SENA DAGADU on Mystic Geographies, Womanhood and a Decade of Good Vibes
As told to Sionne R. Neely | Photos by Mantse Aryeequaye
Part Two Interview
ADA: When you think of Ghana what comes to mind?
SD: Home comes to mind. Earth and the smell of pepper. Seaside and energy – raw physical and spiritual energy. My husband, he laughs at me. One time I didn’t come to Ghana and we were in Hungary for the full winter. At the end of it, he said: “You know what? I’d rather pay a ticket for you to go to Ghana than spend another winter with you in Hungary!”
If I don’t come to Ghana for at least one month out of the year, I feel a little bit lost and malnourished. Ghana feeds the senses and the skin, the eyes and mind. In Europe it’s easy to become part of the little wheel that the squirrel runs in. It’s so important to go somewhere completely different that shocks you out of that European life, luxury and working to have money to live. Ghana reminds me of why I started writing and why I felt strange when I moved to Hungary and why I feel strange when I am here. It reminds me to feel. Ghana is key to life. Shw3!
ADA: What is Hungary like?
SD: Hungary has this kind of strange magic to it. Because of Hungary’s difficult past people are kind of still afraid to speak their mind. People are a little bit closed in themselves. But I love it. The architecture – the whole look of it gives Hungary a pulsating energy. Hungary must have been a place where there was lots of witchcraft and superstition, herbalism and natural water healing – things that you would find in Ghana as well. Hungary has a lot of water around it – it’s a healing energy.
I feel that special energy in the musicians I meet. I’m not afraid to say they are sorcerers and magicians – how else would they have such ideas and energy when they play? I love that feeling about Hungary. It’s unconscious in a lot of people but I like to zoom in on it and when that vibe starts to flow, it’s amazing. It can conquer and break walls. It’s abundant and free-flowing, you just have to tap into it if you have the courage to not get lost in it. It is easy to get lost in it and go a little bit mad [laughs]… like anywhere else!
ADA: Do you feel the same about the water in Ghana?
SD: That water is completely different. It has a different energy to it. I’m in awe of the ocean here. I can sit for hours just listening to the waves, watching the horizon. Sometimes I’m even afraid to step into it because it’s so powerful. It’s not a gentle power – it’s healing but it’s a force.
ADA: You were here in 2006 and involved pretty early with the indie music scene in Ghana. Tell us what that time was like.
SD: I was not making money, didn’t really have any big shows in mind so I came to Ghana and I was at a low. I realized that I am at a low but Ghana is actually pulsating. There are so many people that if you just put them onstage they would just wow everybody. I wondered, why is it that either you are a big star and you’re playing at the stadium or you are a nobody and nobody’s going to listen to you perform? There’s no in-between and I had lived off the in-between in Hungary creatively.
We just thought it would be really cool to give a platform – a room with a microphone and a DJ – just so people could come and practice and share. Unless you have some money to pay some radio stations to play your stuff, there’s nothing. So we just wanted to get an underground circle flowing and in motion to snap people out of the “I’m going to perform at the National Theater or Stadium” dream. It’s also cool to play at your own level movement. We called it The Movement [with Mantse Aryeequaye, PY Annan, Naashika Riby-Williams, Nana Quame, Seton Nicholas] and we did a few shows and it worked out nicely.
People were hungry for it. It was not about money at just underground music, freestyle performing and art. It was the right time to do that in Ghana. Since then, a lot of people are out there doing similar things. and that was the whole purpose. You can do it like this, you know? You don’t have to wait for the big sponsor with the 2 million cedi check. Call your friends and tell them to call their friends and they will come. The reason behind us starting that has taken root and it’s branching out. Tree planted!
ADA: You’re a deep sister. What are you feeling spiritually at this moment?
SD: I’m now getting into my senses about having a child and being married. Understanding my place and seeing it from the outside more objectively. Right now I am very much into animal totems. I started noticing that in my dreams there would start coming some random animal doing something. My friend told me, “You know what? animals are connected to symbols.” I started Googling and it actually reflects so much on where my mind is and what I’m thinking about.
It started with a butterfly and then a bee. That’s about transformation and radical change of the mindset. I could feel it because I was really questioning where I was and it was not enough for me, something needs to be different. I needed some reassurance from nature – that, yes you’re in a good place and I’ve come to remind you of change. Change your mindset. The bee was about fertility and work. I said yes, okay I can dig that. Since I’ve been in Ghana I’ve had a warthog, 2 crows, and 3 tigers. The tigers came to me in my dreams three days ago which means new adventures. Creative energy at night which is cool because I do work a lot and perform at night. I’m not fanatical about it but I am aware of the animals that come around me in dreaming or waking life.
This year is about everyone finding their own way of understanding. Not even finding it because we might already know but just being reassured. Your opinion does matter and your way of working is cool.
ADA: You know, I’ve been really attracted to numbers recently.
SD: It’s funny you should say that. The new album – we were thinking what should be the title? And I was telling my husband, you know there’s lots of threes in it – it’s coming out in the third month of 2013 and I’m going to be 30 this year – and he heard me say “Lots of Trees” and I said that’s not a bad title. The tree is symbolic of growth and fertility, life. Lots of threes, lots of trees.
Numbers are always constant. I’ve got my daughter’s time tattooed on my arm – [she was born] 2010, December 21st at 12 past 12 – 2010.12.21.12.12 – this one di33, I have to tattoo in someway because it’s a crazy number! And it’s in perfect balance – five 1s, five 2s, two 0s. It was a weird day anyway, there was an eclipse of the full moon.
ADA: Let’s hear about Lots of Trees.
SD: People have been asking me to do that album for years! It’s been 10 years since my first album. it’s taken a while to get here mentally, I think. There are some tracks on this that are six years old. We re-recorded songs and re-produced a little bit for the album. Some are completely fresh, written just at the end of the album so it’s so diverse. It became more a collection of songs rather than an album concept.
Which songs do I like that I’ve done in the last ten years? Which ones will I put on an album together? It’s quite an autobiography if you read the lyrics – where my mind has gone and come back. It is a documentary that tells a story. My husband did most of the production work – I write the songs and sing them.
I recorded of the songs for the vocals in two days. To do 13 songs in two days was like Azumah Nelson man! Afterwards, I couldn’t speak for a week. It emotionally drained me out but I was ready. I had prepared for it for years. We did the mixing at our home studio – day by day, we listened to it hundreds of times so you hear the mistakes and nuances.
It came out very soulful. Fertile and grown.
Get lost in Lots of Trees with SENA DAGADU | @senadagadu