The Dutch-Ghanian singer-songwriter has been readying the release of her highly anticipated debut album Big Dreaming Ants throughout 2020 and with previously released gems like “Throw Stones” and “She’s Stronger” it’s easy to see why people are sitting up and taking notice.
Gorilla vs. Bear premiered the new song “I Want To Change” calling it, “yet another vibrant, elegantly understated but sonically adventurous anthem…” Adjoa told them, “The desire to change is a weird feeling and brings with it a dichotomy of emotions. You get a sense of wanting to move forward, of getting out of a (perhaps self-imposed) rut, but you also fear leaving behind the comfort and security of what you know. With ‘I Want To Change,’ I’m giving space to an inner voice that quietly yearns for change and amplifying it in a way, calling for change that speaks to both the global and individual scale. I wrote the song over a year ago, now placing it in the context of the current state of the world, that inner voice feels more like a call to action for myself.”
The track comes off the back of “No Room,” a song which Complex describe as a “beautifully calming track — built around little more than a guitar and Adjoa's stunningly gentle voice”.
Big Dreaming Ants is an impressive body of work from one of this year’s most interesting new voices.
Adjoa tells us “It’s like being a piece of a puzzle – this small person, dreaming about larger things.” It’s those larger things that have kept Adjoa growing as an artist, crafting new sounds, writing adroitly-worded allegories, and pondering life’s philosophical questions. And in her ongoing search for identity, the one constant that remains at the core of her being is music. “For me,” she says, “music is a way to believe in something deeper.”
Big Dreaming Ants will be available worldwide September 24th.
1. National Song
2. Cardboard Castle
3. Throw Stones
4. No Room
5. In Lesser Light Pollution
6. Every Song
9. Who Do We Look to Now
10. I Want to Change
Born to a Dutch mother and a Ghanaian father, Adjoa joined her first band as a teenager, choosing to play bass because, “Every other instrument had been claimed,” she laughs. Yet – it was a lucky twist of fate. Unbeknownst to the musician, her mother had once been the bassist in a Ghanaian Highlife band and still happened to have her guitar.
Later, Adjoa entered the prestigious jazz program at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam. But she soon learned that her musical passions lay elsewhere. She joined a variety of bands, began recording her own music and, in 2014, entered herself in the Grote Prijs van Nederland – the longest-running and biggest pop-music competition in the Netherlands. She made it to the finals, but most importantly, she gained a band, a manager, and the confidence to launch a solo career.
With a newfound sense of purpose, the artist’s work flowed. In 2017, Adjoa released a debut EP, Down at the Root (Pt. 1), followed by 2018’s Down at the Root (Pt. 2), and A Tale So Familiar. With each EP came wider critical acclaim, increased support from influential radio stations and streaming platforms, and a larger radius for touring. By the end of 2018, Adjoa had toured her way through New York, Los Angeles, London, and Amsterdam while playing some of the Netherlands’ largest festival stages.
Adjoa set out to write her first full-length album at the beginning of 2019. Now working in her own studio, she not only had the freedom to write and record songs nearly simultaneously, but she also had a wide palette of instruments at her disposal. The result, on Big Dreaming Ants, is a profusion of sounds: lush, yet delicate, intimate while expansive, and moody yet hopeful. A diverse array of multilayered tonal textures can be heard throughout the songs, and on any given listen, one will hear something new – a thumb piano, vibraphone or a vintage harmonium.
Though Adjoa – who typically plays the guitar on stage – handled the majority of the instrumentation herself, she also engaged a variety of musicians to lend their talents, including members of her live band – drummer Mats Voshol, trombonist Daniel van Loenen, and guitarist Tim Schakel – as well as local artists Jonas Pap, who performed a variety of string arrangements and Eelco Topper on the vibraphone. The Rotterdam-based producer, Wannes Salomé, brought a sense of focus and cohesion to Adjoa’s ambitious work.
On a track like “National Song,” which opens the record, Adjoa looks at cultural identity. “Every country has a national song,” she explains. “In the Netherlands, ours is translated from old Dutch. So everybody sings along but they don’t know what it means.” She elaborates, “It made me question the tradition, and why we feel the need to belong to a nation when borders aren’t as clear as they used to be.” The song is also about searching for one’s own identity – on a personal, cultural and global level.
Having fallen into a new romantic relationship, Adjoa was also moved to write her first love song, “In Lesser Light Pollution.” She explains that the lyrics “Are all about missing somebody and hoping that the time will pass until you can be back with them.” She recalls that she was inspired by looking at the moon one night, wondering if they both could see it. Adjoa also vocalized her feelings through an inspired cover of “Love And Death” by the legendary Ghanaian artist Ebo Taylor. Adjoa honored the song’s afrobeat roots, while also making it entirely her own.
When it came to the title for Big Dreaming Ants, Adjoa looked to the album’s closing track, “I Want To Change,” in which she sings, “Big dreaming, little ants/It’s just, who we are.” The artist shares, “That line really summarized all of the thoughts that I was having when I was recording these songs.” She adds, “I’m having these dreams about what my life could be, but I’m also seeing myself as a small part in this chain of people – all these small pieces working on something, and they don’t really understand how it’s connected or if it’s even connected. To me, it was like ants – all working together for a bigger goal.”