Originally from Sierra Leone, Yasmin Kadi brings to the world fun loving beats with a layer of messages that resonate the importance of always being your true self. Having had to flee her home land at a young age Yasmin learned that the world can be a cruel place. She never gave up though and fought to do what she loved which was making music and helping others. I contacted Yasmin who was kind enough to tell me more about her upcoming album, her activism and some Sierra Leone music recommendations.
For those not familiar with your work, who is Yasmin Kadi?
I’m an Afrobeats/pop singer-song writer chosen by BBC Introducing as some of Londons best new music. And I’m originally from Sierra Leone, West Africa.
How did you get into making music?
I’d always written songs from a very early ago and even though I didn’t produce beats then, I constantly wrote top lines and melodies.
How much music was around your youth? Did you grow up with a strong presence of music around you?
My dad was a huge music lover, and always played the likes of Bob Marley, Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers etc. He used to play a whole mixture of generations and in every genre of music. Good music was good music lol.
“If musicians are looking to make positive change in the world through their music, I would say stay true to your own sound and who you are. Do not try and sound like the current and biggest selling music if that is not you. Diversity and difference encourages people, especially the young generation. It encourages them to be themselves and be OK with being themselves and feel they are good enough.”
In previous interviews you have spoken about having to flee your home country of Sierra Leone with your family when you were young. Do you direct those events and the events since then into your music or do you rather use the music as an escape from that? Or a mix of both?
It’s a mixture of both. As artists and writers, some of our work is biographical and some fictional. Mine is a mixture of both. Depending on what I’m feeling and issues that I feel responsible to highlight in my work. It also depends on the production and how I’m feeling in the studio or where ever I’m writing.
How much of your music and lyrics is direct activism? Do you prefer to partake in socially conscious activities outside the music?
Music is subjective, so I leave it to the audience to decide how they perceive my work. Because each listener has a different life experience to the next, every individual’s uptake or interpretation will be different to the next.
Out of my music, I work with a few charities that help some of the issues we face today like the refugee crisis and the mudslide and flood victims affected in Sierra Leone. So I’ve work with ‘Help Refugees UK’, ‘Women for Refugee Women’ and ‘Street Child’. I think my time is better spent doing something and helping organizations who are actually doing productive work, helping people and making good, positive changes, rather than ones who just shout and point fingers without doing anything.
What do you hope to achieve with your music?
If I had a choice on how my work is perceived, I’d say it’s to give hope and highlight issues the underdogs in every walk of life faces. Highlight the issues in a fun loving criminal way.
What advice do you have for young musicians looking to change the world?
It depends oh how they are looking to change the world? Is it for the better or worse, to spread love or hate, to divide or unite people? If musicians are looking to make positive change in the world through their music, I would say stay true to your own sound and who you are. Do not try and sound like the current and biggest selling music if that is not you. Diversity and difference encourages people, especially the young generation. It encourages them to be themselves and be OK with being themselves and feel they are good enough. It also highlights that they don’t have to be like the boys and girls on TV – the unrealistic picture perfect images we get bombarded with daily.
What are some of your favorite socially conscious musicians out there, active or not?
I’m a fan of Billy Bragg. Google him. He’s great! I also like Alicia Keys. Apart from the fact that she is a great writer and vocalist, she is advocating and putting her money where her mouth is and showing that we don’t always have to cover our face in make up! Or war paint as I call it sometimes ha ha. That is a HUGE message and she is doing it by being a living example and not wearing makeup.
What should someone who knows nothing about the Sierra Leone music scene check out?
Sierra Leone music is a lot of fun. It’s a shame a lot of the artists don’t have the platform to be heard. I was very lucky and never gave up. If people want to hear more SL music, they should check out the likes of ‘Emmerson’. He is a Sierra Leonean artist that mainly sings in Creo/Patwa (our native language) but he is very socially conscious and not afraid to call out very high profile members of the SL community, who he feels are doing injustice to the people and the country as a whole. Just google Sierra Leone musicians, you might be pleasantly surprised.
“What a lot of people don’t realize is a lot of artist don’t have control on the work they put out. For me, I own all the rights to my work, I fund it with help from people who support and buy my music, so I can put out what ever I think represents me as an artist.”
Looking at the state of the world today, do you feel like musicians are using their voices to the maximum or do you feel there is a lack of awareness among musicians?
I honestly don’t think musicians are lacking in awareness on issues that we all face in the world today. What a lot of people don’t realize is a lot of artist don’t have control on the work they put out. Especially those signed to labels. Obviously some major artists have a lot of creative control but a lot more don’t. Its simply a business to a lot of the labels and they have to cover costs, overheads and big wages, so generally they have to put out what they think is going to sell the most. For me, I own all the rights to my work, I fund it with help from people who support and buy my music, so I can put out what ever I think represents me as an artist.
What is on the horizon for you? When can we expect a new album?
We can expect an album in the next few months and it is going to a lot of fun. I’m a bit of a workaholic and have work extremely hard on it, with a lot of passion and love and I’ve worked with some of the best producers who have produced for the likes of Stormzy, Rihanna, Emile Sande, Arian Grande, Wretch 32 etc. So I’m super excited and proud that I stayed true to my self and made the type of music that I wanted to make!
Thank you for participating and for the music you make! Anything else you would like to shout from the rooftops?
Thank you very much and feel free to stay tune on my work, life and the new album via my socials below. Lots of love and God bless.
You can check out Yasmin’s social media below:
Halldór is the managing editor of Shouts – Music from the Rooftops!, an investigative journalist, audio engineer and an animal rights activist on a nomad journey through Europe – still without a definite destination.