If you haven’t seen ‘Morning Blue’ you’re missing out on a true, historical piece of art. Dutch-Sudanese artist Gaidaa fuses her story, her heritage, and honest, raw lyrics into this song, which she says is a love song to Sudan. It truly is and no wonder it was selected for the COLORS studio video series last August. Gaidaa has new music brewing, including her newly released single ‘Falling Higher’ off her upcoming EP. She’s ready for the world to know who she is right now, even if she changes who she is tomorrow. Because she speaks about her own growth and transformation so distinctly, we’ll let her words speak for herself.
The Orchard: You’ve talked a lot about being unapologetically you. So we’re asking, how are you unapologetically you? And how does that translate to your music?
Being unapologetically you is not easy. You have to figure out what makes you you in the first place — and that’s where I’m at right now. I don’t think I’m always unapologetically me, but I strive to be that way. I do hope that essence translates through in my music, by not letting people tell me who I am and who I can be, even though we’re all obviously influenced by outside forces. I’m unapologetically me by claiming the “consequences of being me.” I accept myself for who I am and the honesty of such comes out in my music. At the end of the day, my music is how I want it to sound. It’s not someone else’s sound — it’s just what I sound like.
You’ve sung a lot about love, intention, and growth. Can you talk about how you are able to illustrate these vocally in your music? Talking and singing about love, intention, and growth can be really vulnerable. What’s that creative writing process like exploring these vulnerabilities? What’s it like then getting in the studio to record?
I sing a lot about love, intention, growth, but all in context of the things that I go through and that go on in my head. I talk about my own experience. I’ve always been a daydreamer; I’m always imagining. I try to be in the present but a lot of times I’m drifting. I always wondered who I would be when I was younger and how I would turn out. My upcoming EP is basically my introduction to myself — my “meeting” with the self. There’s songs about love, but no love songs. In retrospect this EP is just me slowly realizing who I am and what I stand for.
When I record, the process looks like me freestyling to something I hear — a loop, some keys, a chord — and then it hits. Sometimes if I hear something I have to close my ears — I don’t want to hear it, otherwise ideas will run out of my head immediately. I usually like to freestyle and see whatever comes out of me. This is my exhale. It’s my diary.
Most of the time I figure stuff out about myself after I’ve sung it and I listen to it again. Then I’m like “Oh damn, that’s how I felt?” I hear my lyrics and I’m like “Oh my head is there” or “That’s how I should approach this” or “Maybe I should be kinder to myself.” My music has become my way to get to know myself.
When I’m in the studio to record, most of the time I’ve been lucky enough or blessed to be around a lot of friends and people I love and trust and people that I’m okay with being vulnerable in front of. Not to say that I’m not necessarily okay with being vulnerable in front of other people, but they just make it easy for me. Most of my music happens in a really natural way. But I’ve definitely also had moments where nothing comes out.
Your new single ‘Falling Higher’ is about holding on for dear life because life is throwing you all over the place. But on a similar note, it’s taken you through a magical journey of beautiful experiences. Falling higher, though, implies that you aren’t falling down. Can you talk about some of these experiences and how you choose to fall higher?
‘Falling Higher’ does imply I’m not falling down, but it doesn’t mean that I necessarily choose to fall higher. Life throws me all over the place. Granted, I’m holding on for dear life so I’m trying to have some kind of control on what’s going on; I’m trying to hold the ropes, trying to make sense of it all. But life is definitely throwing me in these directions — it’s not me choosing to fall higher.
This is a blessing in itself. It has taken me through some magical experiences and some things that you don’t necessarily expect to become a reality so quickly. Your dream slowly becomes your reality. That’s why it’s a FALL, you just have to let go and let it happen. That’s what it feels like to be a musician; you’re going up when there are good things coming, and at the same time it’s very scary and you feel like you are just going to drop. But you’re not — something is holding you up.
Who are some of your musical influences and have they influenced your upcoming EP?
Hiatus Kaiyote, Amy Winehouse, Angie Stone, India.Arie, Lauryn Hill, Anderson.Paak, my dad, jazz music. I don’t even know half the things I listen to, so it’s hard to pin down. There are so many sources to be influenced by and sometimes I wonder what made the cut.
When I was creating this EP it was an interesting time because I was really not listening to a lot of music. During the time ‘Morning Blue’ was created I was in a place where I genuinely felt like I could not listen to any new music coming out because it gave me anxiety. It freaked me out.
After June 2018 when ‘A Storm On A Summer’s Day’ came out, I had zero percent plan and idea that it could get serious this quickly. I didn’t have an idea of what the music industry looked like. After we recorded it, it just escalated from there. I started getting a lot of anxiety from listening to music because I was saying to myself, “I need to be making music.” The more it started escalating, the more my relationship with music started weirdly changing. In that way I was more influenced by the people around me, the musicians I would meet, the producers I would link up with, and people in real life.
I don’t want to pigeon-hole your artistry, but if you had to define your music within a genre or two, what would it be in your words? How would you describe it differently with no limitations?
