K.ZIA is that rare artist that blurs the lines, she defies genre and manages to fuse R&B, Soul and Pop music in a truly unique and inspiring way. Born in Brussels and currently based in Berlin, she is very much a citizen of the world.
Her father is from Martinique and her Belgo-Congolese mother the internationally acclaimed Zap Mama. She has lived a life amongst many cultures and has travelled the world of music. She describes herself as Afro-European but to try to put this incredible artist in any kind of box would be a mistake.
I had the honour to ask K.ZIA some questions and I hope her beautiful answers inspire you to seek her out and join her on an amazing journey.
EP: Your new project is called Genesis. There’s an obvious suggestion of beginning, of creation. Does this indicate a move away from your past material or is it more to do with your ongoing voyage of discovery and the beginning of understanding the duality of K.ZIA and ZIA?
K.ZIA: I Wouldn’t say I am actively moving away from the past. The past is a part of me, it’s been the preparation to where I am now. So indeed definitely more of on ongoing voyage and the beginning of a new cycle.
Some people say every seven years your mind, body and spirit transition into a new state.
I am turning 28 this year, it’s the fourth cycle of my life and I truly feel like it’s a new beginning. I say the beginning of “anything” as I have no idea what the future holds for me; it’s exciting.
I feel like a grown (still to evolve) woman now.
I feel like I have a clearer view on my artistry and place as a human on earth.
I have found my life intention, so this is the start of a new path I am walking.
EP: The video introduction to Genesis is beautiful and shows the dichotomy of personality, of sexuality, that rages within so many of us. How do you balance keeping your feet on the ground and your head in the sky, how do you balance the two spirits of a mother spirit and a wild spirit, gentle warmth and burning fire?
K.ZIA: Something I wasn’t ever able to relate to or adapt to, in our western, modern society is having to put everything in boxes, labelled. Humans are much more than just this or that. And while digging deep into myself, I found out that there was more to me than I knew and decided to let all of my parts express themselves instead of trying to round out all my edges to fit in one mood/genre/energy. So how do I let all these things live freely and how do I let both K.ZIA stay grounded and ZIA with her head in the sky ? I guess every moment and situation has it’s best reaction/way to deal with it. Sometimes gentleness will work more than strength, but sometimes a fire will be more efficient than warmth. I believe I have to listen, keep my heart and third eye open to best feel how to move about in this world.
EP: You speak of reconnection. Sometimes if you take somebody’s hand quickly, the hold that you have is adequate but uncomfortable but if you ‘disconnect to reconnect’, let go to get a firmer hold, you find the connection you have is comfortable and firm. Is that how you feel with your music, with your approach to ‘Genesis’.
K.ZIA: Absolutely. Not only with music though but my whole existence. Younger I had fixed views, plans, opinions that had to be unlearnt. I indeed let go, to allow myself the space to have new things enter my mind, and get a better grasp. I hope I’ll find the time and energy to do this several more times in my life as I grow.
But yes, at the end of the day, my music is a translation of my life and mindset so of course it also translates into the music.
EP: The new single, ‘Sanctuary’, speaks about love being the remedy, and hate being the enemy. In the UK at the moment we have had a sad and racist reaction to black English football players missing penalties in the Euros. It was incredible to see the hate met by a wave of love for the players from all over the country. What was the inspiration for the message of love and hope in the lyrics and especially in the mantra at the conclusion of the song?
K.ZIA: Sanctuary’s story was created with two good friends of mine, Lavon and Sedric. I told them I wanted to have a song about a safe space, a place where we are free to be ourselves and together we embrace our differences and celebrate love. I gave them a list of words amongst which was “Sanctuary” and the mantra that you find at the end of the song. They created this beautiful song to which I said “yall really got me” when they first showed me the draft version of the track. The mantra at the end of the song was written a few weeks prior, when I was trying to define what I want to be about as a human and artist. I’ve created my own guidelines and bible with the values I want to constantly refer to and go back to, in order to stay on track. The ultimate goal is to reach a point where I can detach myself fully from narcissistic ego-led emotions and feelings and only move with Gentleness, love and empathy.
