Today we’d like to introduce you to Nailah Hunter.
Nailah, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
Music was always important to my parents, and they have always had really eclectic tastes in music. I was listening to anything from Curtis Mayfield, Sade & Dr. Buzzards Original Savannah Band to Chicago & Queen from a young age. As I went through elementary school at a Lutheran church in K-Town, I developed a love for the early and sacred music we were made to sing in the choir there, which led to my personal exploration of baroque & classical music. I’d go to the Central library and check out CDs and scores every week. Music by composers like Handel, Purcell, Rameau were my bread and butter. This love for “classical” music reinforced my love for piano and made me curious about composition. I got heavy into film scores by the age of 12. Movies like Lord of the Rings, Spirited Away, and that BBC version of The Chronicles of Narnia were sources of inspiration, as well as destinations for comfort from the outside world. I’d always loved storybooks, fairy tales, and all things fantasy for the way they made me feel safe, and this music gave that feeling a sound. I was pretty angsty in my youth, and whenever I got angry or felt upset I’d go to our old upright piano and play a theme from a Miyazaki movie, or write a melodramatic little instrumental about my feelings. Very triple water sign ~ (Double Scorpio, Cancer Moon). By the time I was 13, I had joined the church band as the drummer and picked up playing acoustic guitar. That’s when I really got into lyrical songwriting. This continued all through high school when, I eventually joined a band. Once I graduated, I ended up studying music at CalArts, with a focus in classical voice. And that’s also where I began my harp journey.
Can you give our readers some background on your art?
I like to think of myself as a sonic explorer, on a quest to expose the magical relationship between sound, light, and color. I’ve never been officially diagnosed, but I’m a bit of a synesthete. I’ve always associated certain chords and their various voicings with very specific colors since I can remember. I’m sometimes overwhelmed by the feeling of certain colors. So my art is often working to release the hues I’ve been filling up with.
I still write songs on piano, but harp is the instrument I’ve been playing the most these days. It’s my usual choice when I want to write a song because it’s primal and uniquely ethereal sound immediately calls forth that natural, old world, magic filled fantasy realm I love to revel in. Some topics I’ve been exploring in my writing lately; the sound of moonlight, bodies of water as portals, the history of moonstone amulets, and prophetic tears. I like to weave in metaphors from Greek mythology, Arthurian Legend, spell books, tarot, and the Bible, into my songwriting.
Recently, I’ve been working on a couple film scores with my harp and that’s been very exciting! Definitely a dream fulfilled.
I also play harp for sound baths and guided meditations around the city (group and private). Harp is an extremely powerful tool for sound healing and has been played to foster relaxation for a long time. Even just as the player, each time you pluck a string, you’re encouraging your own healing, as the vibrations go directly from the sound holes to your heart! Along with crystal singing bowls, pan drums, chimes, and my vocal fx/looping station, I create sonic landscapes that invite listeners to be still, mindful, and journey within. In these sonic environments, I aim to hold space for healing, by providing respite from the mindless noise we all experience in our day today.
My art is about healing. My art is about creating safe and lovely places for the mind, body, and soul to rest. My art is about reminding others of their capacity to be soft in a world that encourages & rewards the opposite.
I hope that people experience my art are reminded to go outside and appreciate the sun and the moon and our planet. I also hope to encourage other black girls to play the harp! We obviously can’t forget legends like Dorothy Ashby & Alice Coltrane, or living harp hero Brandee Younger. But, historically, the instrument has been reserved for the wealthy, white, elite crowd. Representation is important! I want to work towards decolonizing the instrument, and raising awareness that harp is for EVERYONE~
Do you think conditions are generally improving for artists? What more can cities and communities do to improve conditions for artists?
I think life has become easier for artists in the sense that social media gives you the ability to gain a larger audience in less time, and allows you to find like minded individuals with the click of button. But social media is also toxic and it’s intense that you “have to” engage social media to make the most out of your career these days. It’s always encoring when I hear other artists feel the same way, though!
What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
I’ve got an album coming out next year, but for now, listen to my single Apple, Maple, Willow on any of the streaming platforms! You can also follow me on Soundcloud for little gems that will drop between now and the album release. I am on Instagram @nailah.hunter, though I struggle with / am exhausted by that platform. I do post about my performances and events there!
Email me to set up a group or private sound bath. I also teach voice, piano, and beginner harp – so if you or a loved one has been looking to start music lessons, let’s do it!
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: nailah.hunter
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