Shelves Gigs – Jaqee

Interview by Alvaro Martinez

Photos by Maria Bethania Medina

In times when we all are searching for meaning in our lives, Jaqee’s music comes to our hearts filled with hope, strength and light. Our musical encounter with Jaqee and guitarist Jeff Chapah took place on a sunny winter morning between the bookshelves of Theodor-Heuss library. We invite you to our second Shelves Gigs session!

Jaqee, please tell us about yourself and your musical career!

I’m born in Uganda, where I was based until I was 13. Then we did the whole refugee trip to Sweden, where I actually started my whole musical journey, in Gothenburg. That’s where my first album, my first baby was born musically. For 11 years I’m in Berlin, where I’m continuing the music thing, playing and singing and writing and being in studios.

How do you compose your songs?

I write my own songs, lyrics and music, but I’m always working with producers. Sometimes I get beats from them and we build up from the very basics, because then I really have the melody and the idea of where I want to take the music and the songwriting. And then from there we kind of co-produce it together.

What are your sources of inspiration?

Life is my inspiration. That’s why every album project is very different from its predecessor, because I make the music as I’m living life, interacting with it and then continuing with the whole journey. So it’s usually very reflective of where I am in my surroundings, in my growth, you know, as a woman, as a black woman, as a mother – all these aspects come into the process. So for every album, I’m maturing, reflecting a bit more, sometimes I’m daring, sometimes I’m holding back. For me it’s so important that whatever I write reflects something that people can relate to, that they can resonate with. Because that is what makes music so special, we’re in it together – we laugh together, we cry together, we go to the streets together.

Can you tell us about the three songs that you performed at the library?

‘Miracle’ was written during the refugee wave. It was a really crazy moment where we were interacting a lot with these kids that were absolutely damaged by war, very traumatized. And some kind of miracle happens, when you come into their space. For me that was a moment where I really understood the importance of humanity and togetherness and hope, you know, because we were in a space where we all needed hope – me, the kids, the parents – and that triggers a lot of emotion. Because that could be your child, that could be you, and I keep seeing myself in this energy. Also everybody in the video is pretty much a refugee, they are coming from this space. The song was written earlier as a cry for hope, saying ‘you cannot give up’. We all have these flash moments where we just feel like ‘I can’t do it anymore,’ so I felt it was so good to have this song.

I am interested in music that heals, to be honest, I’m not so interested in distraction, it’s not my way… because I’ve seen enough hard life to not to romanticize it. If you experience some things in your life, you are just like, “let’s forget about all that. I need light, I want to have light.” I find that this really helps me, so I’m trying to write this kind of music.

‘Moonshine’ is another struggle song, the first words are “Rising to her feet in a defeated mood”. It’s so nice performing it live, because it’s one of those songs that every time we play it on stage, it moves people. 

‘World of the unknown’ is actually a song that I wrote for my daughters and myself, it is about us healing in the separation between me and her daddy, and if we chose to go separate ways, I want us to do it in a good and loving way that doesn’t damage our children, because if we damage them, we are damaging the future. So it’s important that we really take care of and protect them, and also dare to get out of our comfort zone. And, okay, we don’t know what’s going to happen. I mean, it’s the world of the unknown. If we believe that good things are gonna happen, then good things will happen. I think this is really important. We can choose to see people separating or people dying as a really negative thing, but you can also see it as light, you know, as a lesson, as growth, as encouragement. So for me, this song is very much about this approach to really embrace the unknown, to go beyond your comfort zone and also be okay with it, you know?

Check out Jaqee’s work here: