Q&A - Loah
"The music comes first. Nothing else matters. Everything serves the music"
Rising talent Loah has been charming audiences with her exceptional voice and diverse musical fusions. Ahead of her performance on the Other Voices stage at Electric Picnic, Loah (aka Sallay-Matu Garnett) told us a bit more about her inspirations and plans for the future.
When did you first start performing?
As a little girl in convent school. I always used to get given the tin whistle solos!
You previously described your music as ‘artsoul’ - who are the inspiration points for this sound?
Artsoul just means I take my inspiration from all manner of places, not just musical, where I feel the soul of the artist, or being, or natural phenomenon is flowing freely. So with that in mind I would list some influences as Oumou Sangaré, Erykah Badu, Oscar Wilde, Bill Withers, Björk, Adrienne Rich, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Joan Mitchell and Jackson Pollock, Rachmaninov, Patti Smith, Massive Attack, aurora borealis, The Bailey in Howth, Stevie Wonder, the Western Area Peninsula forest of Sierra Leone, Eastern philosophy and more recently Serena Williams! What a legend. In practical terms though, it does sound like soul music that’s been marinated in Afro/European folk, jazz, classical and rock idioms. It’s hyper-modern!!!
If someone was not (yet) familiar with Loah, which song should they listen to first?
I would send them to listen to 'Cortège'. It most represents the energy I’m going for (though not all the tunes are in Sherbro or Mende!). It’s strong and feminine and heartfelt.
Rumour has it you’re planning to release an EP later this year, what can you tell us about it?
I can tell you that I’m still in the process of recording vocals with producer Ken McCabe of Come On Live Long, which is going well, he’s a blast. Recording is a fairly intricate process and I’m a bit of a perfectionist! So I’m aiming to release the EP later in the year, but if I don’t feel it’s ready I’ll keep tweaking until I’m sure. There will certainly be a single out though which is very exciting and I’m stoked for that.
This year you performed at Symphony Space in New York for Bill Whelan and The National Concert Hall in Dublin with Glen Hansard. Were those daunting experiences?
I would call it game-changing rather than daunting. Being asked to take the stage with some of the best artists in the world is another level - of course I wanted to show how honoured I was and my profound appreciation for the recognition from Glen and Bill Whelan who are both world class artists who have changed the face of Irish music as we know it in their own ways and who I am a massive fan of. I came away from both experiences absolutely ecstatic and really inspired to keep working.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned since making music as Loah?
The music comes first. Nothing else matters. Everything serves the music, including the artist themselves. Get that part right and all the other aspects become infinitely easier.
Have you been to Electric Picnic many times before? Which acts are you hoping to catch over the weekend?
I’ve been so many times, it’s still the number one festival and I love it. There are tonnes of acts I want to see so I imagine I’ll have to get my bilocation machine out. In particular though I’m excited for Animal Collective who I’ve never seen live, Nas should be slick, Broken Social Scene, NAO, Todd Terje. As for Irish acts I’m a big fan of Lynched, Saint Sister and Rusangano Family who are also playing the Other Voices stage so that’ll be amazing, as well as Toofools, Rocstrong, Hvmmingbird… Ah jaysis there’s loads.
For anyone who’s never seen you live, what can they expect?
A lot of heart and a feminine soul, a high energy, dynamic, virtuosic band, a journey through many lands and sounds and some beautiful harmonies.
Q&A by Danny Carroll