Natural Mystic: An interview with Alewya
Music — 20.07.20
Words: Silken Weinberg
Photography: Alex Lambert
Focused and sincere, Alewya is a producer, singer-songwriter, and multimedia artist intuitively soundtracking her world. Her infectious new single “Sweating” connects with her African roots and UK club culture, providing a glimpse into her natural ability to fuse and activate a wide range of influences into something new and fresh.
In this exclusive with Teeth Magazine, she dives into how following her curiosity led to music and why pursuing transcendence requires letting things flow without force. Alewya listens to the voice inside her in order to share it with the world, and she’s just getting started.
Do you think your 10-year-old self would be surprised if she saw what you’re doing now?
Yes, 100%. She would be like what the fuck? When? How? How did this happen?! I wasn’t really creative growing up.
Before the song release, my friend who is a healer actually recommended this practice to write a letter to my younger self. It was so emotional, to just be like you’re coming with me! I’m not going to leave you in your past alone. I wrote to her: if you only knew what you’re going to become.
It’s important to keep our inner child in mind.
I have this thing in my head now, like she’s with me and I’m watching over her. I want to make her proud, it has changed my whole perspective.
I used to be so envious of people at school that had two parents, and always got straight A’s. They had a boyfriend, they always seemed to wake up with clear skin and banging hair. They were so easily sociable and I was so never like that. I’ve realised that it’s the ups and downs that are character-building and I’m grateful for them. Looking back, the easy seems so boring to me; I absolutely wouldn’t have wanted that.
As a multimedia artist, I’d love to hear about your evolution from drawing and painting into music.
I wasn’t really a creative person until about 19 years old. I honestly credit everything to a spiritual awakening.
When I was at the pinnacle of trying to hold my whole life together, everything was actually falling apart. In that moment, I was just drawn to doodling and drawing. I became obsessed with it, and just naturally evolved into my own style and how I paint now. I just started following my curiosity which led to trying out animations, which led to making cartoons on iMovie. That eventually turned into the need for a soundtrack, I tried to use other people’s music but it took away from the essence of it being mine.
My girlfriend at the time encouraged me to play around on GarageBand, and then the obsession of music just came along. My curiosity led me to where I am now. If I have an impulse I’m all on it.
It seems like such a natural pull for you, leaning into music just felt right and free from pressure.
Just to have fun, yeah. I don’t seek perfection in anything I do. Technically I’m really amateur in how I produce and technically, I’m drawing stickmen… technically. But I know that what makes things powerful has absolutely nothing to do with perfection and I figured that out through this evolution. I’ve been in this training period, setting up a foundation where I can’t be rocked by other people’s ideas of perfection.
I’m like yeah, technically, I’m a bit shit, but you still love it, though.
Okay, now “Sweating”. Let’s talk about the production process and how it came to life.
So there’s this guy, The Busy Twist, Ollie Williams. I’ve been a fan of him since I was eighteen. I used to go to his raves and rave it up with him. We stayed in contact online, and I always used to comment, ‘Yo, I’m your number one fan!’ His music is so sick to me, I love it. We reconnected and made “Sweating” on the first day we started working together… it was so natural. He came up with the beat and I’m very good with flows, they just pour out and we spent a while getting the arrangement right. Like everything, it was very organic. I will never put out anything that is even remotely forced.
Do you have any musical influences either from growing up in West London, or artists that are inspiring you now?
That’s a hard question. I just kind of soak things up. I have a broad range of tastes but I know there is a common thread among all of them. From grunge and alternative rock to UK funky house and dance to Ethiopian music and tribal house, spiritual music, even chanting and singing bowls. I think I just know what the frequency is that I like and I roll with it. I also love film soundtracks. I’ve especially started loving DJ sets since lockdown started, hour-long sets where I can just listen and let it run. Especially if they put in little snippets of a film scene in the middle of it, it’s genius! I just like creativity, in any form.
That kind of ties into the mixed-media you do yourself, even in the video for “Sweating”, there is a moment where you’re painting.
I started music because of my animations, so for me, the music is the sonic form of the art and art is the visual form of the music.
I feel like your live show is going to be really intentional and expand everything even further.
It’s so important to me. I’ve been dreaming about that for a long time, and I’ve planned everything. I even know the running order, the lights, everything…
“Sweating” is just one side, but I have so many sides to me. The aim is to move people spiritually or facilitate the environment for that. I don’t want my music to ask permission – it’s just going to hit you.
At the beginning of the video, we read “This video is for Us. In love, power and rage”, can we dive into that?
We made the video in January and finished editing it in March. A lot had been brought to light in that period of time. For me, I always just try to find the centre and I wanted to root the video in what I’m about.
The logo afterwards is a piece of art that I also feel embodies everything: feminine, masculine, strong, grounded, rooted, will move nowhere. The world can go mad, this will move nowhere. I just wanted to ground the video in that. I wrote a whole paragraph before I settled on just doing the line.
I’ve worked in fashion and have seen the illusion behind entertainment – you can’t dangle it in front of me, music has taken me somewhere else. It’s in my power, so I will always honour it. I have a purpose with this shit, so I have to be sincere. That’s my contract.
How has releasing a song and starting this journey during quarantine affected you?
I don’t stop making music, right now we’re just working on a collection. I’ll have an EP soon… and I don’t know what happens next. It’s still lockdown which is nice because I can process what is actually happening. I see it as a blessing, I stay in my bubble of friends, family, music and art so this change in environment has been conducive to creating.
And how are you feeling about the future?
I’ll say this, I feel like I belong more in post-lockdown life than I did in pre-lockdown life. I have more of a purpose. I know what I’m working towards.
You can follow Alewya’s journey through her Instagram as well as her Soundcloud.