In collaboration with Amarte Studio Concerts and Flowriders Studio, Steppin’ Into Tomorrow has put together a series of live studio sessions last year, with 10 selected acts based out of the Netherlands. All performances took place over the course of 2 months in the intimate space of the world-class recording studio in the centre of Amsterdam. The live studio audience was listening in through a set of headphones, to ensure the highest quality experience for both audio-recording and in-person listening, being captured both sonically (recording and mix by Vincent Helbers, with assistant engineer Anis Oepkes) and visually (by Leslie Wilkes (video) and Tijmen de Nooy (photography)).
The date 11.11.2022 is quite a special one. Not only because it's Bahghi's birthday, but we were also fully delighted with the release of an hour-long live recording of her heartfelt and vulnerable music. Bahghi Yemane, talented singer and songwriter from Amsterdam, who is constantly exploring her own artistic voice and expression, delivers a message of soft transformation, (self-)love and courage to stand in her power gracefully. Recruiting two special guests for this intimate and delightful session, Bahghi (guitar & vocals) was accompanied by the multi-talented Rory Ronde on the second guitar and legendary Ronald Snijders on flute. Her velvety voice soothed everyone that was in the room that day and now the album is officially here for everyone to enjoy. We took a moment to sit down with Bahghi and talk about this special performance, and how it all came together.
Opening with 'Medjemerya Feqri / Smile' , a medley of two covers. 'Medjemerya Feqri' is a cover of song by Eritrean musician Tsehaytu Beraki in Tigrinya language, with a bittersweet meaning. Bahghi speaks the language quite well, and wrote poems in Tigrinya before, but this particular song is dedicated to the first love of her life - her parents.
"Funnily enough, a lot of people resonate with 'Medjemerya Feqri' without understanding the lyrics. The song is about first love, how it all started with the creation of the world when Adam & Eve were made and how without me knowing, that love was in my heart. So the singer, who wrote it, is saying “I love you so much, you love me too, and love is not something you should take lightly, as it costs a lot of time and effort”. In the last verse it says “My love and your love where did it go? My love and your love when did it go? I was too busy”.
'Smile' is originally written by Charlie Chaplin, famous for its appearance in the film 'Modern Times'.
"I find that story beautiful cause when I sang it in the beginning, I thought it was a happy song. Later, I learned that Chaplin, who was considered to be the funniest man in the 20th century, has been depressed for most of his life. So on screen he’s this funny character but in real life he was very perfectionist, many say also difficult to work with, so I love that contrast and also the fact that he wrote such a song with heavy feelings in his heart. I have so many mixed feelings about the song. I think it’s good to smile, because there’s always something to be grateful for, but sometimes it’s also good to just cry and let it all out."
Although the performance wasn’t rehearsed in this particular setting, Rory & Bahghi have played her songs quite a few times already, so he knows them very well. Rory is someone who plays with other people a lot (like with New Cool Collective, Benny Sings, and even Ronald Snijders) but also does his own stuff and produces and releases his own music like Les Cooles De Ville and also under the moniker Kofi Anonymous.
"Rory’s so intuitive, also outside of music. At first I thought it was just me, but he has something. Our first gig together, I believe, was at Pllek with Gino Cochise in the summer of 2020 and it was really really fun. I’ve known him since I was a child, because my brother had guitar lessons with him. I used to go with my brother when we lived at Javastraat. I was playing violin at the time. I thought Rory was pretty cool, cause he played with people that I liked. He played with Wouter Hamel and my mother told me he was touring different places around the world so I thought of him as a cool person but I wasn’t even singing at that time. Now I see him as a good friend, and a very special person. I call him "yuncle" (uncle makes him feel old, so we made it yuncle)".
Ronald Snijders himself doesn't need a specific introduction, as there's an extensive article on his legacy we published back in 2021. Ronald and Bahghi met in the North of Amsterdam at an event where he was being interviewed in the fall of 2021. She found out that he’s a world known flute player, so when she saw him with his flute, she offered him to join her if he wants to. After the event, they continued to send each other music they both found inspiring, and he was very supportive.
“Ronald said: "We’re gonna play together one day, I’m clairvoyant, I see these kinds of things.” I said right away “Well I have a gig on 25th of November, so you can join if you'd like to.” "
The whole performance just serendipitously came together and Ronald could easily just play over the songs based on his feel, which is also what he does best.
At the time when Bahghi wrote 'All One', she was living in Groningen and wrote a lot of songs there, between the end of 2019 and summer 2020.
"In those times I made a lot of songs freestyling to YouTube beats and then I just copied the chords into something of my own. At the time, I had to write a bio for a gig that I had coming up, that was really dramatic. Sometimes I realize I'm quite drama, even though I might not look like it. But I'm also very scorpio."