EP: On a more general note, who would you say are your musical inspirations? And, given that your very much a citizen of the world, have you found inspiration in many different cultures?
K.ZIA: Very much so, I got a lot of input which makes it difficult for me to name a top 5, but to name a few : Zap Mama, my mother of course as my number one inspiration, and then artists like Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, Beyonce, Michael Jackson, Etta James, Alicia Keys, alongside Opera singing and Bollywood Movie songs.
EP: You are based in Berlin at the moment I believe; what made you choose this City of unification as a home at the moment and where are the places you call home?
K.ZIA: I used to pass through Berlin from time to time to go to another city close by and it’s like the soul of Berlin was always calling me somehow. I had the feeling it was a place I needed to be in. So in 2017 I decided to do it in Berlin an allow myself to experience it during an internship I had to do for my master’s degree. Almost 5 years later, I’m still here. It’s been an amazing experience and I am very grateful for the exchanges and people I’ve met. It’s the first place in my life where, despite not being German and/or speaking the language I felt like I belonged. Strangely. I think it’s because a lot of people who don’t belong elsewhere come to Berlin to be “free” or discover themself in this open minded city. And that spirit and environment felt like home.
EP: Your videos tend to have a real story telling quality to them. Are you very involved with the visual representation of your music.
K.ZIA: I love storytelling and cinema. It’s something I’m really looking forward to implement even more in the future, I want to make short films and cinematographic music videos with parts with no music and just a story being told. I love to act as well and am very hyped about developing that side of my artistry.
Another thing I love, is Fashion. Being an independent artist limits me sometimes in the creation of my universes because of budget limitation but I want to explore fashion and cinema. Visual arts are strong communicative tools and tickets to journeys in any world imaginable.
Bringing that and music together is a killer piece of art to me. I am indeed very involved in the visual representation of my universe and am so excited to bring more and more artists on the journey whether they be graphic designer, fashion designer, sound designers, directors, photographers … you name it!
EP: The title of your single ‘J’fais mes Bails’ is quite a street expression and is not easily translated into English. How would you describe the sentiment behind the song and do you find singing in French fulfilling because of nuanced expressions like ‘J’fais mes bails’? With your wonderfully diverse background, do you have a favourite language to sing in or does it depend on the message?
K.ZIA: These are great questions by the way 🙂
So I’d translate J’fais mes bails into “I do my thing”. Zia is someone that lives unapologetically. She knows her values and will not bend herself to try to explain or justify her ways to ignorant or close minded people who criticize and downgrade when they don’t understand the other. That’s the vibe of the song “des fois je fais des choses qui ne sont pas trop acceptés, je connais mes valeurs je ne vais pas m’éxcuser” – Sometimes I do things that aren’t quite accepted, I know my values I won’t apologize for it”.
While growing up in France very often I was perceived as strange, coming from an artistic background and having grown in foreign countries. Younger, i would try so hard to blend in, and detach myself from all these eccentric traits. Today, I no longer do that, this is what “JFMB” is about 🙂
Singing in French and English is very different indeed. When I was in Primary and middle school, I was in private schools. When I moved to France for Highschool I went to public schools.
During those two periods of my life i was surrounded by people from very different social, ethnical and environmental backgrounds. When I speak French I’m a lot more “street” and a lot louder, when I speak English I’m a lot calmer and laid back and that also translates in my music.
EP: Can we hope to see you play live in the UK anytime soon. I personally can’t wait to see you sing these songs live?
K.ZIA: Hopefully soon, things are starting to open up again. My management and I are really looking forward to being able to plan live shows around the globe <3.
EP: Finally, is there a release date planned for the new project? Are you planning a full length album soon?
K.ZIA: Yes Genesis is going to be an album, my first; where both ZIA and K.ZIA will be expressing themselves… and it looks like the album will be shared with the world this winter 🙂