With Bryson Tiller-esque influences, Hip-Hop/R&B artist Harawa effortlessly slides between poetic rap verses and crooning vocals to create music that drips in sentimentalism and realness. From the tender ‘Her Freestyle’ to the more upbeat ‘I Love This’ ft Kane, Harawa’s music is a vibe.
I first came across his music last summer through the recommendation of a friend who had been buzzing about his single, ‘Move’. As a music enthusiast, I had to see what the hype was about. I’ll be honest, I was skeptical at first because everyone and their uncle claims to be a singer/rapper these days. However, the song proved to be a banger. Tight bars laid over head-bopping trap-beats, and accompanied by smooth, mellow vocals quickly made ‘Move’ an essential on my summer playlist. Since then, I have been continually impressed with his music. Harawa’s EP, ‘To Love A Woman’, released later in 2017, served as a testament to his prowess as a songwriter. With raw honesty, he takes us on a relatable journey through the complex emotions that come with dealing with a break-up.
Mellow, easy-going, and candid, the 20 year old Malawian-Kenyan juggles putting out music, being an avid sportsman and chasing a Sports Management degree. In this second interview of my Skype series, we discuss the creation of his album, his influences, and how he finds balance.
(Fair warning, Harawa’s music will have you elated whilst simultaneously deep in your bag.)
Monica Kimberley Savanne: So how did you get into music?
Harawa: It started with me listening to Chris Brown’s ‘In My Zone 2’ mixtape. Then I wanted to sing. So I was a singer and then my voice broke then I stopped. But I still liked music so I started to rap. I literally started teaching myself how to sing again last year.
What inspired you to start writing songs and when did your songwriting journey begin?
It started with poetry. I started writing poems when I was 8 and then I was just like, “Oh, songs are just poetry but on beats”. So that’s how it started off. Then I started listening to a lot of different musicians trying to learn different flows, different approaches to writing songs, different ways of putting words together and that’s how I fell in love with songwriting.
What have been your musical influences? What did you grow up listening to?
I grew up in a strict, Christian household so gospel. And then my dad played a lot of jazz. So a lot of Gospel and a lot of jazz got me into music. Then when I was younger, groups like Young Money. Also J. Cole, Bryson Tiller… And I’d say Bryson Tiller is the person who’s impacted how I make music the most. The sound on ‘To Love Woman’ was definitely a trap-soul sound. That’s the kind of vibe I was going for so Bryson Tiller gets a lot of credit for where my sound is right now.
What was the first song you ever wrote and had the confidence to put it out into the world?
That song was called ‘My Girl’. I was 12 or 13 years old at the time. I was in Malawi. Me and my best friend made it with a sound engineer in the space of two hours and put it out. When I listen back to it I’m just like, “I used to sound like that!”. But it’s cool to see where I was and where I am now.
‘To Love A Woman’, which is bomb by the way, is the album that you have out. What was the process of putting the it together? What inspired the album?
I didn’t know at the time that I was writing ‘To Love A Woman’, when I was writing all of the songs. I wrote four songs before I realized that I was writing the album. When I started writing those songs I had just gotten out of a one and a half year relationship so I was extremely emotional. It was a bad time but the music helped me get through it. Songs like “Love Lost, Pt.1” and “Love Lost, Pt.2, “Sunshine”, “Right Here”, those were heavily influenced by what went on in that relationship. The whole album is basically the story of the beginning of a relationship, the different stages of it, the middle when it’s all good, then when it’s all falling apart and then closure at the end. It’ll have been out for a year in September which is crazy.
Did making that album involve many collaborations or was it mainly just you working on it?
A part from the beats, it was just me. There were two features that were meant to be on it but they ended up not coming through and I had to change the songs a lot. It was for the best I guess because what it resulted in was something that I wasn’t expecting.
Apart from being a singer/songwriter, you’re really into sports on top of being a full time student. How do you find balance?
That was a big concern for me because in first year, I was just doing school and music and that was kind of tough to balance. Then I decided that second year I was going to join the track team. So it was the track team, and school, and music, and I was trying to have a social life as well. Honestly, first semester, I can’t remember a time when I can tell you I sat down and watched Netflix, or I hang out with my friends outside of school. Because it was just one thing after another, after another. Second semester was a bit easier because I knew how to balance stuff. I feel like that’s something I’ve always known how to do. It’s also about prioritizing stuff because my dad told me I don’t care if your doing music or sports, as long as you get that degree first. So like thats my mentality.
Do you perform live often? Is that something you started doing when you were in Nairobi?
I went to Brookhouse [school] so how I started performing was during the lunchtime concerts. Every time there was a lunchtime concert I was like I have to be on it. So that’s how it started.
Out of the all the live performances I’ve done, there’s been two where I felt I really did well. One of them was in Nairobi last summer. I’m pretty sure you’re familiar with Sichangi. Sichangi is one of my good friends and when I was coming back [home] I had played ‘Move’ for him. I had recorded it in April and between April and then it was just sitting around. Him and I exchange music sometimes to see where we’re at. So I played ‘Move’ for him and he was like I have a gig at Vibe Tribe in June, I know you’ll be home, you have to perform it. That was the first and only time I performed in Nairobi outside of school. It was an amazing time.
Here in Canada it’s smaller, intimate gigs because I still haven’t built up a fan base like that in Nairobi.
This may be a bit hard to answer but which of your songs is your favourite? And why?
Umm, like overall?
Okay, let’s make it easier, off of your album.
That’s not easier. Wow, I can’t answer this question. Because there’s different ways that I gauge them. For me the best verse I wrote on the album was the verse I rapped on ‘Say My Name’. That’s my favourite verse because it’s so smooth. My favourite song in its entirety is ‘Chemistry’. Also, at the same time, my favourite vocals were on the song ‘Love Lost, Pt 2’. So it’s a mix of different things. But the best verse I’ve ever written was on a song on Sichangi’s debut EP called ‘And After That’ with Kahvinya. That verse, till today, is my favourite verse ever.
Now it’s time for a quick-fire round.
Who’s your favourite artist of all time?
Kendrick or Cole?
Top 5 favourite albums.
- Kendrick Lamar - Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City
- Chris Brown - Fortune
- Justin Bieber - Journals (I feel like this was his best album but no one takes me seriously)
- Teyana Taylor - VII
- And, this is crazy because of the timing but, Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
If you could put together a music supergroup, which musicians would you chose?
I have to go with Beyonce. Then Jorja Smith, Smino, Chris Brown (coz he’s my favourite) and Drake.