Q&A With Sisters WIth Soul

Following on from their mix last week, we had a chat with Nadine Marjan and Tanya Rahme about their influences and the Sisters With Soul project.

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BYO: When did you first start playing music?

Tanya: Being raised in a Lebanese musical family, I recall music being played throughout the house at a very young age. Mum and Dad would regularly have dinner parties where singers and musicians gathered to play and sing until all hours of the morning (and the phonograph would spin vintage Arabic vinyl when they called for a taboule & arak break). Here is where my foundations of live instruments and vocal development began.

Nadine: Well, I played the violin for most of my high school years (Mum's going to be so happy I mentioned that with all the $$ she’s spent on my studies). I haven’t played the violin since school but all the music theory knowledge is still there and has turned out to be very helpful during the SWS phase of my life.

BYO: How did your affinity for jazz, funk, soul and hip hop develop?

Nadine: It was through [J Dilla’s] music - and specifically his use of sampling - that I discovered a whole new world of rare funk soul and jazz. Researching Dilla’s samples really shaped what I started listening to and I developed my own tastes (and record collection) from there.

Tanya: My story is a little backwards to be honest. In my early teens, I was infatuated with hip hop, specifically the sounds of the West Coast and old school classic R&B, thanks to my older sisters.

I recall when hip hop and R&B reached an all-time slump in the Australian market and the club scene became too pop filled for my ears. I craved more and so eventually tapped into GO GO music (of the late 70's and early 80's), funk and finally, my love of all loves, jazz. With my new found knowledge, I started building my musical library properly by collecting vinyl from each of these eras.

BYO: How did Sisters With Soul come about?

SWS: We were introduced to each other in 2015 by a mutual friend. A few of us ladies would hang out and just constantly rabble on about music, new albums, remixes etc. Our hangout spot was a friend’s cafe. On one particular cold evening, after our friend closed his cafe, we sat in the backroom, wine tasting and listening to jazz for hours.

We began talking about how nice it was to be at a venue together while sharing our two loves - music and wine - and that’s when a thought popped up - “why don’t we do this but invite all our friends and make an event of it?”

That was the birth of Sisters with Soul, which lead to a string of really popular live music events called Soul on 22.

BYO: Where do your tastes converge and diverge?

SWS: Our love for all the genres that branch off jazz is a common denominator for us both; although I (Tanya) often reach out to Nadine regarding hip hop.

Nadine carries a deeper, in depth knowledge of the history, DJ mixing, beat matching and production. I come in with the knowledge of live instrumentation, sound and of such.

There are very few moments we don't share the same excitement on a piece of music though. The best time to catch us at our realest is when we are dissecting a new album. The production, the mix, the songwriting, and researching each musician that played a part in the project. There’s a reason why we don’t get sick of each other’s company and this is it.

BYO: Who are some local artists/producers that you've been recently excited to share via your podcast?

SWS: Allysha Joy is an absolute joy to listen to and watch live. Wallace - overly captivating vocally (although originally from Christchurch). SelaMoon with her notable tone and eccentric style (watch out for this one). Crooked Letter - a promising young producer/rapper (Sydney grown but currently Melbourne based). Remi (Melbourne) who I've likened to as the Sade of Aussie hip hop with his smooth tone, but differs largely to many with his punchy rap lyrics, often politically charged.

BYO: What's been the process like putting together the lineup for the St O'Donnell Select Gallery?

SWS: Working with Jesse and Chin from St O’Donnell has been such a joy. It’s nice when tastemakers work together to give their community a real experience, whether it be in the form of art or music. Like most brainstorming sessions these days most of it happened at all hours of the day over Facebook Messenger, we’ve all see a lot of live shows and know a lot of artists so we would just send ideas back and forth till we felt like our lineup was musically cohesive.

The lineup is really the best of what’s happening in our local music scene.

BYO: What artists do you hope to introduce to a new audience on the night?

SWS: Although a lot of the crowd might already be familiar with Cabu, we’re really excited about his set. His music is really vibe-y and smooth; we love seeing crowds get down to music like that. If you listen to his track ‘Crazy’ you’ll see what we mean, super chilled production but it still makes you want to move.

BYO: Nadine, you've also been involved in education - what are some of the lessons that music can teach us?

Nadine: I work for an amazing Sydney-based music production school called Liveschool. Since working here I’ve really noticed how important music education is not only for artist development but also in creating a safe space for collaboration which then goes on to create a local scene that can sometimes have a global influence. Some examples; The Roots met at school, Kamasi Washington & Thundercat and a lot of their clique, Robert Glasper met a lot of his band members at jazz school also, the boys from Ezra Collective and Nubya Garcia met in a community program. So the right schools and mentors are really important and have a lot of influence over the what we’re hearing on the radio today although it may not seem that way.