When I first started I would always say: acoustic, neo-soul-ISH, R&B-ISH, Gaidaa-ISH. I’m influenced by a lot of things, so I really don’t know what I’d call it. I also really want to explore playing with more traditional Sudanese instruments and artists. My dream is to collaborate with my dad. That would be fire.
Take us on a journey, walk us through your upcoming EP and tell us about some of the tracks.
I’m going to talk about it in the order that it feels right now. The first song would be ‘Morning Blue’ which is my baby. It’s my ode to Sudan in a tough political climate. A lot of the Sudanese people living outside of Sudan didn’t know what to do, so our only way of helping was to do something with an online presence. This is my love song to Sudan and it’s called ‘Morning Blue’ because a lot of people died during that time, specifically one of the martyrs, Mattar. A lot of his friends started to change their profile pictures to blue in solidarity with and in memory of him. It soon was a means to honoring all the martyrs. This song sits really close to my heart. I feel blessed that I was able to debut with this song because it’s about my country and the people that I love.
‘I Like Trouble’ is about being unapologetically you, following your dreams, and taking control of your own narrative. Trouble is always seen as something that is negative, but it is confronting and can lead to so much growth. For me, this song is about feeling free from all the boundaries that we put on ourselves and those that society imposes on us and not accepting that there is a set way to live your life. It is about being okay with being seen or heard, claiming your space, trying new things, being unbothered and allowing yourself to just be you.
Another song ‘Ride My Way’ is a letter to myself. I talk about focusing on the wrong things in my life and letting things weigh on me that I don’t need to let weigh anything. This song is about surrendering my need for control and need to constantly be strong and acknowledging that I want to let go and try to be better. But it’s also acknowledging that I am scared of that as well. It’s a reminder that it’s human to feel like you’re overthinking and that you’re not good enough, you’re not working hard enough, or that everything is going wrong and you’re running out of time. We need to not get stuck in those headspaces because it’s only that, a headspace. It may seem intense right now, but you’re good. You will be good.
‘Strangers’ is a song about catching yourself in the middle of growth, when you don’t know you’re growing. It’s like when you’re looking in the mirror and you really don’t recognize yourself — not in a negative way, but you’re just confused. It’s about navigating the challenges of finding truth and finding your own identity in a world where it feels like everyone knows exactly who they are. It’s about letting yourself get lost in the maze that is getting to know yourself and knowing how important it is to find who you are and follow what that is, even if you don’t recognize that as you just yet. In simple terms, it means to follow your gut because it’s about finding you again, not reinventing yourself. This is who you are at the end of the day, so just trust yourself.
For me, ‘Still Water’ is about when things get quiet and making sure you’re okay with the silence that’s there, when everything stops and you’re left to deal with and confront yourself. It’s about seeing what is in those in between moments, coming down from a high or coming back up from a low. It’s about remembering to nurture your own headspace and be nice to yourself because when everything’s said and done, you are left with yourself in the end. I talk about “the self” a lot on this project but I don’t see it negatively, it is the introduction of me to me. The time of creating this was a lot of self-reflection and discovering what I wanted and needed.
Finally, ‘Falling Higher’. I really love this song. This song is about seeing the fruits of my labor. It was a lot of fun to create. It’s fun, I love performing it. I’m excited for people to hear this. It took me a really long time to get to a place where I deeply know that no one can question that this is my passion and what I want to do for the rest of my life. I’m so grateful that I know what I love. I think that when this EP is rounded up, it comes back down to all of this.
Sometimes artists struggle with “figuring out” what makes them authentically themselves. They feel like they have to fit a certain definition of themselves. On the outside looking in, I feel like you know who you are as a musician, but you’re also growing into yourself every day through the challenges and journeys. What do you think it takes to stay true to that authenticity?
From the outside looking in, it’s nice to hear that it looks like I know exactly who I am as a musician. Honestly, I feel like I have no idea. If you give me things I can say, “Yes, I like this” and “No, I don’t like that” but ironically I wouldn’t be able to just tell you about myself. What Ido know about myself, is that one of the most important things to me in life is finding your truth. I carry that in the things I do.
I think I’m still discovering who I am as a musician and figuring out what my sound is. I’m excited to grow in that and continue to try and figure it out. I’m able to speak up in the studio, tell people what I want and am increasingly finding my voice, being more sure of the things I say and bring to the table. Those are things I struggled with a lot throughout my life especially in recent years in my young adulthood. Finding my voice and discovering what being a musician looks like for me or how that’s going to play out for me is important.
What does it take to stay true to being authentic? I think it’s the willingness to constantly dig deeper and not think you know everything. The more you’re open to yourself, the more you can open yourself to others. I’m still figuring it out. I don’t really know what my “thing” is and maybe I won’t, maybe I don’t have a thing. I guess I just know the things that are important to me and if anything I try to carry that with me. You don’t have to figure out what specifically makes you authentically yourself, I think you just need to figure out your values and dig deeper. That’s what I’m trying to do, at least.