Born in Uganda and raised in Canada, the story of Juliet and Hanifa (together known as NAJUAH) has been built on the power of dreams, and pure faith.
After the release of their newest single, the sisters sit with us, and take us through their journey, and how their faith has helped with the realization of their dreams.
T.H.E – Hi guys! Welcome to T.H.E – Music Essentials. How has 2019 kicked off for you?
NAJUAH – It’s been amazing so far, to be honest. We have been putting in the work and hoping that it pays off. You must work to make your dreams a reality. Our motto for 2019 is live with love, therefore we plan to put love into everything we do. We plan to live with the intention of love in every aspect of our lives. We feel people often forget the importance of doing what you love and putting love into it or approaching your work with love as well as yourself. It allows you to get rid of the negativity and doubts that we all have.
T.H.E – Let’s talk about your musical background. Were you always musically inclined? How did you discover your passion to become a musician?
NAJUAH – We grew up listening to African music. There is not a time we can remember where music wasn’t playing in the house, where our mom or aunts weren’t dancing or singing. Ugandans love music, it’s a part of who we are, it is spiritual, it’s a gift from our ancestors. Music to us is a story and a life lesson. We both played instruments in elementary school, we both played the flute.
“I took flute lessons, musical theatre, and opera as well. I remember my teachers would push me to sing. They said I can do this. I don’t think I knew then, that this would be my path, but here we are. I look back and see where life was leading me.” – Hanifa
“Yes, we both sang in choirs in school as well. We are lucky that we went to schools where expressing yourself through music is possible.” – Juliet
“It’s definitely where it started, from our home, to the school. As we got older we obviously got into different types of music from Country, to Rock, to Punk, to Hip Hop, and dance.” – Hanifa
“We love it all, so we definitely bring all of that into what we do.” – Juliet
T.H.E – Having been raised in Ontario Canada, how did that play a role in your journey, to become musicians?
NAJUAH – In Canada, when we were growing up we had great music programs at the school. We feel that made a big difference. A lot of kids don’t get to experience this or won’t due to cuts in programs. Toronto has a great music scene, a lot of talented musicians live here. We get to work with so many great musicians and live music venues support indie artists.
“Something as simple as going to the music store to buy a keyboard, it’s what led us to where we are. The guy who owned the music store had a friend with a studio who told us to come by. From there we ended up recording our first song and it sort of rippled into more! So yes, it’s a great music community, you just never know who you are going to meet and what that may lead to.” – Hanifa
T.H.E – Which artists inspired you at that time?
NAJUAH – We listened to a lot of rock and soul growing up and singer-songwriters such as Tom Petty, The Doors, Heart, Prince, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, and Janet Jackson, Fleetwood Mac or anything 90s. The 1990s, it was a time when it just had the best of every genre.
T.H.E – As a duo – NAJUAH, how would you define your sound?
NAJUAH – We try not to limit ourselves. I mean we are two black girls, more people expect RnB or something, which is cool, but we aren’t okay with being defined by something because of what we look like. Music should be about what sounds good. We see ourselves as eclectic; I guess you could call it pop which is pretty much a mixture of genres. Artists should make the music they want to make you know.
T.H.E – Your new single – Running sounds extremely fresh! How long was it in the works, and what does the title of the track signify?
“We worked on this song with Donovan Jarvis, he is a producer based out of Atlanta. Hanifa found him Instagram.” – Juliet
“Yes, everyone seems to be on Instagram these days! We spoke to Donovan and told him the vibe, we wanted him to include African elements in the instrumental. We wanted something with a smooth grove that you could drive to on a long road trip. We wrote the song and melodies here, we sent things back and forth to each other. It took about maybe 2 months to complete the song. We recorded in Toronto, and he produced in Atlanta then it was mixed Miami by Gary Noble who mixed Amy Winehouse’s records and mastered in New York by Emily Lazar an incredible engineer, you have heard her work on SIA’s records.” – Hanifa
T.H.E – What are some of the most difficult challenges you have faced?
“As Hanifa mentioned, people want to equate what you look like with how you should sound if you are a woman of colour. Being Canadian and Ugandan, that’s what you know and so the music reflects this. We often hear people say good music, you surprised us we thought you would be more RnB, we know that’s a visual thing they see.” – Juliet
“We are not going to pretend. We are proud to be Ugandan Canadians and love our city Toronto. We are just going to do our best at that moment and just put the music out there. We feel that’s what music lovers want. Generally, it’s not listeners or the fans that have these views though. Once you put your music out you realize it doesn’t matter, if it’s good people will love it. Just be authentic.” – Hanifa
T.H.E – As musicians, it’s difficult to find inspiration daily. How do you guys manage it?
“Life, in general, inspires me. I write every day for my lifestyle website and other publications. So my day is never dull, whether I am going to events or discovering something to write about or checking out new places. There is an inspiration in every moment, you just have to pay attention and be present. Get off your phone and live in real-time.” – Hanifa
“We love to travel. When we go back to Uganda to visit our family, Africa, Uganda is beautiful, it’s inspiring, all the sounds, the people. Hanifa calls it the true city that never sleeps. You need to look beyond yourself sometimes, this helps you take in life and get inspired.” – Juliet
T.H.E – Lastly, what can you tell us about your plans for 2019?
NAJUAH – We plan to share as much music a possible. Do more shows and you know hopefully become all the things we imagine we can be as artists. Who knows maybe we will do a song with Cardi B or something?! We are open to all the great possibilities that will come our way. You can’t predict everything but we know that it will be a great year.