An Interview with The Sunkissed Child
Updated: Mar 11, 2022
Inspired by the climate of her hometown Beirut, Chance The Rapper and her innocence apparent in the expressive emotion in her lyrics, Yasmina Nahas conceived her somewhat alter ego “The Sunkissed Child” in lockdown. Lockdown was a challenging time for us all but in its limited fortunes, however, gave rise to the band behind The Sunkissed Child. “It was a beautiful mess”, Yasmina tells me about her house of numerous jazz musicians. She used the lockdown to dive right into the jazz and neo-soul scene and embraced artists like Erykah Badu. Despite the time inspiring her to listen to new music, some of her lyrics are tainted with deeply reflective sadness. While many of us were preoccupied by learning to adjust to a lockdown summer, Beirut suffered a horrific explosion and an economic crisis. “It was a lot all hitting me at once. I really struggled.”
(Photo: Misha Warren)
Yasmina embraces the cultural power of music and sees a role for herself. “When I was younger, I refused to do anything close to my culture. All I wanted was to be a part of the western world. I went to a French school and not an Arabic school. I was against including other influences in my music. But when I came to the UK, to Leeds, realised this is what matters. I have a role as an artist from Lebanon, to represent it whether I like it or not. It comes as a responsibility.” Blending a mix of French, English and Arabic into her set, she says she wouldn’t have it any other way. All the mixtures of these are what represents her and the full extent of who she is. It is clearly a popular set as The Sunkissed Child sold out even its first headline show!
She tells me about the surreal nature of this show and how her friendship with up-and-coming hip-hop artist Yusuf Yellow, whom she also sings with, got her the slot. “He’s mates with the people at Nice People Magazine [Leeds creatives magazine] and told them about my project. They asked me to do the show that day!” She performed alongside August Charles, another incredible Leeds artist and the gig gave the boost to her project that she had only dreamed of. “It all made sense, and everything finally felt possible.” Of similar importance was her performance at the Sunday Joint, a free jazz gig event at Hifi hosted every Sunday. “That was so special. I looked up to the performers a Sunday Joint when I was younger. I love the promoter DJ Lubi who gives you the seed to do your thing!”
The Leeds music scene has been so welcoming, she expresses. “Yes music is competitive, but it doesn’t feel individually competitive.” As an integral part of other projects such as Yusuf’s band and the Naali Collective, it is even more important that musicians work together. “We want to make it all together, move together and hit the clouds together. I believe in all of the projects that I am in, and it all gives us the chance to create different things, I’ll be happy with whichever project makes it.” Her praise and love for the city is so clear in the interview as there is a “homely feeling, you don’t find elsewhere.” It is surprising therefore to learn it wasn’t her first choice and she had hoped to go to America. “When I started telling people back home that I was going to Leeds, they said what the fuck is Leeds? But I thought I’d give it a shot and have not regretted it one bit!”.
Her evolution as a songwriter has grown through the years, starting as a youngster writing lyrics for four chord songs at 2am, nicely adjusting the capo on various frets. She now begins her creative process with drum grooves and harmonies as the basis of her tunes. “I am really struggling to find lyrics at the moment”, she tells me. This surprised me, as I’d imagined lyrics would flow freely from her. However, she tells me how the direct and emotional openness of her songs can sometimes leave her exposed. The track My Life openly discusses issues such as depression and suicide. “Saying these things out loud is difficult. People are going to ask a lot of questions, particularly in Lebanon where people are not as used to the raw emotion hitting them in the feels. It’s what a lot of people feel but we don’t speak about it."
(Photo: Misha Warren)
The Sunkissed Child's live sessions encapsulate the project perfectly. Filmed at the beautiful Oranaise Café in Woodhouse, her song Somewhere New already has over 7000 views on Youtube! “I didn't want to do a live session just for the sake of it. I wanted it to be a unique.” It certainly is. “I got the idea of using Oranaise by Matias of Moma Cat Discos [Leeds based label] whom I also work with. He told me about this venue with beautiful lanterns on the roof. I went over and spoke to the owner in Arabic and he said we could do it so we went for it! We were there all day, working our butts off. But it was a lot of fun.”
It is hard to get across the warmth and notion of community that permeates through this interview. The Sunkissed Child is all about embracing diversity and inclusivity. I ask Yasmina how it feels to be a woman in such a male dominated industry. “Women in the music industry go through a lot of imposter syndrome, where they feel like they’re not good enough or incapable of doing what men can do. There’s always been this issue of trying to voice myself and my opinions. It shouldn’t be that because I’m a singer or I didn’t do jazz, that I should be given less respect musically.” She alludes however to how the workload is just so high for women as there isn’t as many studying music. “I guess it comes from the core and women need to be education from younger. My parents never told me to learn music or play the piano. I picked it up on my own because there aren’t as many opportunities, unless you seek it out. This is the same for other minority groups, LGBT, bipot groups, any minority groups, you see the same issue.” Her next show with The Sunkissed Child is a “Women’s Showcase”, alongside the Goddess Collective and Naali. This means she plays two sets in one night, only proving the workload of a female musician in Leeds. However, Yasmina certainly embraces the challenge! “I just hope people see what we are trying to do with these kinds of line-ups and show us the support they deserve.”
The Sunkissed Child’s positivity is so inspiring. I ask her thoughts on the current success of the Leeds music scene, which has seen ample coverage in recent weeks with the success of Yard Act’s debut, reaching number 2. “I just feel it booming before my eyes. I am in love with it. It's mesmerising to me how we are all using each other’s best assets to push each other and make something special. I am very proud of Leeds.”
The Sunkissed Child’s live session is available to watch here:
Video/Editing: Misha Warren
Production: The Recording Box
Engineering: Oscar McKie and Adam Bentham
Mix/Master: Adam Bentham
In collaboration with Moma Cat Discos
Words by Becca Healy