Photo by Bonnie Nichoalds

Every new single that the Ethiopian-born, British Columbia-based artist known as ZADA has shared is an intimate lesson in how to spin emotion into music. Using the rotund kinetics of Afrobeat as her foundation, her music is a buoyant and ever-shifting collage of pop, folk, and soul. Her two recent singles “Snakes and Ladders” and “Be Somebody Else” are perfect examples of the mesmerizing and anthemic spirit that courses through ZADA’s songs.

In “Snakes and Ladders,” she reconstructs love as a board game that she needs to just walk away from. “One step forward, now we goin backwards / Oh, one back stabber, not playin games anymore,” ZADA coos over the track’s jubilant drum beats that she says were designed to make you give in to that insatiable need to dance. And in the music video for the single, directed by Cole Northey, that’s all she does. Distorted by prism-projected ghosts of herself ZADA appears joined by backup dancers and gives a killer routine in the video.

“Be Somebody Else” only highlights ZADA’s sonic creativity even further: initially starting out as just this haunting whale sound that drones in the song’s background. Over it’s looped melancholic call she weaves one of her most self-eviscerating pieces to date, giving voice to a feeling that is near universal to everyone at some point. “I’m frustrated, none of these faces look like mine / I feel like a stranger, but not by my design,” she cries out against the song’s glimmering melody.

artist to watch in 2023

“Writing the lyrics for this song was quite a cathartic process, and it ended up uniting my team even more because we could all relate to wanting to be someone else for a second,” ZADA said of the single This was definitely one of the harder songs for me to write; I tried to be as raw as possible and peel back a few walls. I wanted to cast a light on some of the feelings I’ve had over the years, the moments of self-doubt, and the yearning for change.”

With influences that range from FKA Twigs and Fiona Apple to Labrinth and Tyler, The Creator, it’s clear that ZADA not only has a predisposition but a talent for avant-garde creativity. Be sure to check out ZADA’s other two singles: a gender-reversal of a familiar tale takes place amidst the rapid beats of “Tear Us Apart,” while on “Nomad” she recreates the auditory spectacle of Ethiopian markets and airports as part of the soundtrack.

Visit ZADA on their website, Twitter, and Instagram to stay updated on new releases and tour announcements.

Words by Steven Ward

Listen to ZADA’s new singles “Snakes and Ladders” and “Be Somebody Else” below!