and proud of me.” She also dedicates it to her Sierra Leone family and all the people that have supported her.
With the release of the album scheduled for early next year, Kamara is hoping a deal will come her way before then. “I want to get signed so I can have the financial backing behind me. It’s hard doing it on your own.” Once garnered, Kamara’s ultimate achievement would be, “To one day get greater recognition for my work behind the scenes; production, writing, views, direction and planning, as I have a Business IT Degree so there are a lot of things that I can do. I want to continue what I’m doing, enjoy it and be able to wake up in the morning saying, ‘I love my job.”
Kamara’s final words are, “Thank you to everyone who has supported me in whatever way. It keeps me going. Also, welcome new followers and talk to me on twitter!”
DS wishes her huge success and encourages you to catch her vivacious energy at her gigs around town, and of course, go buy her EP “Changes.!”