4 Mar 2017

The Mixtape: Leila Adu

From RNZ Music, 5:00 pm on 4 March 2017
Leila Adu

Leila Adu Photo: Leon Dale

Composer, producer, academic and performer Leila Adu is this week’s RNZ  mixtape guest.

Born in London, raised in Christchurch, of Ghanian descent, she’s currently completing her PhD in composition at Princeton University.

Her thesis looks at Ghanaian music producers, which took her to the African nation where her father hails from, and most curiously, to the dancefloors of Accra’s nightclubs

“It’s a music PhD, what’s the difference of listening to this music on headphones or being in Accra on the dancefloor?” She laughs.

The demand of doctoral research did not stop Leila making music. When asked whether it was a welcome distraction from studying, “I wouldn’t say it helps.” she says, but as it is always something that she has done, as a globe-trotting musician and researcher she’s always had a band or two on the go.

“I always think ‘I’ll be back, I’ll come back and do that again’, because otherwise it would be a big waste of time...But I do often go back, I’ll go play with someone in New York, I’ll go play with someone in Rome, and then I’ll go back with someone in London...I’m an improviser and a composer, it doesn’t make sense to do the same thing”

Looking at Leila’s musical achievements, it is an eclectic and varied musical palette: string compositions for orchestras, improvised jazz groups, electro-dance vocal cameos, and her own fusion of world sounds.

“I didn’t come to music to do one thing. I just really like different timbres, and it’s kind of my undoing: I like orchestra. I like industrial music. I like hip hop and I like crazy improv....I like newness, I like lots of different sounds.”

Hear Leila’s mixtape and all the many sounds that influence and enthuse her as she speaks with M101’s Yadana Saw.

Related stories

Music details

Artist: Leila Adu
Song: Love Cells
Composer: Adu
Album: Love Cells EP
Label: Belts and Whistles

Artist: Princess Nokia
Song: Tomboy
Composer: Frasqueri
Album: 1992
Label: Records DK

Artist: Lahfawndah
Song: Tan
Composer: Dubois
Album: Tan EP
Label: Warp Records

Artist: Appietus
Song: Emere feat. Sarkodie
Composer: Appietus
Album: Tip of the Iceberg
Label: Akwaaba Records

Artist: Flying Lotus 
Song: Never Catch Me feat. Kendrick Lamar
Composer: Stephen Ellison
Album: You're Dead
Label: Brainfeeder

Artist: Gaika
Song: Neophyte feat. Leila Adu
Composer: Tavares, Adu
Album: Spaghetto EP
Label: Warp

Artist: Sun Ra Arkestra
Song: Somebody Else's Idea
Composer: Sun Ra
Album: The Paris Tapes 1971
Label: Universe

Get the RNZ app

for easy access to all your favourite programmes