What She Said: “I Make Music For Bad Bitches”

| Her
December 16, 2020

Navigating life as a woman in the world today is interesting. From Nigeria to Timbuktu, it’ll amaze you how similar all our experiences are. Every Wednesday, women the world over will share their experiences on everything from sex to politics right here. This is Zikoko’s What She Said.

The subject of this week’s What She Said is Amaarae, a 26-year-old Afro-fusion musician. She talks about how her relationships shaped the person she is now, her newly-released album and what it’s like being managed by her mum.

How would you define your music?

Three words: confidence, fearlessness and freedom of expression. I had described my album on Twitter once as “Nonstop incantations and affirmations for bad bitches.” For me what that meant was I found how I wanted to express myself and what I wanted my message to be through working on this project. I just want to share that with my audience. Whether you’re male or female, it’s supposed to make you feel good — like you can achieve and conquer. 

Tell me about confidence. Why is that a specific reaction you want people to have?

In this life, confidence is the driver to anything — you can do anything you want once you have it. Without it, you can’t talk to that guy you want to talk to or apply for that job and feel like you can get it. It’s the foundation to manifesting the things you want. And without knowing the things you want, you don’t really know who you are.

Sensei, how did you come upon this knowledge?

It’s not something I always knew, but as I’ve grown, I’ve learnt why it’s necessary to have confidence. One of the biggest lessons I learned is I’m not defined by my losses; they’re simply learning experiences for me to try again and succeed the next time. As I’ve grown, I’ve learned that confidence is what it takes — if i don’t trust myself, I can’t trust anyone else. 

What is femininity to you?

It’s understanding oneself and one’s essence of being — knowing what you want, how you want it, and understanding how to wield your power in the way that is most comfortable and valuable to you. Femininity is being a caregiver to yourself, then being able to pour into others in a healthy and constructive way. I think femininity is the greatest thing or essence that one can have — even men can tap into their femininity. It’s an energy that transcends all other energies in my opinion.

It seems like you have a really strong sense of self. A lot of people struggle with this. How did you get there?

This is something I’m still working on, but I got here by making a lot of mistakes and learning from them.

At some point last year, something just changed in me. I started to understand and realise my power as a woman and a human being. Also, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect in this period, and I’ve come to understand my past mistakes and lessons. How I got to this point — it’s just happening as I’m evolving. 

Tell me about some of these mistakes.

Haha. I can’t say in a broader sense, but I’ve learnt from my relationships — romantic and work relationships, friendships. People I’ve spent time with, people I’ve been in love with, friends that I’ve lost and gained and work relationships have defined my learning process and my growth. I’ve made mistakes in all of those that have led me to this point.

People don’t live in a vacuum. How do  people react to your strong sense of self?

The reactions differ, but within the music space and my peers, they have a lot of respect for me. Sometimes people are confused by a woman just knowing what she wants and having the confidence to say “I don’t want this this way, I want it that way.” I work with sound engineers and they always tell me they appreciate how picky I am, my understanding of their line of work and how I’m able to communicate clearly what I want. Sometimes clear communication confuses people.

Overall, I don’t think I wield my power in a way that is offensive or unsafe. For the most part, I respect people and they respect me. Those that have issues with me; we don’t come in contact at all or just steer clear of one other.

I’m glad for that. How do you communicate with your mum?

My mum and I are very similar but also very different. We’re both organised and goal-oriented people, but our execution is quite different. My approach is radical and in your face like kicking someone in the balls, whereas she is calculated and poised; she’ll think of covert ways to achieve a certain narrative, so we clash on that front.

We have our ups and downs like every other relationship, but I will give her the credit for being supportive and intelligent. Her ability to grow and change with the times… My mum didn’t want me to be an artist, but as she grew, she realised it was totally okay. After that, not only did she support me, she invested her self, time and energy into it as well. 

I would say that working together has brought closer. She’s worked in business her whole life but didn’t know anything about music management. Three years later, she’s learning even faster than I am. It’s great to watch.

What’s your favourite memory of your mum?

She used to take me to this French Bistro as a kid, and she’d buy me pastries and hot chocolate. Every morning, during summer holidays. She’d teach me table manners, and it was an activity I enjoyed because I knew I was getting pastries and hot chocolate after.

