After the successful 'Super-Sonic Jazz Family Vol. 1', compilation in 2019 by the Amsterdam-based festival and platform Super-Sonic Jazz - the label is back with a follow-up. More than 150 artists responded to the open call, which resulted in a compilation album with 31 songs. In the last few weeks, small digital batches have been released, building up to the official vinyl release in Rush Hour on the 16th of November, during the Super-Sonic Jazz Festival. In this series of articles, we highlighted multiple tracks and told you all you need to know about some of the members of the Super-Sonic Family. After introducing Misto Kay, Y.O.P.E., Mo Wrights, Hatoon, and RADIOHOP, we end this series with AVA LAVÁ!
Would you like to introduce yourself and can you tell us who you are as an artist?
My full name is Annebelle Valentina Angelique. ‘AVA’ is the beautiful symmetric palindrome of all my names in one. ‘LAVA’ stands for the fire that I experience when I create. Together they keep the same symmetric shape of a palindrome, which I love.
I started to play classical piano when I was six years old. My musical journey had begun. I come from a very musical family with two brothers; Victor is a singer, dancer, and drummer and Alexander is a beatboxer, beatmaker and guitarist. Currently, we are working on an EP together, which I’m really excited about! You’re one of the first to know actually! So, next to my brothers being musicians I had a grandfather who played jazz piano in communist Russia. For me, writing my own music and making the choice to study jazz music was a very connective step because it was something that had been living in my ancestral family lineage before. I kept on deepening my adoration for music and expression of emotions and vision throughout my seven years of studies. I did three years of pop education at the Herman Brood Academy. Then, I started studying jazz music, where I got in touch with so many inspiring styles; traditional jazz music, Brazilian and Afro-Cuban music, yorùbá and flamenco. It was such a fusion of many cultures. This is also what I like to do with my own music, to fuse many different cultures and rhythms. I love rhythm, and to move with it!
Who are some specific musicians that you use as an influence?
I always find that such a difficult question, because there is so much good music so much old and new music in so many different genres. Mostly the genre is actually not that important to me, but rather how clearly I can see someone's character through the music, and then it is all about perceiving the energy groove and message to me. Sometimes I listen to traditional jazz like Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and other instrumentalists. Also, I love Brazilian music; Elis Regina and Milton Nascimento. Lately, I have been listening to a lot of afrobeats and amapiano, it moves me. From when I started with music, I have been exposed to so much that I am just infusing all different kinds of grooves, feel and styles. That is what defines me. Someone that I listen to a lot is June Freedom, who makes Tanzanian afrobeats. Lately, I’ve been getting into different kinds of afrobeats, like samba, and bossanova, with electronic music.
You clearly have a lot of different influences. How do you bring that together into one sound?
That’s a good question. I always try to feel what wants to come to expression. Of course, I am working towards a sound where people can immediately hear it is me. I would describe that as the sound of AVA LAVÁ, but it is still a work in progress and I am still in the middle of exploring different genres. But for sure afrobeat, house, future jazz, vocally inspired by Erykah Badu, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson.
I studied at the jazz conservatory and this is a place where you have to create a product. They have four years to teach you a lot of things, and a lot of skills, but also to make you ready to enter the music industry, because at the end of the day, you have to pay your bills. So, now that I finished my education, it’s the first moment that I don’t have pressure on what I’m creating. I feel like this is something I like to investigate more. I also realised that being in a system that holds you down from what you want can also allow you to create a vision. So, it did help me in the end, but there were many things that I had to unlearn as well.
I’ve travelled to different countries and continents: Africa, Senegal, and Cuba. Travelling there made me see how music is used as a form of communication, ritual or connection between people, rather than creating something to earn money with. So, for me, it is still a process to create something that I completely identify with. I love putting different aspects together of the music that I listen to. I really love Nai Palm, for example, and the band Hiatus Kaiyote. Also, I love rhythms and afrobeats. I take aspects from there and by putting those aspects together I create something that defines me.
It’s funny that you bring up Nai Palm because Yara (Hatoon) brought her up as well. We also discussed Yara’s education and we got to the topic of what it means to be a woman in the music industry. What does that mean to you? What is your experience?
I think it’s an interesting question. You know, as a woman in this world, I feel like everything is going so fast. I notice the masculine energy of having to create, of always having an end goal. I also think that getting grades in school for our creations is pretty rough. This creates a competition between musicians, which is not natural because everyone is a unique individual. You can never be the best, because everyone is the best at being themselves. As a woman, I indeed have experienced the pressure of having to prove myself and who I am, even though I am still developing. This has been frustrating. Sometimes it even influenced my creativity, because it would influence how I would look at music and my creations. Now, I’m taking time for myself to create from a space of honesty and wanting to create what lives inside of me. This helped me to grow past that pressure and not let anyone influence my creative process, but rather attract what suits my path and the musical choices that I make.
