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Interview with Habiba 

February 2014 

Habiba makes the most original songs. She is a regular on the Amsterdam singer songwriter scene, and now breaking through internationally. 

Here's an interview with her, for your inspiration: 

 

 

What are your current activities/projects as a singer-songwriter/harpist? 

At this moment I'm writing new songs and preparing for the RioHarpFestival in May. I plan on playing playing a lot of new songs there and of course some songs of my album "Take Flight" that was released last April. 

 

When did you start playing the harp, and do you remember why? 

My mother wanted to play the harp since she was a little girl. When I was three or four years old, my father built her a celtic harp. She started learning the beginnings from Sylvia Woods " Teach Yourself To Play The Folk Harp" book. I don't remember how I started playing but I guess I started playing around with the harp a little too, so my mother gave me my first harp lessons.  

 

What music did you grow up with? 

My parents played a lot of folkharp music. Sylvia Woods, Kim Robertson, Mary O'hara. And the soundtrack of Dirty Dancing. We didn't have a tv, so as a teenager I started listening to popmusic on the radio and recorded songs I liked on cassette tapes. The first cassette tape I bought was from Roxette.  

 

When did you start including jazz or pop influences in you harp playing, and why? 

I started making popsongs in 2005. I started out having ideas for melodies and text while biking through Amsterdam. Trying to accompany myself with the harp seemed the only logical step for me, for I already knew how to play the instrument quite well. Then I attended the JazzHarp Course at Codarts in 2006. I was totally overwhelmed with all the new knowledge I took in at that course. Not only did my idea of what was possible on the harp shift completely after seeing Park Stickney play, I learned some harp tricks I started using a lot in my songs. After the course I really started my own musical journey. Implementing new exciting ideas that evolved from taking that course made my songs a whole lot more interesting.  

 

Did you, or do you, experience any trouble finding your place in a band with your harp? 

I think harp sounds really good with double bass and drums. The sound of Instruments that produce a longer tone can be a very welcome addition to that basis. For my album I wanted to have a broad spectrum of sounds in each track. To get that result I split most of the harp parts in two, one half to be played by an other instrument. My goal was to create a sparkling and exciting sound to support the melody of each song. 

 

Did you, or do you, experience any trouble finding your place in the singer-songwritiers scene with your harp? 

Well, of course, when you first show up at a open-mic night with your pedal harp you make quite an impression! So in a way the instrument alone makes you stand out, and people will remember you better then they would if you would bring your guitar. On the other hand, in the singer-songwriter and pop scene people like to compare you with something they already know. So in the beginning I got a lot of Joanna Newsom comparisons every time I played. Nowadays I get a lot of Kate Bush comparisons. I think they are both swell. 

 

Which musicians / artists inspire you most? 

My eyes pop out when I see Park Stickney and Rossitza Milevska play. I'm in awe of their improvisation skills on the harp. Guitarist Kaki King makes me really want to explore the diversity of sounds of the harp. I adore Hanne Hukkelberg for her wonderful songwriting and singing on her album "Little Things". Jesca Hoop for her exciting lyrics, Jose Gonzales for the almost incantatory quality of his music, Nina Simone for arousing my emotions with her intense way of singing and playing.  

 

What are you trying to improve these days? 

In my new songs I'm implementing a lot of harp solo's that need my attention. So I'm practicing a lot with metronome to get them concise and fluent at the right speed.  

 

Are you working on a new recording? 

I plan on recording demo's of the new songs soon. When I have 20 songs I really like I will start thinking about a new record..  

 

What are your plans for the years to come? 

I would love to make instrumental music for film. I'll definitely write more songs. I hope to perform them at wonderful new places and get the chance to collaborate with inspiring musicians.  

 

Do you have any advice for aspiring harpist singer-songwriters? 

Just start writing, play your songs for your friends, then play them at open mic nights, record demo's, go see a lot of concerts, open your ears and try to hear what it is in the music you hear that makes you happy and excited, and try to implement that in a different way in your own songs. Ask for feedback. Work hard on the things that are difficult, enjoy the process of creating!  

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