As my manager, it’s not a memory per se; it’s an experience — she fights hard for me, for the things I want and is very protective of me as an artist. I appreciate that because it’s nice to know there’s someone at my side that has my interests at heart 100%.

I’m curious. Where did you grow up?

Ghana, Atlanta, New Jersey. Shortly after my parent’s divorce, my mum decided to get her master’s, so we moved to Atlanta and after school, we moved to New Jersey because she got a job in New York. After two years, I think she got tired and wanted us to grow up around our roots and culture, so we moved back to Ghana when I was 14. 

That’s the story — new opportunities and beginnings. It’s one thing we have in common: we’re always trying to find new challenges to elevate ourselves.

What do you stand for? Or as Hamilton said, if you stand for nothing, what do you fall for?

I think the correct line is if you stand for nothing you can fall for anything.

So you didn’t watch Hamilton. 

No. I stand for freedom and freedom of expression  — allowing people to be themselves as long as it’s not harmful to anyone. I had a parent that allowed me to express myself whether she agreed with it or not. Mentally, creatively, emotionally, it helped me understand the world. It also helped me to not be pigeonholed — I believe anything is possible. 

Freedom; that’s my cause.

Okay. What would success in the scope of freedom mean?

Success, ha. That would be when women in Africa are given the tools to be great. I want to see science and tech centres run by young African women. I want to see young successful African women that are film directors, music producers, song writers, sound engineers, rocket scientists. Success would be when I can use my platform to enable that type of growth within our community.

Living here [in Ghana] and living in America are two different experiences. In America, no matter where you come from, there are possibilities and chances to become the next big rocket scientist or neurosurgeon. You can earn that. But here, once you don’t have connections or a financial background that allows you that, you get stuck. That shouldn’t happen at all.

Did you have any of these issues when you were building your brand?

Nah. My mum is my support system in many ways. I was lucky because she was able to put herself through college, an MBA and build her life to the point where she can guide and mentor me. I don’t think I’ve faced as many challenges as would someone who didn’t have that privilege.

I’m glad for your mum o.

Haha.

Do you have any questions you want me to ask?

No, I think we’ve crossed all the items on the list. Although, I really want to be interviewed for your sex column. It’s the best in Africa.

Okay. I’m texting Daniel now to make this happen.

Haha, thanks.

Ruka

Join The Conversation

Bring a friend.

You'll like this

March 24, 2021

As told to Mariam Last week, in a conversation about HER stories, Femi told me he knew someone who had done a breast reduction surgery. My curiosity piqued so I collected her contact details and reached out. Here’s what she told me: I have always had big breasts, and I have always hated them. I […]

April 15, 2021

Ramadan is a special time for Muslims dedicated to fasting, prayer, reflection, and community. What then does this time mean for some Nigerian women? Bola, 17 Every Muslim no matter their spiritual strength works hard in Ramadan, the vibe is just different. Even though I’m not the strongest spiritually on a regular day, Ramadan makes […]

Watch

Now on Zikoko

June 19, 2021

The subject of this week’s Sex Life is a 27-year-old heterosexual woman who rarely has sex. She talks about almost getting married to an ex boyfriend who betrayed her trust by cheating on her multiple times and how this experience shaped her interest in sex.

June 19, 2021

There are friends you’ve had for years and those you have had for a short while, but how old is your longest friendship? Let’s find out: Relationships can be hard, and sometimes you just need someone to give you a bit of advice. Ask Ozzy is our new advice column where you send Zikoko the […]

Recommended Quizzes

October 30, 2019

Kemi Adetiba’s King of Boys movie got a lot of things right, especially casting, so yes, it was a monster hit. Now, we know you may not have put much thought to this, but the personalities of some of the characters closely match yours, and we would like to help you find the perfect match. […]

how tall are you
March 11, 2020

Did your parents give you enough beans when you were growing up? If they did, then you’re probably around 6’0″ and above. Either way, we created a quiz that can guess your current height (pretty accurately, if we do say so ourselves). Take to see if we nailed it:

March 24, 2020

While we know that a lot of the best Nigerian artists deservedly have fans across generations, that won’t stop us from attempting to guess how old you are based on your taste in Nigerian music. So, take this quiz to see if we got it right:

