An Interview With the Somalian Born Singer-Songwriter AMAAL NUUX On New Music, Going Back to Somalia, Favorite Musicians and More!
Posted On 21 Jun 2017
Amaal Nuux was born Mogadishu, Somalia and raised in a traditional Muslim household; the middle child of seven sisters and two brothers. When the civil war broke out in Somalia, Amaal and her family emigrated to Toronto, Canada.
She immersed herself in art early on and began singing at the age of 14; having been exposed to music at school as well as drama classes. She later returned to Somalia on her parent’s insistence to strengthen her ties with her native culture. She describes her time there as seminal, having allowed her to grow as a person and hone her artistic craft. For her post-secondary studies, Nuux attended the University of Toronto (UofT) and majored in International Development Studies (IDS). Nuux has followed a largely independent career path into the music industry.
Besides conventional mainstream marketing channels, Nuux has utilized social media as an important marketing tool which helped her songs subsequently go viral on YouTube, Facebook and other social networking sites, thus quickly introducing her sound to a global audience. Nuux’s music is diverse, ranging from R&B/ Soul, pop, world, to alternative rock. The diversity is a reflection of her personal belief that an artist should be capable of performing all types of music. Nuux’s vocal style has been described as fine-tuned, with moving melodies and an emphasis on lyricism. Her lyrics range from socially conscious, focusing on matters of interest to global causes, to talking about her upbringing and story.
Early singles by Amaal include “With You”, “Mufasa” and “Words Revealed”. The latter alone achieved over 200,000 YouTube hits within its first four months of release, and has inspired cover versions by fans. Another fan favorite, “With You”, similar earned over 80,000 views in its first two months; “Mufasa” is considered her most viral song to date with total views and streams accumulated to over 2 million combined.
Since October 2016, she has been working on her debut EP scheduled to release in summer 2017. The first 2 singles were “Last Ones” which has reached #20 on Spotify Viral Charts Canada as well as being featured on multiple playlists across the platform. The follow up was “Who Are We?”; produced by Beatchild and co-written by Sinead Harnett. The song was premiered by The Fader and accumulated 100 thousand streams in the first 3 days of release on Spotify alone.
Amaal Nuux is currently finishing her EP set release in the summer of 2017.
Learn more about Amaal in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! So where does this interview find you today? Is there music playing in the background? If so, what is it?
Hey! Thanks for giving me this opportunity. 🙂 I’m currently in LA for the next few weeks finishing up my more music. I’m actually listening to one of the singles I’ll be releasing soon called “Protest”. I tend to have my songs on repeat before releasing it so I can be in a really confident place with it before letting it out in to the world.
How is 2017 treating you so far? Did you approach the start of this year any differently then you did last year?
I think this year has taught me a very valuable lesson in being patient with your art. Always listen to that inner voice inside you because it is your ultimate guide. Throughout my life I did feel the presence of it but was very dismissive and sadly listened to what other people thought would be best for me. This year has been all about strengthening that connection so I can be more in tune with myself on this journey.
Growing up, did you always want to be a musician? Can you recall your first musical memory? Could you see yourself doing anything else today?
Growing up I lived in a household that very rarely had music playing. My first early memory was in the 3rd grade; I joined choir and we were singing Celine Dion’s “Power Of Love”. I was so deeply moved by the song and since it was the first song I now was able to recite fully, I drove the entire family nuts. From sun up to sun down I would sing the song every chance I got. I also remember my teacher saying to me “You have a pretty voice”. It was the best compliment for me at the time but unfortunately after 3rd grade I was unable to continue choir and that was it. It was not until my late teens when I was working part time that I was able to buy CD’s and listen to songs. I instantly feel in love with Alicia Keys, Aaliyah, Mya, Brandy etc all powerful female artists who’ve inspired me till this day. Music now has become my medicine, its so deeply rooted in me and I truly can’t see myself doing anything else.
I’d love to know more about what it was like returning to Somalia after all those years away and getting reacquainted with your Somali culture? How did this visit influence your music?
