Here To Be Honoured: Alewya Interviewed

"I believe in divine timing..."

“My dreams are so big,” Alewya says emphatically on the other end of a Zoom call. The artist and singer-songwriter speaks with a quiet confidence as she discusses her goals and future plans, as if she’s waiting to unleash something that she knows will turn heads and blow minds simultaneously. And it’s not a reach to make such a statement; she has, after all, been poised and ready since her explosive debut ‘Sweating’ dropped only a few months into lockdown.

“I believe in divine timing and I think the pandemic actually was the perfect moment for me to launch as an artist and begin my journey,” Alewya says. “But there's a process and as things expand more and more, I definitely have a vision of what I want the Alewya experience to be.”

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Alewya’s unique vision has so far led her down a fruitful path. Before ‘Sweating’, her voice appeared on ‘Where’s My Lighter’ – a track that would find its way onto Little Simz’ 2020 EP ‘Drop 6’. Then there was the Honey Dijon remix of ‘Sweating’, a mention on the Dazed 100 in 2021, a collaboration with Mercury-nominated drummer, composer and producer Moses Boyd and a slot opening for Little Simz on her 2021 UK and Ireland tour.

So when her debut EP ‘Panther In Mode’ arrived towards the end of last year, there was no question of its potential to position Alewya as one of the UK’s most intriguing new talents – a huge achievement for any artist, let alone one that only became known to most a year earlier. The EP’s first two singles, ‘Spirit_X’ and ‘Play’, were less about hinting at what to expect from ‘Panther In Mode’ and more to do with Alewya’s statement of intent as an artist, and of her desire to emphasise her independent spirit.

“Every choice that has been made in terms of what songs come out has really been quite instinctive,” she explains. “I wanted to establish my freedom as an artist before anyone thinks that they can expect anything from me. As artists, we deserve to have our freedom to explore and do whatever the fuck we want.”  

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Here To Be Honoured: Alewya Interviewed

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Alewya’s music overflows with the sounds of her upbringing and many disparate influences. On the one hand, you can hear Arabic and Ethiopian motifs and melodies and on the other, the gritty sounds of the west London underground; her commanding vocals and lyrics always remaining front and centre. This is perhaps most evident on ‘Ethiopia’, the track chosen for her recent COLORS debut.

“The song is so special, because number one, it was produced by Shy FX [who is also Alewya’s manager] and also because my mum helped me write the Amharic bits. I know my roots and they're here to be honoured. If I'm going to claim any country, it's going to be my mother's land. It's going to be the land that I come from and the land that all this creative blood comes from.”

This amalgamation of influences comes pretty naturally to Alewya, but as a multimedia artist, so too does the idea of taking listeners on a creative journey, from start to finish. As she explains, aesthetics and visuals are a significant part of her overall artistry. – “I think as humans, we are so sensory. There's a picture being painted that I really want to get across and I don't want to just make it 2D; I want to make it 3D. By doing this, I can understand more of who I am and the process becomes the best bit for me.”

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Here To Be Honoured: Alewya Interviewed

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‘Panther In Mode’ may be just the beginning for Alewya, but there’s no sign of her stopping anytime soon. She jokes that she wants everyone to temporarily forget about her existence until the next project drops but if anything, this sounds like the talk of someone getting into the zone, preparing for their next big move.

“It really is my driving force,” she says of the future and of her hopes for making music and art against a different kind of backdrop. “The one thing people are going to really need is some form of art to connect us again, because the world is getting more and more artificial. I really think art is the thing that's going to remind us of us and I think artists are starting to clock that. I'm loving the way we're reclaiming what our role is in society.”

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Words: Arusa Qureshi
Photography: Hendrik Schneider
Fashion: Lee Trigg

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