Music Monday: Kadhja Bonet
You’re gonna want to check out Kadhja Bonet’s mix of soul, psych and jazz. “Think Joanna Newsom meets Janelle Monae,” says IndieCurrent. We agree.
This week we focus on the brilliant Kadhja Bonet. The East Bay-raised songstress has a voice reminiscent of the smoothness of Sarah Vaughn mixed with the velvety soul of Roberta Flack. But she takes that classic sound to new, modern heights with a mix of soul, psych and jazz. Now based in Los Angeles, the young songstress has found her niche in that city’s gorgeous modern soul scene, along with distant relatives Kelela and SZA, but with something far different.
In fact, IndieCurrent has one of the most interesting sound comparisons for the young Bonet: “Think Joanna Newsom meets Janelle Monae.” YES. We’re thinking it, we’re hearing it and we’re loving it.
Bonet’s voice is perfect for a mellow Sunday morning — or a sexy night. The plush arrangements on her recent release, The Visitor, showcase her immense talent and ambition with intricate walls of sound.
The middle child of seven children, Bonet grew up surrounded by instruments and singing from her talented musician mother and opera-singing father. She was pressured to study classical violin, but Bonet never found her heart there. In fact, she chose to leave music and pursue school for film.
Like many 25-year-olds, Bonet realized she was unhappy with the direction her life was going and decided to switch artistic gears from film back to music. “I was in film school, I was miserable … and I wasn’t able to express myself,” she told NPR. Rather than fall back into classical music, she chose a different route.
Related: Music Monday Presents: É. Arenas
“I much preferred the gypsy folk music that I would try to incorporate into my training, or klezmer — things like that. So I was kind of rebelling, in my small way, against the classical violin world,” she explained to NPR.
When asked by The Guardian if The Visitor was a concept album, Bonet conceded that it was one — of sorts. “It’s supposed to be a bite out of my journey and evolution,” Bonet explains. “It’s mostly about the events that make you have to redefine yourself and confront yourself and be better at who you’re meant to be. If it was a movie, it would be a coming-of-age film about someone trying to separate themselves form the false reality they’ve created.”
“I had to work hard at sounding like myself,” she explains to The Guardian about finding her sound. “It’s easiest to assume a character if you’re vulnerable — it feels safer to imitate. But after hearing myself sing, I began to recognize, ‘That’s not me, that inflection isn’t me.’ After picking myself apart, I really sing like myself now. I don’t have to think about it anymore.”
For the time being, Bonet and her record label have refused any further interviews. “When you’re baring your soul, there’s a line that needs to be drawn about how much you’re willing to divulge,” Bonet explains to the LA Weekly. “For me, it’s extremely vulnerable and personal to share my music, art and everything that goes with it. I need that boundary.”
While these stripped-down videos sound lush as-is, we encourage you to check out the incredible tapestry of sound she has woven in The Visitor, available below or right here. Bonet plays the violin, viola, flute and guitar, and she enlisted the help of fellow L.A. psych-soul musician Low Leaf for harp and Itai Shapira on bass (with assistant producer, co-engineer, and co-mixing credits).
“I hope these songs allow people to understand themselves a little more … that the stories are relatable enough for them to make jumps in their own lives … to start asking themselves more questions,” Bonet tells LA Weekly of The Visitor. “I can’t wait for everyone to be themselves.”
With such a gentle love of music and humanity, how could you not want to jump right in to Bonet’s music?