Name: Juanita Euka
Occupation: Singer, songwriter
Current release: Juanita Euka's Mabanzo is out March 25, 2022 via Strut.
Sonidos Negros / On the Blackness of Flamenco by K.Meira Goldberg - great book I read at the beginning of this year.
Teotima Weightless & Counting the Ways, my producer Greg Sander's project, is one of the best pieces of music I have ever heard.
Mei Mei Art & Sr.X - they are incredible artists and friends that I admire a lot. They are from Spain and they are based in London.
If you enjoyed this interview with Juanita Euka and would like to know more, visit her on Instagram, Facebook, and twitter.
When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I began writing from an early age, I think I have always been writing for so long. My early influences were everything I was seeing and experiencing. Looking up other artists has been a great influence, too.
Some people experience intense emotion when listening to music, others see colours or shapes. What is your own listening experience like and how does it influence your approach to music?
I think music is powerful. We are all humans, we are all living and vibrating energy. Music is a powerful energy, it represents so many things. Music is everything. It heals and renews you and also lets you navigate challenging emotions. It can be a personal thing depending how deep you are willing to go.
My own listening experience is always having my curiosity open. I free my mind and I just feel. You can’t really describe it. You just feel the music and let it do the magic.
How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?
My interests are always growing, I let myself be open to new things. Like I said earlier: I like to be curious.
My main aim as an artist is to be totally free in my art. Challenges are everywhere but I see them as an opportunity to learn to experience new things and take it as a lesson, so I keep evolving in my art. I don’t really think about searching for my voice, I rather stay still in the moment and listen to my body and what I am feeling and express myself as much as possible and be in that moment of expression.
I love listening to different singers and I also try to explore my voice. But at the same time I just want to be myself and be in the now. I try to enjoy every part of my journey.
Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.
As a listener I have been exposed to a variety of music, from my native Congolese roots, to Argentinian music, Latin American sounds to Jazz and Hip Hop. I was able to listen to all sorts of music and I think so many people can relate to that as the world is changing. People are moving so much, so listening to different types of music makes us able to connect more.
As an artist I try to listen to my feelings and try to express that I go within. I like spending time alone to write and get everything I am feeling inside out of me.
My influences inspire me to navigate but I just find it more liberating getting my feelings out and I try to express how I feel as much as possible in my music.
What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?
My key ideas are honesty, having fun with it, learning and letting go. It’s a process.
It's never easy but I think with art, whenever I feel pain, there is a lot of light at the end of that process. There is another realm of beauty of hope and so much more that the eyes or soul can’t see but certainly you can feel. So I try to be patient with myself and create something, a feeling, whatever it is, into something that the listener can also feel and enjoy or maybe cry about.
It's never wrong or right. It just is.
How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?
I think originality is appealing and people like to see something that is different. We always want to be inspired and be able to share unique experiences that move us and make us feel something good.
Innovation is also important as time will always change and we are moving constantly, perfection are things that are just greatness. I think timeless music can also have innovation and perfection because those are the best pieces of art, something that can last forever. Time is a construction where we measure different eras but we still always still have the same concept of the unknown and the future with the common goal of imagination and creation.
Tradition is also a great source of knowledge, discipline and celebrating humanity that has been lost or not celebrated enough and continuous or even heard of tradition. Tradition is also education, the learning of different ways. We've been looking for that human connectivity and spirit of community - so many things that can also inspire to design a better future and create inspirational art.
Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?
I mean every instrument is important. I think piano and guitar are fundamental to find chords and to find melodies and percussion and drums, and the bass you need that as your foundation and then you can keep building with more instruments such as strings or brass. The possibilities are endless.
Everything is important to create. I think the beat and melody are the tools to create.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.
I always wake up in the morning with a small prayer or simply saying thank you to be here on earth. I tend to meditate before I start my day. It's the best time of the day to do it.
If I feel like I need more time to reflect, I take my journal and start writing what I feel. It's good to begin the day with releasing feelings.
Then I have breakfast, and then I get on with my day with rehearsal writing or or go to the studio.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?
My creative process is never the same.
I'm always trying to work with my instinct, or writing down ideas and things that inspire me. I use a lot of vision. I can imagine what I want my show to look like, how I want music to sound like. It's all like what you imagine and you already have a vision in your mind of sort of what you want. Sometimes people can come with things that are inspirational and work towards creating the show.
I am always recording ideas or writing. I keep a notebook and my phone to record ideas or to write ideas.
Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?
Both are basically different approaches. I think solitary is essential as it is in solitude that we find ourselves. Working with other people is also great as I think music is about communicating and also learning about ourselves and others. Both are important as music is expression and communication with other musicians. It both a collective energy as much as oneself expression. They all create different fountains of inspiration and interesting ways of creating art.
It's a journey, too … you don't know how you arrive somewhere but eventually you do get there together, it's all a process. Again, you need to have patience to create and free your mind to express and go to places you've never been creatively. That is the aim
How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?
I think in my music I am drawing lines to my roots and the places I grew up and the social significance to break barriers. I think I am always discovering new things in my culture and I am also creating new roads of connection.
I think music is the bridge of humanity, it's where we find ourselves or who we really are. We begin to open our hearts and see we are not different.
Our deep, painful mankind history has other purposes that I really think need to be shaken and dismantled to the ground. We need to realise that we are all souls, we are spirits having a human experience and music is a reminder that we are more than just a social construct.
As a black artist I want to break the stereotypes that they give to Africa, and Latin America and let the world see the light of that beauty of life. Music brings communities forward and celebrates the meaning of life, the gift of life and the long fight for a better tomorrow with the power of music.
Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?
I think art has always been a way to release emotions. Sometimes if we carry heavy emotions and we don’t have a way out it's bad for us. So if we feel like crying we must cry and release those tears. We should not keep them in because it's not healthy.
So I think with music I am able to express my feelings to release pain. I really think within pain there is light and beauty and inspiration. It's like alchemy; you can transfer energy.
There seems to be increasing interest in a functional, “rational” and scientific approach to music. How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?
Music to me is organic, it’s also about chemistry. It ultimately is energy where you directly feel things as we are human.
The connection to me with science is how scientifically music is good for humans. It can energetically and physically improve and restore our bodies and our moods for the better and there is definitely a science behind that. Rational thinking can be good I think, in the sense of organising the music and then also allowing time to let go for imagination to come in. It's a balance of information and breaking the rules. It's a combination of both.
Ultimately, however, you need to just let go and enjoy and just create the music.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing or performing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
I think making music is a process that requires doing it from the heart, with passion and drive and also as a way to release emotions. I think when you make a coffee your purpose is to enjoy the coffee, it's comfort, it’s pleasure. The coffee has a journey from when it's a fruit, through the process of turning it into coffee up until when we buy it. As musicians we are the farmers of the songs: we take care of them until we release them in a record for people to listen. So maybe there is a similarity when you look at it from that angle. But everyone is unique we all share unique ways of seeing things
I think with anything in life it’s practice and trying until you get it. Practice is the mother of science.
Also passion can take you there, the love for music and creation.
Music is vibration in the air, captured by our ear drums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation how it able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?
It’s pretty simple. We are humans and every human can feel different emotions and can relate to a song in their own unique way. That is why music is so powerful. Furthermore we are also vibrating in energy and music is also a vibration. So of course we would be able to connect and transmit energy and vice versa.
You can only go as deep as far as you can meet yourself. So it’s also a journey and also a lesson to heal or just create a union with the divine. The possibilities are endless.