10 Questions With… A series that delves into fresh new releases from some of our favourite artists. With a focus on our Melodic Distraction hosts and wider community, this lil natter gives us an insight into their musical escapades when they’re in their studio, not ours.
Ahead of his live acoustic performance this Friday at Melodic bar, we chat with prolific singer–songwriter, guitarist and peace ambassador, Nazeem! Also founding director of Dole Ndawi NGO in he Gambia, Nazeem uses the transformative power of music to build resilience and positive change within communities and amongst young people. Since the start of the pandemic, Nazeem has actively supported the COVID–19 response through sensitising Gambian communities through music videos and song; and on a world stage regularly performed at global fora. His most recent collaboration is with Writing on the Wall, Liverpool, where he has empowered youth in the Gambia to tell their own story through written word and music. Find out more below…
Hi Nazeem – we’re really excited for your performance at Melodic on Friday! Can you please tell us a bit more about how you first got into music?
Music has always been part of me. I grew up surrounded by music and always listening to it, then when I was 16 I started working on my vocals. I did my first performance at Procial Hall, Banjul when I was 18 and never looked back – I started performing in my own band doing copyrights for the tourist industry, but I knew I had more in me than that and so started writing my own songs.
Who are your biggest inspirations musically?
Nesta Marley, Angelique Kidjo, UB40, Phil Collins and Tracy Chapman. It’s a bit of a mix, but also explains my wide repertoire of songs and styles.
How would you describe your sound to someone who hasn’t heard it before?
Afro Pop with an acoustic touch!
Born and raised in Gambia, do your surroundings have a big impact on the music you make?
It has influenced me greatly and taught me alot. You really need that spirit of winning, as there is so much suffering here in Gambia. I really want to support others and this is what keeps my spirit going.
What inspired you to create Dole Ndawi NGO? What are its main aims?
Our society in The Gambia has neglected young people. There is no platform for them to be heard and there are few opportunities for them, which should not be the case – Africa is the youngest continent in the world and has so much great potential, if only we invest in our young people. The key objectives of my NGO are to:
- Bring youth together through concerts and festivals to encourage dialogue for better decision making towards a vibrant society in Gambia
- Support youth (in and out of school) through workshops to help themselves find local solutions to their problems
- Increase mutual understanding and build bridges between youth, government authorities and other key stakeholders
- Create opportunities for international exchange and peer support between different youth groups within and outside Gambia
How has the pandemic and the subsequent lack of tourism affected musicians in Africa?
It has been really hard hitting for musicians here in Gambia – we have had no tourism for more than 18 months and for many artists, music is their only income. Gigs are starting to pick up again and there is more hope now, as musicians are beginning to make more of a living out of their craft.
During such a difficult time, did you manage to stay creative and inspired and if so, how?
During the pandemic, I worked closely with Dr Vicki Doyle who is a global health expert. Together we’ve been writing songs to support the COVID-19 response and doing live Zoom performances at global health meetings for the World Health Organisation, World Bank, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and more. So, fortunately I’ve been able to remain very creative and contribute to fighting the pandemic through music.
Having supported the likes of Vieux Mac Faye, Viviane Chidid and Jeanott Mendy, who would be your dream artist to play alongside?
Angelique Kidjo, who is undoubtedly the queen of Afro Pop. I would also love to perform with Sting.
What would be your advice for musical artists post-pandemic?
Keep working hard and get a second job to keep your craft.
What’s next for you?
I’m just waiting for that big global hit!
Check out Nazeem’s track ‘Leading The Way’ below, and keep up to date with his repertoire on Covid-19, ethical and sustainable development here. Looking for Friday plans? Get yourself a free ticket to Nazeem’s performance at Melodic bar here!
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