November 7, 2019

These days, everyone is always talking about how much sex they’re getting, or how little sex they’re getting, or how disgusting sex is etc. There’s just so much talk about sex, it’s almost impossible to know who’s lying and who’s telling the truth. In anticipation of our new series about the sex lives of young […]

More from Her

leaving their ex
June 18, 2021

Sometimes we get overwhelmed and make decisions we later regret. In this article, seven Nigerian women talk about why they regret leaving their ex.  Tomisin, 25 My ex used to send me not less than 50k every month.  He moved abroad and after two months, he told me he has fallen in love with someone […]

Acne
June 16, 2021

Dealing with acne is never easy. From random people recommending products to you to the self-esteem dip, everyone has their story. In this article, seven Nigerian women talk about living with acne.  Khloe, 22  I was 14 the first time I noticed acne on my face. It was my first year in university. I didn’t […]

June 16, 2021

The subject of this week’s What She Said is a 25-year-old Nigerian woman who has travelled to over fifteen countries alone. She talks about how this love for travelling started, the way she’s stigmatised at airports and in hotels, and her dream to attend aviation school. What was growing up like? Life was good until […]

menstrual cups
June 15, 2021

As inflation happens and prices of products across the country increase, more Nigerian women are moving away from pads to more sustainable sanitary products. In this article, five Nigerian women talk about their experience using menstrual cups.  Elizabeth, 19 Sanitary pads never did it for me. Getting good sanitary pads was a real struggle for […]

June 11, 2021

How we start our day usually has a paramount effect on how the rest of our day goes. When you love a woman or want to move to a woman you like, it is important you send her beautiful messages to put her in the right mood. Here’s a list of helpful ways on how […]

June 11, 2021

We have written about some of the ways the Twitter ban affects Nigerians. Here’s a list of the ways the ban affects Nigerian women. It will affect their access to: 1. Learning opportunities Twitter has always been a source of information to many women. In an article published yesterday, some women talked about how they […]

June 10, 2021

Feminism is a diverse movement that aims to liberate women and other oppressed groups. Each feminist’s path is different from the next. In this article, I asked eight Nigerian women why they became feminists, and here’s what they had to say:  Kay, 26 I was a feminist even before I knew what the word meant. […]

consequences of teen pregnancies
June 10, 2021

I read a lot of books growing up about the consequences of teen pregnancies and it was always interesting to me how teenagers were treated without a care in such conversations. Nothing about how they feel or how it happened and how to prevent it — just age-old fear-mongering. In this article, four Nigerian women […]

Nigerian female lawyers
June 9, 2021

This week is one of those times where we, as a country, wonder if the constitution is simply a suggestion. Many lawyers have complained of studying and practising law in a lawless state. Like with most issues, women’s experiences take a unique form. In this article, nine Nigerian female lawyers talk about practising law in […]

Watch

Trending Videos

Zikoko Originals

December 14, 2020
What happens when a group of chatty young Nigerians talk about things they're passionate about? You get Nigerians talk. A show that discusses very familiar struggles for the average Nigerian. From relationship deal breakers to sex education with Nigerian parents to leaving Nigeria, be prepared for a ride.
November 2, 2020
'The Couch' is a Zikoko series featuring real life stories from anonymous people.
October 26, 2020
A collection of videos documenting some of the events of the EndSARS protests.
June 22, 2020
'The Couch' is a Zikoko series featuring real life stories from anonymous people.
June 22, 2020
Hacked is an interesting new series by Zikoko made up of fictional but hilarious chat conversations.
June 4, 2020
What happens when a group of chatty young Nigerians talk about things they're passionate about? You get Nigerians talk. A show that discusses very familiar struggles for the average Nigerian. From relationship deal breakers to sex education with Nigerian parents to leaving Nigeria, be prepared for a ride.
June 2, 2020
Quickie is a video series where everyone featured gets only one minute to rant, review or do absolutely anything.
May 14, 2020
Isolation Diary is a Zikoko series that showcases what isolation is like for one young Nigerian working from home due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
March 12, 2020
Life is already hard. Deciding where to eat and get the best lifestyle experiences, isn't something you should stress about. Let VRSUS do that for you.

Z! Stacks

Here's a rabbit hole of stories to lose yourself in:

Zikoko amplifies African youth culture by curating and creating smart and joyful content for young Africans and the world.
X