a conversation with musician Noah Slee | music
Front row of the Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen’s concert room, watching the performance behind my viewfinder, is how I spent my evening on October 30th. 800 photos were taken that night. 800 photos of the RnB-Soul musician Noah Slee, were taken. But before going on stage, the New Zealand singer shares his story, his inspirations and passions over a few chocolate chip cookies.
Born in New Zealand from Tongan parents, a beautiful Polynesian monarchy, Noah Slee grew up in a musical environment with his seven other siblings. To the classic frightening question “Who are you,” he described himself as an always polite to motherfuckers type of person.
“I’m passionate and sometimes annoyed at different things, positive things though, things people should be annoyed at.”
He doesn’t only pursue music in life. His wanderlust is what led him to move from New Zealand to settle in Berlin following his time in Australia. The traveler describes what pushes him to chase all these adventures: “When I get an itch, I generally respond to it because I kind of feel really stuck, stuck in place.”
But feeling spoiled is how Slee describes the ever-growing Berlin creative scene, “In Berlin, I was able to explore different styles of music that I’ve never really been able to.” A lot of the people around him are embedded within this industry, from dancers to photographers, painters and artists. The musician shares: “Just because they’re my friends, I want to support them. So I’ve kind of learned more about art too.” An open-minded art enthusiast is how you could also describe him. "I like to be shocked, so I'm open to going to art performances and just being like, what the fuck was that?"
But his art of constantly writing and conceptualising projects, blends different music styles which is what constitutes his debut album, Otherland, released in 2017. Now, as the Otherlandchapter comes to an end, Slee shared its story: “it reflects a time in the past where I was maybe struggling a bit more with my sexuality and also my mental health and a lot of important deaths in my life.” The influence of his roots can be heard through the songs and melodies but also in the different interludes featured in the album. His history isn’t only represented through the musical aspect but also the visual aspect of his project, the cover art. Tattooed on his wrist, the three dots date back a few generations in his family.
“My dad said it means to be one,” shares Slee.
But the personal album is still a body of work which you can dance along to. “I love the darkness in songs, but it’s balanced with these very light beats,” explains the musician. We can’t agree more with him. When performing, the energy Slee added to the songs, was electric. It was one of those moments where you just let yourself go and boogie.
Growing up in the New Zealand dance culture, the performer is in a lifetime-long relationship with dance: “I love to go to dance events, from contemporary to indigenous dance to hip hop.” He shared it not only during his performance but also during a short film he made called And so we move to Otherlands. The short film is the final chapter to close the Otherland book.
Before coming up on stage, a rough edit of the video was screened. It featured a beautiful celebration of dances, from a contemporary solo performance on a black sand beach, to a group of women dancing in an abandoned warehouse. “For me, the project is about movement and the freedom movement can give.” But not too much details will be given as the artist explains: “this short film has so many small things that I don’t want to give away too much. I want people to take it in for themselves.” Do not worry, sit back, relax and watch the short here.
With this project coming to a poetic end, the musician teases the vibes of his next music endeavours: “chill but don’t worry, you can still bounce to it.” How chill are we talking ? “I’m not going to break out into some experimental, atmospheric vibes yet,” he confirms. Currently, Slee is in the mood to create more fun beats where he shows a quirky side to himself. "It's legit, but also don't take it too serious kind of thing."
Readers, you can expect a heightened version of the queer talented musician. If you need a smooth welcome in his universe, I suggest to start with the discovery of this sensual, musically chill gem. If you're intrigued, enjoy his performance on the Berlin Youtube show, COLORS, before entering the Otherland.