Behind the Songs: Adja Cutting Emotions With ‘Ironeye’
Brussels singer-songwriter Adja Fassa, more known as just Adja, is the latest edition to Sound of Life’s “Behind the Songs” series, where we get the artiste to share stories behind the creation of the tracks from their latest project.
The rising Belgium artiste released her debut EP titled Ironeye recently under the Sdban Ultra label.
She calls herself the “sophisticated soul in a hybrid concert format”. Her live shows also have a theatrical element to them, where she tells stories, accompanied by the sensory elements of scent and symbolic images.
Her voice commands sensuality that is reminiscent of soul artistes such as Lianne La Havas and Erykah Badu. At the same time, she explores spirituality in the present through her music that touches on jazz, soul, gospel and her transforming reality to make her spiritual path as tangible as possible.
From studying theatre at KASK in Ghent to immersing herself in yoga and other practices in India and Nepal before going back to Belgium to study jazz and vocals at Leuven Conservatory, there’s no questioning her ability to touch souls with her music.
“I am exploring what 'spirituality' means in this society, in the here and now,” Adja says about her music.
“This, by not only treating it as an elusive abstract thing but exploring how to make it as tangible as possible, which for myself means sharing sincere self-reflection with the outside world.”
We can’t wait to see what else Adja has in store, but for now, let’s get acquainted with her five-track EP Ironeye, as told by the artiste herself.
‘TOLD YOU SO’
“Told You So” is the first song I actually finished writing.
Like many other artistes, I found myself over the years with snippets of stories I wanted to tell or emotions I wanted to express through song, but never getting further than either capturing the core of the story, but not being able to properly narrate the context leading up to it.
Or, the other way around.
With “Told You So”, the core-message was clear: my own soul – and simultaneously grandma’s spirit – telling me, “If hollow-hearted the goal, then quick is the fall.”
While writing this song, I allowed myself to create a storyline that wasn’t linear, but to merely put together different scenarios that led to the same message, building up or flowing from the essence of the story.
In hindsight, it seems like a trivial thing to “allow” to write or compose in a non-linear narrative, but I come from a theatre-background, if that tells you anything.
At the same time I discovered what fulfils me within the realm of theater and performance, my music started to flow as well.
‘TO BE NAIVE’
“To Be Naive” is a funny one, because I sang it in literally one go, as an ironic improvisation.
The irony with which I sang/created this lovesong (the only one on the EP) allowed me the freedom to go cuckoo in the story, where the person, experiencing “being in love” for the first time, says things like, “I can’t even remember if we’ve ever met, but you’ll make me cry, even if it means I’ll stab my own eyes.”
Afterwards, I noticed that, the more I sang it, the more I identified with it and embraced the fact that yes, I too was once a hopelessly naive first time lover – and I am grateful for it.
‘DEFAULT MODE (INTERLUDE)’
As written, this one is an interlude and signifies a couple of things for me.
The song speaks of the standard distrust I notice people around me have towards others they don’t know (including myself) despite the fact that, in my experience, most of us have more in common than we have differences.
I don’t mean to be wide-eyed nor to diminish the vast differences in life-experiences we can all have. I’m talking about baseline humanity: fears, dreams, desires.
For any Westerner reading, this standard distrust towards strangers is not a baseline attitude inherent to humans everywhere (I am thinking of the shared experience I, for one, had where I travel and “people were just generally so kind”).
But where I grew up – Belgium – the baseline attitude towards strangers is most definitely “respectful but cautious”.
This song, or rather, intermezzo, speaks of this distrust and simultaneous understanding of our similarities.
Secondly, the presence of his interlude on the EP symbolises my personal process of sharing the creative journey with people, rather than the end-result. Something I struggle(d) with.
Including “Default Mode” was therefore an act of celebrating the process and my own ongoing evolution.
Credit: Robert Keza
A song about shadow work: the first line is sung by my shadow-self, inviting me to “embrace the night”, that symbolises those parts of myself which I fear.
“Tell me when you’re ready, so that we can leave the day behind. I ask her, ‘Keep it steady,’ coz I wanna get it right.”
This is meant to show that my demons lie within perfectionism and, as mentioned, a fear of sharing a creative process as opposed to an end-result, out of a fear that I didn’t dive deep enough and what I end up sharing is superficial or frivolous.
Those fears don’t hold up when I look at them closer, but they seem to still act as reflexes. Writing or composing is one of the ways I work on those “shadows of the self”.
‘WHAT WE ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO FEEL’
I wrote this song as a “translation” of another song that touches me deeply.
This song is sung in Japanese and I did not translate the words, but rather what I think she (the singer) is singing about – or the emotions I feel when I listen to it.
It ended up to be a song that, to me, embodies the moment of standing still and letting go of a chapter in your inner journey, before starting a new one.
Get behind more projects with Behind the Songs.
This feature of Behind The Songs was created with 9PR.
Cover Credit: Nathan Dobbelaere
Elevate the way you listen to music with KEF
Writer | Kevin Yeoh
When he isn’t making sure Sound of Life stories are published in a timely manner, Kevin enjoys wandering aimlessly in Kuala Lumpur city, going down the YouTube rabbit hole and discovering new music.