Spotlight On... naafi

Following the release of their debut single, Magnolia, we catch up with Glasgow DJ and producer naafi

Feature by Tallah Brash | 25 Jan 2024
  • naafi

On their debut single Magnolia, Glasgow-based DJ and producer naafi is coming to us with a fully formed sound. But that’s because naafi isn’t new to the music scene. You’ve probably already heard their work on TAAHLIAH's Angelica EP, or maybe in the work of Alliyah Enyo, but 2024 sees naafi stepping into the spotlight themselves.

With Magnolia – a gorgeous and extremely personal song about change – released earlier this week, we catch up with naafi to find out more about them and what lies ahead.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself – how long have you been making music for, and what other artists inspire your work? 
I always feel like this is a hard question to answer. Depends where you want to start, but I think I was always drawn to sound and singing especially. When I was little I would rearrange poems and stories into songs and make up melodies for them – it’s quite a prominent memory for me so I always see that as the start. I tried to learn instruments through my teens but nothing ever stuck. I was so bad at practising; I was never in bands, and kind of preferred to do my own thing. I always had ideas but no way to realise them. It wasn’t until lockdown I started trying to produce with YouTube videos and just playing around in Ableton a lot, but I always sang so writing lyrics and vocals was really how I got into music in the first place.

I guess my influences have changed over time – Kelly Lee Owens and Koreless were big ones for me when I started producing – but I was always glued to the music channel as a kid, so there was a lot of pop influences too. When I started DJing I would play a lot of Syclops in the club. I have a soft spot for Sasha’s Xpander EP too… When I was little my dad would play dance shows in the car, me and my sister would request it as “sparkly music”, so there's a lot of influences over time. 

You’ve previously worked on releases with TAAHLIAH and Alliyah Enyo. How did those relationships come about? 
Me and TAAHLIAH started working together online over Google Docs. We worked together for a while before we properly met in real life, because it was during lockdown, but we knew each other through mutual friends – we were at art school at the same time. And then me and Alliyah met going to see LCY play at Sneaky Pete’s and became friends. We just had a lot in common, ended up living together and making music at the same time so got quite involved in each other’s work, giving feedback and helping each other out with projects.

You’ve just released your debut single, the stunning Magnolia. I believe it started out as a song for another artist, but very quickly became something too personal for you to part with. Can you tell us a bit more about the song, what it’s about and what it means to you?
It was one of those songs that kind of just came out, so the lyrics are all the first draft of writing. Sometimes I feel like my subconscious is the one who writes for me. I guess, like a lot of people, writing helps me to think out/have a conclusion about stuff. At the time I was doing a lot of reflecting on my childhood and relationships. I feel like the lyrics are quite straightforward but it feels layered to me; my songs end up being about lots of different stuff simultaneously. Although there are lyrics, I think the feeling comes through the rest of the [instrumentation in the] track. I always go with the feeling rather than trying to say something.

Now that this single is out, what does the rest of the year have in store for naafi?
You can expect releases, collaborations and live shows. This single is part of a bigger EP release – which is really exciting. UVA will be coming out in a couple of months. I’ve also been working away on some collaborations with Anam Creative, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and some other artists which have been super interesting and will be performed and/or released later this year. I’m stepping into the performance side of things a bit more and so I've got some shows coming up; at EXIT, a new club in Glasgow, over the next few months, and more experimental shows with the Orchestra which will be in June!

Magnolia is out now

Follow naffi on instagram @naafi_________