We hear a lot of stereotypes about Gen Z, but 21-year-old and self-described “old soul” HAWA seems to ﬁnd outside herself most boxes that people try to put her in. From growing up in Guinea, to entering into the musical industry by way of the New York Philharmonic, to her love for Tracy Chapman, HAWA’s story as an artist is one that’s not seen too often. For HAWA, it’s just her life.
HAWA was born in Berlin, but spent most of her early life growing up with family in Conakry, Guinea. At age 9, HAWA’s mother made her leave for New York to avoid being aﬀected by the region’s deep-rooted inequities, like all the women in her family had generations prior. Nevertheless, she remains steadfast about her African identity.
At age 10, with no prior knowledge of classical music, HAWA received an opportunity to join a music composition program with the New York Philharmonic that marked the beginning chapter of her remarkable ascension. While many play their ﬁrst shows to empty rooms in sparsely-ﬁlled clubs, HAWA’s immense aptitude for writing music allowed her to perform with the Philharmonic at prestigious institutions like the Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall. At 15, HAWA ended her time as the orchestra’s youngest ever composer to focus on her own sound. At 16, she scraped together a few cheap cables and a microphone intended for EA Sports video games and learned how to record her ﬁrst tracks. About a year later, HAWA signed a deal with 4AD.
This was a turning point for HAWA and her family– her whole life, her parents believed music was more of a hobby than a career. Signing a record deal at 17, she explains while poking fun at her mom, meant that she oﬃcially couldn’t become a doctor and therefore couldn’t be shown oﬀ in Africa.
After a series of successful singles, HAWA released her critically-acclaimed debut EP the ONE in March 2020. She takes pride in the ﬂuidity of her own sound and enjoys when people can’t ascribe a singular genre, traversing eﬀortlessly between Rap, R&B, Afrobeat, and beyond. Aside from performing in Telfar’s Pitti Uomo fashion show in Florence, atop an ornate table for the likes of Solange, Kelela, and Juliana Huxtable, and grabbing Vogue’s attention at the Gap x Telfar’s event in Paris, the 21-year-old prodigy has not even begun to scratch the surface of her prowess with The ONE.
HAWA has experienced exponential growth over the last 3 years, with features in Oﬃce Magazine, W Magazine, and BRICK. Beyond notable collaborations with producers Cadenza and Tony Seltzer, HAWA’s track MY LOVE landed in HBO’s outstanding series I May Destroy You.
HAWA’s artistry continues to expand, we look forward to her debut full length album HADJA BANGOURA. Dedicated to her great grandmother that passed away this year, the project is an album on reﬂection– on the people and journey that got her here, to the toxic traits about herself and others that came to surface in a pandemic-induced moment of stillness, and on her general sense of desire. HADJA BANGOURA is set for release with 4AD in 2022.