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Meet The Musos: Get To Know Soulful Sydney Star Awa Mbaye

15 June 2023 | 3:01 pm | Staff

Here’s what you need to know about pop/R&B artist Awa Mbaye following her latest track 'Black Girl Magic'.

Awa Mbaye

Awa Mbaye (Source: Supplied)

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Following her latest release, I <3 U (I Love You), Awa Mbaye returns with Black Girl Magic and today shares the exclusive release of the official music video with Purple Sneakers.

Mbaye (Uh-wuh Mmm-bye), From Eora/Sydney survives on a diet of pubs and playlists soundtracking a world on fire. Her musical mission is to paint a place where both her and her listeners feel empowered to finesse their own identity rather than have it decided for them. Curating a bouquet of dance, R&B, indie and alt-pop, Mbaye’s sonic direction hooks you with an unexpected focus. Navigating themes of selfhood, self-love and a revivified social contract, Mbaye is here, on her own terms, with a voice that will do anything but stay quiet.

"I wrote Black Girl Magic when I was freshly 19 (about three years ago) and it’s still one of my favourite songs that I’ve written," she says of the new tune. "I’ve grown up in predominantly white spaces and as a mixed race kid it was definitely not easy but my mum was my biggest supporter and always taught me to love everything about myself and my culture.

"I think I wrote this song as a love letter to myself as a reminder for every hard time I’ve been through because of my race and as an anthem for individuality."

Black Girl Magic was written by Awa Mbaye, Jatayu Mudana and produced by Sydney producer Bobby Gray. It is a sharp soul tune about growing up being black in predominantly white spaces but it’s also a celebration of the beauty of blackness and blackness as a whole, with the video being co-directed by Yaw & Yewande and brought to life with the video team.

Awa, How are you today? Are you excited about the release of the Black Girl Magic video?

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Hey! I’m great thanks! So incredibly excited for the Black Girl Magic music video to be out in the world.

Who did you work with to bring this video to life?

I worked with an amazing team of people on this video! It was conceptualised and produced by Yewande and co-directed by her and Yaw (Yawdoesitall). I think having two people of colour who could really understand the message of the song co-directing really steered the video in the direction I had always imagined, and turned it into something we’re all incredibly proud of. 

I also want to thank Muhib Faris (DOP), Charlie Peiffer (first AC), Catherine McCord (gaffer), Bobby Gray (editor), Newman Gan (colourist) and Benny Johnson (set assistant and BTS). Everyone involved was so lovely to work with and really made this project come alive! 

What’s the most unusual or unexpected source of inspiration you’ve drawn from when writing a song?

Honestly one of the most unusual sources of inspiration is one that I’ve had happen recently. It’s a bit of a weird one but I was having a bit of a panic attack downstairs in my living room, and one of my housemates saw me and asked what was wrong. Sometimes during these moments I get paranoia and vivid hallucinations so I explained to my housemate what was happening and she came with me to my room and helped me check under the bed and in my closet for “demons”. Ended up writing a dance song about it called Paranoia.

Who are some of your biggest musical influences and how have they impacted your own sound and style?

I grew up loving Janelle Monae which threw me into a deep dive of artists such as Tkay Maidza, Sampa The Great and Joy Crookes. They just resonated with me, something clicked. Recently Remi Wolf has been greatly influential. her chaotic energy and weirdness is something that drew me to her and something that I’ve admired and drawn inspiration from in a lot of my music and day to day life. 

If you could only listen to one album for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

That’s such a hard question! Only one album for the rest of my life… Probably Shea Butter Baby by Ari Lennox. She wrote that album to uplift women of colour and took the over-sexualisation of women of colour and their bodies and turned it into an empowering message, which is why Shea Butter Baby was the first tattoo I got.

Any gig horror stories for our readers?

Honestly in my years of gigging I’ve been pretty lucky with all them. I’ve never really had a horror experience. 

What are your plans for the remainder of 2023 release-wise?

I’ve got two more releases planned for this year, which I’m very excited for – both co-written by Jatayu Mudana and produced by Bobby Gray