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A soul sister

Brighton-based singer-songwriter Kaisha talks about her musical journey and her debut EP, Something Else

15 Oct 2020 / 08:51 H.

GROWING up in a family of eclectic musicians – from her father Dr Wan Zawawi who is a renowned anthropologist and folk singer-songwriter, to her older brothers Rendra and Hameer who are both pursuing music in the United States – has subconsciously influenced Malaysian singer-songwriter Kaisha, who is based in the United Kingdom.

She shares: “Growing up surrounded by live music really opened up my eyes to the possibility of it as a career, and I’ve got no one but my family to thank for it.”

Her debut EP, Something Else is a lush mirage of futuristic neo-soul and jazz-esque breakdowns replete with pop grooves.

Her melancholic tempos and nostalgic beats build a sentimental soundscape, and her lyricism pierces the hearts of many listeners.

– COURTESY OF KAISHA
– COURTESY OF KAISHA

Who were the first major artistic influences in your life?

“I’ve had so many artistic influences but the one who stands out the most and one I really resonate my writing with is Erykah Badu. She’s such an iconic soulstress legend!

“KAYTRANADA is also another one, his album 99.9% was the soundtrack of my life for a very long time.”

You moved to Brighton for university in 2015 and started pursuing music seriously – how has your practice evolved as a result?

“I’m definitely way more informed about the music industry as a whole than I was before. I’ve become more organised too, and I think I’ve gotten even more passionate about music.

“With all this, I just feel a lot more focused, knowing what I need to do to keep this momentum going.”

What’s the music scene like in Brighton?

“It’s a bit of everything, really. There’re a lot of rock and grunge bands that play in the gritty music venues, but on the flip side, there’s also a booming soul and jazz scene.

“And then you’ve got the big dance and house nights by the seafront too. Because Brighton hosts so many musicians, there’s just so much variety of everything.”

Our music preference has such a major influence on the way people see us. It’s also interesting to see how our music taste evolves, but our commitment to it doesn’t. How has your personal music taste, as well as your own music, evolved?

“It’s funny actually, I went through so many different phases of genres growing up, from post-hardcore, and K-pop to house and techno music, and now R&B, jazz and soul – genres that I’m super keen on and totally in love with!

“Though, all the previous genres I’ve been a fan of will always have a special place in my heart. Before I moved to the UK, I was set on making edgy electronic pop music like Little Dragon with Disclosure, but as time passed and the more I was exposed to the vibrant UK jazz scene in London and Brighton, the more I was taken in by it. Eventually, the idea of my music evolved to match my personal music taste too.”

– COURTESY OF KAISHA
– COURTESY OF KAISHA

Speaking of commitment, do you ever doubt yourself as a singer-songwriter?

“Yeah, always. Who doesn’t really? It used to be a lot more often, but now it’s just something that I’ve managed to tune out to a whisper in the back of my mind.”

Could you tell us the meaning behind the title of your debut EP Something Else, and about the process of making it?

“So before Kaisha, I was making electronic pop music for quite a while under a different artiste name. I wasn’t happy though; nothing I made felt quite right and anything I did make would feel a little wrong.

“The biggest red flag was when I realised I wouldn’t really listen to my own music, I felt like I should’ve been making something else. So naming the title of my debut EP Something Else under a new artiste name, Kaisha, was a way to honour my progression as an artiste.”

The tracklist on your debut EP opens with Shoulda Known and ends with Ready Set Go. Can you tell us a little about that progression?

Shoulda Known is pretty easy listening and hooky with the chorus, so I thought that it’d be a great opener, followed by Tell Me felt like the most natural step.

“As things started to pick up at the end I wanted to move to more adventurous melodies like in Redlight, Break This Habit and lastly Ready Set Go.

What can we expect next?

“I Just had a collaboration track with the brilliant Sam Wills that came out a few weeks ago titled Kitchen Sunset. It’s super mellow and smooth! I’m working on tonnes of collaborations at the moment so definitely more of that next, and I think maybe not long from now, people can expect to hear another single soon!”

$!– COURTESY OF KAISHA
– COURTESY OF KAISHA

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