Amazing question! Going back to Somalia for the first time since we fled the war was truly one of the most life altering experiences of my life. It’s crazy because if you asked my 17 year old self at the time during my first month, my response would have been not the greatest. But now I can say I wouldn’t be the woman I am today if it wasn’t for that. The first month was very difficult for me and I was experiencing culture shock. Even though I was raised in a community back in Toronto where most of the population is Somali, I still was not getting the full grasp of our culture and who we are as a nation. But after 1 year of living there I spoke fluent Somali and was so surprised to learn how poetic the language really is. It’s very shakespearean filled with metaphors and proverbs. Somalia is referred to as “The Land Of Poets” its deeply rooted in the way we live our day to day lives and is usually for a cause. Also, the people are so strong and have an unwavering faith that transcends anything I’ve ever seen before. They are humble, grateful and thankful for anything that comes their way good or bad. Being surrounded by all of this, I was inspired everyday and started journaling. Journaling turned in to poetry which ended up ultimately turning in to songwriting and it was right there in Somalia that I had completed my first song. Since then every song I have released has been inspired by my experiences there and other parts of the world.
Let’s talk about your EP you hope to release this summer. How long have you been wanting to do this?
I’m so excited about this EP because every song so far has been created so natural and organically. You’re following me on a journey of self love, self reflection, and acceptance. I’m so fearlessly confident in the person I am today and I just wanted that to reflect in my music. It’s different then what I have been known to release because I’ve been exploring a more sexy side to myself. I’m just so happy to finally be in a place where I am feeling comfortable in my skin. I feel I have been writing music for a long time but this EP has been something I have been focusing on for the last year. I’m hoping to have it out really soon.
Where did the inspiration for these songs come from? What was it like putting this collection together? How long did it take? Did anything surprise you about the entire process of putting it together? What are some of your favorite tracks that you have released?
I’d have to say my favorite song that I have ever released is hands down “Words Revealed”. I pick that because it took years for me to get the courage to even get in the studio. As a Somali/Muslim woman I was constantly receiving backlash from certain people when I did express that music is a career I wanted to pursue. It is considered taboo so I was always in a state of conflict within myself because I knew in my heart of hearts its what I was mean to do. The day it was released is still one of my proudest moments.
How did your latest single “Last Ones” come together?
“Last Ones” came about when my younger sister who wears the hijab came home one day after an incident at school. She was very depressed about not only what she experienced at but also whats been happening all over the world lately. We had a moment as a family to console and be there for her but it didn’t feel like enough. When I got to the studio the next day I wasn’t not in the mood to share what happened but my producer went on the piano and just started playing. I just started humming a melody which we both liked and from there the words just came “We were so young going with the motions/ hoping this life wouldn’t have to drown us out/ cuz we will be the last ones down”. We finished that song so fast and I sent it to my sister right away. I just really wanted this to be an anthem for anyone who’s experiencing hardships in their lives.
What artists have continued to inspire you and your music? Who would you absolutely love to work with in the future?
The list is never ending but here is a few 🙂 Miriam Makeba, Saado ali, Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, Alicia Keys, Aaliyah, Missy Elliot, Sade, Jcole, Knaan, Bob Marley, Pharrell, 2pac etc. My dream person I would love to work with is Pharrell!
Do you have plans to play out live this summer? Do you really enjoy performing?
I absolutely do, whether its a coffee shop or a festival since having gone on my mini tour in Europe I realized I actually love being on stage more then I could have imagined. I get to see my songs live right in front of me and get the opportunity to explain where each came from and of course my favorite part is getting to meet every person who came. It’s an extremely humbling experience.
At the end of the day, what do you hope your fans take away from your music? What do you hope is the message of your songs?
I hope whatever it is that people are able to take from my music it helps them positively in their personal lives. I only wish to make music that makes people feel brave, hopefully, courageous, remembered, and happy. The artists I listen to have that done that for me and I only wish to pass on the same energy I was given.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about yourself or your music?
I guess the last thing I’d like to share is my favorite quote of all time “great things never came from comfort zones.” All this means is in life you will see the most growth in your self when you learn to get our of your comfort zones and put yourself in challenging or uncomfortable situations. It’s in these moments you will see the greatest rewards.