Interview by Ron Hamilton
Sister duo and retro-indie artists, Hanifa and Juliet (a.k.a. Jules) of Najuah, share a passionate conversation about their experiences in the music industry, the faithful lessons they’ve learned along the way and how their roots as Afro-Canadians has influenced their unique style and their eclectic, soul-stirring, and deeply penetrating musical sound.
Ron: I read a very interesting story in your bio, that you were approached by a man at a live show, and he said the name 'Najuah' is Swahili, and it has a meaning. Tell us about that.
Najuah: So, the name is actually my middle name and her first name and my first name put together. As we started doing shows and people started to know us, we met a girl whose name was Najuah. It’s spelled differently, but it’s pronounced the same (nah-ju-wah). She was Jewish, and she was like, ‘Oh, do you know what the name means in Hebrew? It means constellation, like the stars.’ And we met somebody at another concert who spoke Swahili. And he was like, ‘Do you know what the name means in Swahili? It means patience.’ And so, as we started to do more shows we started to discover that this name we created actually meant something.
How would you define the style and genre of your music?
I would say we’re quite eclectic. We’re like a variety of genres. So, I’d say we have a bit of soul in there, and then we have pop, and then we also have African influences. So, a lot of the melodies you hear kind of come from what we grew up listening to with our parent’s African music. We also grew up in a small town, so we do rock and country. So, we’re very eclectic. I’d say we’re very modern I guess - there’s not really one genre that we fit into.
"We feel like it’s really good for us to always go back to our roots, to go home. Be around our family, our culture..." -Najuah-
Okay, you weren’t born and raised in London, Ontario were you? You came from Kenya and Zimbabwe?
Juliet: Yes, Hanifa’s born in Zimbabwe and I’m born in Kenya. So, we spent a little bit of our childhood in Africa, and then we moved to Canada early on and grew up in London, Ontario.
Okay, about your parents, your parents are from Uganda. How was the experience for you going back to where your parents came from?
Hanifa: Well, we go back at least once a year. So, I think for us, it helps to ground us, and connect us to a different part of ourselves. I think sometimes you can take for granted how lucky you are.
So you grew up on all kinds of music, which styles stood out to you the most?
Hanifa: For me, personally, it’s country. I listen to country probably more than any genre. From a songwriter perspective, I really just like the storytelling. I like the fact that you can break down a country song and play the acoustics, play a keyboard, or all of a sudden add a hip-hop beat to it. So, there’s a lot you can do with it, so I listen to a lot of country songs - and then old R&B songs, old soul.
Juliet: Yeah, for me, I like the old R&B. Listening to the vinyl growing up with our parents and stuff like that. So, that has a lot of influence. And I think, you know…we’ve kind of gotten away a little bit from that. You know we still had such great R&B in the nineties. And we still do today with some songs, but I think 80s, 90s R&B, 70s, that’s where I kind of get a lot of influence from.
To learn more about the latest projects from Najuah, visit their website at: najuah.com. Ron Hamilton is the owner and founder of WRJR Real Jamz Radio Network, and contributor for VERGE Lifestyle & Urban Culture magazine.
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