How does being a woman influence your career, outside of being in school?
Right now, I don’t feel like it is influencing me a lot anymore. I can notice if someone has different intentions then what it essentially was about. I was in situations a lot where I got to experience the influences of the way you look, how you dress, and whether you are handsome or not. These are big things in this reality. I think right now I like to focus more on how we can create music that is accessible for everybody to enjoy and be in this community together, to love, to enjoy the time, but also to bring up topics that need to be talked about, like we are doing now. I think the best thing I can do is to stay close to myself, my intuition, and my feelings and to be proud that I am a woman. Because through women humanity will continue to exist. At the same time, it is not just because I am a woman, but more about humanity in general and knowledge about how to love. My music is also about making sure that we raise the next generation of men to be proud of their masculinity as well as to be respectful and behave like real men towards women.
Picture by TdN Fotografie (@tdn_fotografie)
If we zoom in on your music, what is your vision and the message you are trying to convey?
My intention with music is to love, connect, dance and express myself and my vision. I love to write love songs (laughs) because love is a universal thing. Everyone experiences love in so many different ways. If you find a feeling and you know how to express this feeling with music, it can be relatable for certain people. I think this is the most beautiful thing about it. You can relate, you can feel it, you can touch people with music and move them. What I love to do with music is to come as close to my feelings as possible and share what I see in the world. Sometimes the topics may be real, powerful, vulnerable or even confronting, but I also want to move people, literally. I love to make people dance and enjoy their time being alive.
What does ‘Feel Like A River (While The World Is On Fire)’ mean to you?
It is a song I wrote about the one thing we all get to experience in life: Heartbreak. It is about unreciprocated love and how we grow from that pain towards what is better fitting for us, and the healing process makes us who we are meant to be. There is a Japanese philosophy that describes perfectly how I felt after experiencing heartbreak and writing a song about it, which is called “Kintsugi”. It is based on the art of taking broken ceramics and glueing them together with gold. In this sense, they mean to say that something is more beautiful after it has endured suffering.
How did this song end up on the Super-Sonic Jazz compilation? How does it feel being on there?
Well, I first found it on Instagram. I had some connections, the two brothers that used to work there before, Siemen and Vincent. Even when I was still studying, they would always invite me to come show my music. Back then, I was still in the process of letting my education go, but now that I applied for this I felt that I was ready to start sharing my music. What makes Super-Sonic so great is that they create this platform for up-and-coming Dutch artists, which gives artists like me the possibility to share music. It creates a community. I think it is really lovely what they do to empower artists on their journey of becoming who they are, so for this, I’m grateful and happy. I’m really happy to have had the opportunity to share myself through this and to be in the same situation as many other artists who are doing that.
One of the goals of this Super Sonic Jazz project is to showcase the talent that is in this community, in this scene. How do you feel about this movement, this scene? And how do you see yourself in that context?
The scene is growing constantly. Super-Sonic Jazz also influences how it is moving, because they are inviting up-and-coming artists and putting them on a platform like this. It’s making a change. It’s giving space to the ones who want to share. So, the scene is changing. It’s moving constantly and the influence it has on me is that I get to share my music, which is empowering my creative space and my journey as an artist.
Do you feel part of that scene? What is your connection to it?
Well, I know many of the musicians on the compilation already. Some of them I met during my studies or at jam sessions, and others I’ve worked or performed with. On the other hand, there’s also a lot of them that I don’t know (laughs) and I think that’s why it’s so amazing that Super-Sonic Jazz offers this space for people to come together. It creates this community of recognizing how you grow together. There are many people that I used to study with or that I know from the scene, like Hatoon, Helena Casella, Y.O.P.E., and Tallulah. You see each other grow, you see them making steps towards living your dream and creating this music scene together. But through this project, I get to know bands and musicians that I don’t know. It creates such a nice community and a blend of musicians who all want to express themselves and do that together.
Pictures by TdN Fotografie (@tdn_fotografie)
What is your expectation of the festival? In what way do you look forward to the celebration of this project and, in a bigger sense, the scene and movement?
I’m really looking forward to being there, seeing everyone's music and sharing together. Also the jam session, it’s gonna be amazing. I see the date on my calendar and it’s coming closer and closer. It’s a dream for me to sing in Paradiso, to share my music, to have people listen, and to have so many different and talented artists there. It’s just fun!
I can see you are looking forward to it! Finally, I want to ask you: what can we expect from you? What are you working on?
I have a single coming out in December and then another one in January. And then another one in February (laughs). These are three singles that I made with my brothers Victor, who produced, and Alexander, who joined with tasty guitar lines. After that, I want to drop an EP, but I don’t have a date yet. I first want to show people the multicultural energy that we bring and that we put into the singles.
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