What were you doing at 19? I know what I wasn’t doing. I was not getting shortlisted by BBC Radio 1Xtra as one of 15 artists to watch for in 2019. I wasn’t getting shortlisted by anyone for anything except maybe most likely to stumble into bed at a 6 a.m. after binge-watching some random TV series overnight.
Every year BBC Radio 1Xtra DJ’s and staff predict which artists are set for success over the next twelve months and this year their list featured a super talented artist with soulful vocals straight out of the ’90s by the name of Hamzaa.
Nineteen-year-old Hamzaa is a singer, songwriter and producer born of Kenyan parents residing in Hackney in East London. Needless to say, Kenyans are beside themselves with pride. She began learning Piano at four years old and started to write her own songs at age nine, influenced by the sounds of the 80’s and 90’s RnB.
She blew up in the UK in 2018 after she was invited to perform live at BBC’s ‘Later With Jools Holland’ show. She released her debut EP in 2018 and released Breathing on 26th Oct. The opening bars of Breathing is sufficient justification for her presence on the list and her trending on Twitter in recent days.
There are songs that you can tell will be amazing just by the opening bars and Breathing fits the bill. The song is soulful, with a beat that pulls you in and lyrics that hold you hostage and keep you hitting that replay button. Breathing is uplifting, with delicate but driving percussion and emotive strings: thoughtful production flaunts soulful and gospel-infused vocal.
Hamzaa’s debut ‘First Signs of Me’ is a six-track EP that shows the different sides of Hamzaa’s personality. Witten partly during the hardest part of her life to date – her first great heartbreak- and partly upon reflection, the EP journeys through her innermost emotions and releases her demons along the way. It’s painstakingly raw and honest. Alongside Breathing, the EP will feature her previous standout singles ‘Stranded Love’ and ‘You’ which has already amassed over 1 million streams across Spotify and Apple Music in the UK.
Frank Zappa once said ‘writing about music is like dancing about architecture’ which is right on the money. The sensory experience of listening to music cannot be put into words. So here it is, hit play to listen to Breathing and then prepare to keep hitting the replay button. Check out Hamzaa’s Stranded Love here. Check out the rest of the talent on the Hot for 2019 BBC 1Xtra list here. Enjoy.