We continue with 'Joy', which is a song of affirmation. People need joy these days, and this song confirms that we need joy in resistance, abundance, acceptance... joy in the present moment right now.
"'Sing' was written for me by my dad. And sometimes it’s very strange to sing that song, because it feels like I’m my own father singing this song back to me. Few months before the recording, I reconnected with my dad after 15 years. We started talking again, it was a very intense period and he invited me to join him for Christmas in Germany. I agreed, but then I got this gig in Berlin so I had to choose between my dad and the gig in Berlin. My dad was disappointed and his response was this poem he wrote for me in WhatsApp. I really thought it was so beautiful when he was like basically “do whatever you want and it will work out the best way for you”. For someone, who hasn’t seen their child in so many years, with so much pressure to see each other, but at the same time setting me free, I thought that was really sweet."
Bahghi played classic violin for 12 years , later started singing mostly jazz and went to the Conservatory of Amsterdam shortly after. She picked up guitar after her studies. At some point, she just bought the cheapest electric guitar she could find in the store and just started playing.
"What I felt back then was that I preferred to play with guitar players as opposed to piano, because the piano was overwhelming to me sometimes. Now I like piano as well but I feel really comfortable with the guitar. I remember there was a workshop with Raul Midón at school. I was playing with a guitar player, singing songs of Stevie Wonder, there was a modulation and I went the wrong way. So I sang out of tune in front of him and I felt really bad about it.
He didn’t say anything about the mistake, but that I was too dependent on the guitar player, and I think it’s something a lot of singers tend to struggle with it a little bit. It’s really important to stay connected and I think it was kinda difficult for me. With the guitar, I can connect with the band better and I can also pull off a full performance by myself, so it gave me this feeling of independence and also helped me feel good enough on my own in some way. It’s always fun to have other people and in certain settings it’s even nicer, but if it’s needed I can create magic all by myself as well."
'This Room', which is probably also the oldest of the songs on this album, was written way before. It's been around for a long time. The song comes with a video shot in the very room where parts of the song was written. "It wasn’t my room at that time, although I ended up moving in later. It was a room of the person I wrote it about." The journey relaxes with 'Jane' and 'Happy Birthday' which was written during the same time when she went to Berlin for Christmas and met someone who was born on April 4th, to whom the song is dedicated.
"The last verse of the song I wrote when I was on a plane when I was flying from Zanzibar to the Netherlands. I love writing songs in planes, it’s really inspiring to me. This might have been the only time I wrote a song with a particular somebody in mind. This was on my way back from Zanzibar, where the video for '25' was also shot".
As mentioned earlier, Bahghi's first instrument was violin, which she's been playing since she was 4 years old. "I begged my mom for it, I really wanted to play the violin. On the studio version of 'One Love' on my EP, I recorded the strings myself, but I didn’t touch it much after that. I really want to get back to it though, one of these days."
Tijmen de Nooy Photography
'Perfect', wasn't originally on the setlist for the performance. "The plan was to end it all on 'One Love', but the funny thing is that… I was really nervous and I was still feeling it during the first two songs. Before the recording I went to the bathroom, and I was crying a lot. I didn’t know what to wear, I brought many outfits and wigs... and so at song three or four I realized that I had messed it up. In my head, I thought I was doing a terrible job and it’s not going well and then… 'One Love' came and it made me cry, because my songs are a lot about self-love, and joy, and doing whatever you want, and that things will go your way if you do what feels best to you, but then I’m there just feeling bad about myself, singing 'One Love'.
"It’s all one love. Love is everywhere. It’s me who needs to hear the message the most in those moments, actually. I cried during the recording of the song, so when it ended, Rory said “let’s do 'Perfect'.” I thought it was beautiful that he suggested this song in particular cause it made a lot of sense. Of course, the song is about perfection in imperfection."
Steppin' is proud to have had the honor to facilitate such a special performance in collaboration with Amarte Studio Concerts, hence with no further ado, we proudly present you with the full version of 'All One (Live at Flowriders Studio)'.
Steppin' also has a compilation coming soon with a track from each one of the artists that performed as a part of these sessions. 'Loyal to the Soil Vol.1' will be released on Wicked Wax in the upcoming months. Stay tuned for more details coming soon!
Amarte Studio Concerts is an initiative by the Amarte Foundation, which supports and highlights talented artists that seek to create innovative projects and develop their art. With sessions recorded across unique locations such as Flowriders Studio, De Roode Bioscoop or Studio 150/Bethlehemkerk in Amsterdam, it offers high quality live concerts with eclectic but also experimental programming focused on four main genres: pop, jazz, classical, and world music.
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