The rising songstress opens up on her new album.

FULL LOOK Bevza, NECKLACE Bernard James

FULL LOOK Bevza, NECKLACE Bernard James

After the success of her debut album, HADJA BANGOURA, HAWA is finding joy in the unknown. “There’s nothing scripted right now, I’m just making music. It’s really fun,” she pauses. “It’s too much fun.” For someone who spent five years working on composition and classical music, a break from structure is now a creative focus for her, naturally.

At 22, HAWA has already explored multiple careers. Yet, in no way is she a quitter. Growing up in Guinea, the artist moved to New York with her family and quickly joined the New York Philharmonic at the mere age of 10. Over a five-year span, she developed her prodigious skills in music composition, leading to a moment of enlightenment integral in paving her a path towards the spotlight: “I wanted to be able to sing. I wanted to be on stage. I wanted to be the star.”

This pursuit, after careful development of her sound, landed HAWA a record deal, acting as the perfect segue to an EP and, eventually, the 2022 release of HADJA BANGOURA. Named after her late great grandmother, this was HAWA’s dissertation – the culmination of years of research and drafts. The sound that HAWA has taken years to develop, and is still developing, is a beautiful union of the freedom she finds in creating music and the control she hones from her years in classical composition. It’s innovative, genre-crossing and unique, though to HAWA, it resembles a soundtrack she’s had on repeat since childhood. The sounds she creates have been in her memory and subconscious for as long as she remembers, and when she is finally able to get it on a track, it’s as if “the world has been taken off [her] shoulders.”

Perhaps that is why HADJA BANGOURA feels so intimate, and why the album serves as a vessel for HAWA to illustrate her world. One which is filled with the themes of grief, desire, self-doubt, and isolation. Take “EN ROUTE”, HAWA’s personal favourite, designed to embody the feeling of falling in love. “When you like somebody and when you think of them you get woozy or dizzy – when I listen to that song, that’s how I feel. It could be a rainy day, but it makes me feel like I’m falling in love with someone. It brings back the best times in your life, where you felt the most loved or the most secure.”

(LEFT) HAT & PANTS Theophilio, NECKLACE Laura Lombardi (RIGHT) FULL LOOK Telfar

HAT & PANTS Theophilio, NECKLACE Laura Lombardi FULL LOOK Telfar

Breaking away from her own comfort zone, however, HAWA’s current goal is to fully embrace the freedom – or as she calls it, the “mess” – of her sound. “Sonically, I really recorded my songs to be fucking free. But you know, I was very controlling. You can kind of hear it. It’s messy, but it’s a controlled mess. And now I’m trying to just be able to have a mess without feeling the need to control everything,” she divulges candidly. “Having a classical background is very hard. When I look at music, I’m a very big perfectionist. And that sometimes can hold me back because it doesn’t allow me to move on to something else until I actually feel like I’ve mastered it to a certain point.”

Upon reflection, HAWA’s personal growth mirrors the growth of the music industry: a sphere that has become more creative and less restrictive as it morphs to reflect those that operate within it. “I like the way the industry is going now because you can make your own fucking world. If the algorithms don’t work for you, it’s perfectly fine. I don’t want to be put on the algorithm. I find it to be boring. I want to be part of something that’s creative. I want to have my own space in this industry. I don’t have to try to go viral. I just want to make my music and mind my business.”

True to her word, HAWA’s plan remains fixed: to build a world, her “own little universe in this industry,” full of raw conversations, freedom, and great music. If her recording sessions and music video sets are any indication (which include Telfar Clemens, African music, smoke sessions, and great food), she is well on her way to achieving this goal. “I want to come into this industry and burn it down,” she happily declares before heading back to the studio. “I want to make a mess.

FULL LOOK Diesel, NECKLACE & RINGS Bernard James

FULL LOOK Diesel, NECKLACE & RINGS Bernard James
Eli Wirija at Ab Ovo Management
Mel Reneé Leamon
Sophie Wang
Editorial Director
Huw Gwyther
Erica Rana
Deputy Editor
Ella West
Eunice Kristen at E.D.M.A
Chika Nishiyama at 87 Artists
Art Directors
Livia Vourlakidou, Aparna Aji, Harry Fitzgerald
Production Director
Ben Crank
Isabella Coleman
Production Intern
Frankie Baumer
Creative Direction
Keenan Macwilliam
Set Design
Sarah Favreau
Floral Assistant
Colin Favre
On-set Production
Carolin Ramsauer at Ab Ovo Management
On-set Production Assistant
Lissie Zhang
Jacob Cooper
Ko David