As we sit outside of Café Luzia in Kreuzberg making the most of the early summer sun bathing over Berlin, a procession of cars drives by interrupting my interview with Nanghiti, horns blazing, drivers hollering, flags waving. The officers in the accompanying police escort weave nonchalantly through the furore. A warm, wide smile spreads across Nanghiti's face. "In Berlin, people really demonstrate here, people are so vocal! Global change, European issues, Black Lives Matter, the Women's March, it's just all happening here. People are not afraid”.
It’s easy to see why these values that are so synonymous with the German capital resonate with her. Her passion for what she is doing is clear as day. Positive energy and a warm confidence radiates with ease, and the optimism she shares is infectious. "If you're getting happier following your passion, it's way more beneficial for you and the rest of the planet. Less crime, less bullshit....It's not easy, but really there's no other choice, because if you're unhappy, everyone's unhappy. At some point, I asked myself, what makes me happy? And everything constantly lead to music. When I was working I would think about music, when I would see other performances I thought, I should be standing there”.
Music has clearly been an important influence in Nanghiti's life. Growing up in Suriname, South America, there was a strong presence of US and Caribbean music throughout the country. Artists like Destiny's Child and Michael Jackson were blasted on repeat, blended with reggae and other Caribbean sounds. However, migrating to the Netherlands at the age of 10 brought a whole new perspective to her life. "You don't fully realise the culture shock until you're almost done with it. It was very tough, the hardest thing was being misunderstood - you have to deal with the fact that people are aware you're different." I ask about any experiences of prejudice during her time in the Netherlands, and her response is both dismissive as it is inspiring.
“its our job to stay present. If you’re going to participate in the sorrow of someone else, you don’t win. I’d rather just kick ass.”
The move to the Netherlands brought an exposure to the hedonistic and enticing nature of dance music. Berlin would have seemed like the natural progression to indulge in this sound, and although Nanghiti remained involved in the techno and house scene that makes Berlin so world-renowned, jazz, soul and blues music began to play a much more significant role in her evolution as a musician, particularly the rich array of jam sessions Berlin has to offer.
“Every place that was playing music, I would go and hop on the mic. But that's when I realised, I want people to know my own music, that I needed a band. Berlin is the kind of place where you can really be balanced as an artist. You end up here with so many talented people.”
Berlin became much more than ground zero for her musical growth. "I grew to really love this city because it just seemed to be so accepting, forgiving, I could do what I want and made a shitload of friends in the process. Family. People really took care of me and helped me out when I was low.”
“Now I’ve been fighting way too long, been acting like I’m too strong”
Nanghiti's most recent track, Trip To Myself is a testament to the importance of friends and family in her life. The track was produced by mathistypebeats; the pair were introduced to each other via a mutual friend from a popular Tuesday night jam session at venue Badehaus. Nanghiti had only met Mathis a couple of times in the past. He played her a few productions, and after hearing the beat after a few seconds, she began to record. The track was recorded in one take.
In addition, the lyrics were written by her sister aged 19, with no melody in mind. The relationship between the two siblings is clearly strong and important one, as Nanghiti recounts warmly of her sister's musical abilities. "What she did well was really capture a moment where you are talking to yourself.'I’ve never had a God who sees what’s going on in my body'. 'Now I’ve been fighting way too long, been acting like I’m too strong'. “I’m not done, and I cannot yell'. I didn't even push her into music, I just let it blossom naturally”.
And it becomes clear that supporting each other is definitely a family affair. "My parents are super supportive. I’m living from the passion of my parents, a deep manifestation through me. I enjoy that they enjoy it. I wanna make it for them. For them to say, ‘that’s my daughter’. It would be great to support my family with money, because they have amazing ideas and so much talent.”
What the future holds…
Now Nanghiti is working with a band, allowing her to fully submerge in the process of making her own music, and is in the currently finishing an EP accompanied by some visual artistry to support a full experience. For now, Nanghiti and her band are staying independent, but as her and many other up-and-coming artists know, independence is expensive, and with her ambitions on a global scale, independence is not an easy choice.
"It’s a shame that some amazing artists don’t get exposure because they don’t have Universal pumping 1 million into promotion. [Independence] would be great if you have the right team, for sure. It’s definitely possible - Maybe in the future. For now, we would definitely be happy with a small label, lets see how the stars align”.
As with everything she talks about, Nanghiti is optimistic about 2017 has in store. With her pursuit of positive energy, drive for what she loves and progress after only one full year committed to music, it's easy to see the the world is Nanghiti's oyster.
Nanghiti’s Berlin tips
- Leo Pogodda - Talented singer and guitarist, with a blues/soul vibe
- J Lamotta and Stella Zekri - Both girls have Erykah Badu vibes, their voices working seamlessly with J Dilla type beats
- For jams - Edelweiss in Görlitzer Park
- For jazz - Cookies
- For clubbing - Watergate
EP coming this summer.