Amaal defines sexual liberation in new EP
Somalia is often referred to as “the land of poets”, a country where community members are actively engaged in speech and music. And although this tradition dates back centuries, several artists continue to honor their heritage and advance their craft today. Among this long line of artists is Amaal, a Somali-Canadian singer-songwriter who uses her music to explore life’s most intimate relationships. Despite the many obstacles she encountered, she always felt a deep, almost ancestral connection with music – much to the credit of her grandmother, who was one of these prominent community poets.
“I feel like it has seeped into my genetics and that’s why this path was something I always felt a deep calling for,” Amaal explained. “Because for me to walk in without having someone like me, pushing back negative feedback and sometimes going against family. You know, there’s a reason.
Amaal’s new EP is titled Milly, is aptly named after a nickname she adopted to anonymously explore the world outside of her tight-knit community. “It wasn’t even our Alter Ego, it was just our own way of having anonymity so that we could be ourselves. So we can express ourselves without judgment, ”explained the Juno-nominated artist. Amaal grew up in Toronto and had to flee his home country, Mogadishu, after years of political and social unrest. By the time she hit her twenties, Amaal had emboldened herself to make music and pursue her creative ambitions. She began to gain self-confidence and to reckon with grief in Black dove – and this EP continues on this fundamental philosophy.
Blending old-school R&B with her ethereal vocals, the new EP explores the sexual empowerment of a blossoming young woman. In particular, her song “Heaven” showcases the goddess unabashedly and self-confidence. Produced in collaboration with the GRAMMY nominated duo Nicky davey, the song delves into Amaal’s journey to sexual liberation and the process of discovering her own self-reliance. Milly is Amaal, and this second EP proves that the only validation worth looking for comes from within.
Over the weekend, the singer-songwriter kicked off his latest project with an intimate EP release night at Ludlow House in New York City. To a host of friends and family, she performed favorites such as “Honey” and “Renegade”. We sat down with Amaal an hour before she performed to discuss the new release and the emotions going through her right now.
V MAGAZINE: Congratulations for Milly! What emotions are going through you right now as you are about to perform it for the first time at Ludlow House?
AMAAL NUUX: Thank you. Oh my god, honestly I think I felt all the emotions of excited, happy, nervous, absolutely nervous and, but also blessed and grateful. It’s like a roller coaster. But all in all very grateful and blessed because I’ve actually been wanting this out for a while, you know the last year and a half has been tough for all of us. So, to be able to get away with that and already get the answer I made. It’s an honor, really. I am happy.
V: How did the creation process go?
A: When I started making music, because of my education, music was considered very taboo. And it wasn’t something that was encouraged, let alone for a woman, it really wasn’t. And when I started to get into it, there was no girl where I come from to make music. It was like a group, but it just wasn’t there at a high level or even at the start so I didn’t have anyone to turn to. And when I started making music there was a lot of negative feedback and criticism. And that’s really, sort of, it pushed me to make music that I felt was good for them. It would reduce the hits that would reduce the hate and so I wasn’t making music for myself anymore, I was actually conforming and creating out of fear. And these last two years and the making of this project, all that work has been undone. And really this project has been my therapy and my form of self-liberation. I don’t care about other people’s thoughts anymore. My stories are valid, my experiences are valid, they are beautiful. You know they’re crazy, but they made me who I am so how dare I be ashamed of them? It’s the kind of space I’ve been in and I feel like I’m more whole and stronger as a woman.
V: For sure. And how does the title Milly get into that? What is the meaning of the title EP?
A: My nickname is Milly. This name was given to me by my friends when we were teenagers. And the way it started was that I grew up in a community that was mostly from my past, and every time we went out and went to have fun or party, there was potential that these things are coming back in our area – you know, how one rumor turns into another rumor. And all of a sudden there are things being said about you that are so wrong and we have lived it. And so a lot of us girls started adopting pseudonyms, and they were almost, it wasn’t even our Alter Ego, it was just our own way of having anonymity. So we could be ourselves. So we can speak without judgment and without eyes and you know, the whispers so we all had nicknames. And we would go out and party and have fun and they’d be like, ‘Oh, I was hanging out with a Somali girl named Milly.’ No one would know who it is. It’s history.
V: And when did you decide to adopt your own name? Was there a distinct moment or a climax of moments?
A: Definitely a highlight of moments. And the biggest part, it was because I felt little bits of it in advance. I remember finishing a project, and I played it for my friend, and he listened. And it was music that sounded like what I was doing to appease everyone. And so he heard it, he was just like, ‘I don’t know. I mean, it’s good. But like, I’ve heard that from you before. What else is there? It gets a bit repetitive. And it hurt, really. But then I sat down with it. And I thought, I feel a little choked. And now you tell me that, and I wanted to write about other things. This right was my moment. And then my friend in the studio, he said to me: ‘Listen Amaal, you are already a statement, as if you do what you do is an act in itself. You go on stage in the studio, that’s a statement. And I was like, ‘Wow, you’re right.’ These were the great moments.
V: Yeah and with that self-realization what do you hope the EP does? What message do you want to send to listeners?
A: Oh man I think my biggest thing that I wish people would take away from me, my music is to live a life of questioning the things you were taught. Are these really your ideas? Is it something uploaded to you – don’t conform and change to suit what may be the right thing. Because it takes a lot of courage to even go against your parents and the ideas and things you were taught. So I think that would probably be my biggest thing to always try to be fearless and courageous in whatever you do.
V: And move on to some specific songs from the EP, can you take us through the production of “Honey” and work with Nicky Davey?
A: Yes. Nicky Davey, they actually did “Honey”, “Heaven”, “Special” and “Renegade. “So we started, we had an Airbnb in October 2019. And, right away, I put on the board, Milly like, that’s what this project is going to be because I’m going to live in this space It’s like that. It’s already in me, but I’m not going to turn away from it anymore. I’m going to totally embrace it. And that’s what it was, it was to embrace my stories and no longer have – no more shame. I have to give up a lot of things. I was very ashamed. And I thought that wasn’t fair. So, yeah, we kind of started with the production and the writing. would come a bit later, but they were extremely difficult. They weren’t going to give it to me easily. They are amazing writers themselves. So they played a huge role in helping me put it all together. It was like a therapy. I felt like it was kind of a mirror reflecting to me and in the end I was really released because some of the things I was afraid to say that I was telling myself sometimes, ‘I don’t know if I could say this. I don’t know if I can sing this. Now I’m looking back, I’m like ‘What? What was I so afraid of? So I hope to continue in this direction.
V: How did your Somali origin forge you to become the artist you are today?
A: Somali is called “the land of poets”. It’s like a sport, the men of the tribe, everyone’s leader will come and if there is a dispute or something, they will compete against each other. And in fact, my grandmother, she is very good. So I feel like it seeped into my genetics and that’s why this path was something I always felt a deep calling for. Because for me to enter it without having anyone who looks like me, pushing back negative feedback and sometimes going against the family. You know, there is a reason. It means it’s in me, and I think it’s from my past. So that plays a huge role. I always wanted to keep my name. And even just stylistically, sometimes the way I dress, I like to do African prints. And one of the melodies is kind of like Somali melodic stuff.
If you haven’t already, broadcast Milly down.