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.