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Interview: Hanorah

Photo by: @stevegwalsh

Hanorah uses her music to empower and reinforce self worth. With her latest album Post- Romantic Stress Disorder, she encourages healing and strength with powerhouse vocals set to soul filled melodies. Facing the duality of beauty and pain while dealing with past relationships, this album inspires self love throughout all stages of emotion. Hailing from Montreal, Hanorah is a captivating artist we were thrilled to speak to. Check out our interview with her below! @hanorahmusic

CONTENT WARNING: This interview contains information about rape/sexual assault which may be triggering to some.

1) Hey Hanorah! Thanks for interviewing with Indie Witches. How did Hanorah come to be?

Hi! Thanks for chatting.

This all came to be because of a pretty traumatic experience, actually. I had been r*ped by an ex boyfriend when I was 18 (back then I couldn’t even say that word.) I wrote long, obscure poems trying to deal with the symptoms of PTSD I was experiencing from the assault. I read a lot, too. Slam poems and feminist blogs by fellow survivors were crucial in validating my experience, and seeing that what happened was not my fault.

Hanorah is my middle name; It means Honour. I sort of impulsively used it when I decided to start making music. At that time, in 2015, I didn’t really have a whole lot of connections in the scene here, and had to go from scratch. I found a producer named Sookz, with whom I made an album called Unstuck. I went to his place in the West Island once a week, and every time I went over, we turned one of my poems into a song.

2) How has your music evolved since you first started?

With Sookz, things were all done electronically. It took me time to find the courage to play with more people, with live musicians. I met my guitarist/now boyfriend Paul right when Unstuck was released. He was shredding some Hendrix in the metro, and my jaw fell on the floor. He played the guitar with so much heart, I got shivers everywhere! We started doing duo shows together, and he recorded some guitar on my second release, Post-Romantic Stress Disorder (several tracks on that were produced by Odysee, fka Aralune). After that. things moved from electronic to soulful real quick.

I also sang in a funk/rock/soul cover band with Paul and some friends at a dive bar in Montreal. The band was so damn loud I blew my voice out every week screaming over them. No regrets! I reconnected with my favourite music on that stage, and found my voice. I now play with my band of absolute darlings, which includes Paul on guitar, Chrisitan on keys and backups, Adam on bass, and Olly on drums. I’m a lucky gal, they’re great!

Even though I don’t work with Sookz anymore, I see now how important Unstuck and PRSD were. It was the first time I think someone gave me the space to say what I needed to say.

3) Could you briefly describe your music-making process?

It really depends on the song. I don’t write such sad things so much anymore, because I’ve all but recovered from my trauma. So now I just follow my interests, life, the things I feel about what I observe. I reflect on healing and redemption a lot, especially as a surviving woman of colour who battles with mental health stuff. I still try to find positive things to say, like in ‘I Got.’ Sometimes I get a chorus fully formed in my head right away, like on ‘Clementine’. Other times, Paul comes up with a guitar part and we build together around that. I try to discover something new every time I write a song. It’s important to let go of control a little bit, and trust everyone’s instincts. Olly is especially strong when it comes to arranging our songs. They really are our songs.

4) That’s awesome funds for your latest Casette + Digital Album go to a women’s shelter in Montreal. Music can be a powerful tool for activism and help make positive effects on people’s lives. How has music inspired you?

Absolutely! It was time. Music speaks to the times, to our reality. My reality at the time of making PRSD was, I’m a woman and a shitty man hurt me in a shitty system and a sick culture, and no one cares. I wanted people to care. Can you believe it was controversial to reinforce the concept of permission in adult men in this album!? The idea of body autonomy actually baffles people—people who don’t benefit from you respecting yourself. I’ve had to explain to grown people why they should stop jamming their fingers into my hair, or why unwanted sexual contact isn’t ok. Like I don’t care about your curiosity, your shame, your ego, or your boner. Treat me with respect.

It just reinforced how much I need to carry forth my message. I really admire Nina Simone, because she lived her message. It wasn’t just a marketing tool, she really believed in and owned her mission to contribute to the liberation of African American people. I don’t know that I’m at that level, that I can speak on behalf of all women or all survivors. And I don’t want to, because everyone is different. What I can do is speak my truth and continue my journey of self-acceptance. I just hope that when people hear my work, they know they’re not alone.

5) What advice would you give to other women in the industry?

You deserve to be here.

6) What was your favorite part of being involved in La Voix 5?

I felt respected as a musician and survivor on that show. It wasn’t all about the assault, and I don’t think I was typecast either, which is a thing sometimes in Quebec mainstream culture. The best thing is always the people. Shooting days are very long, up to 14 hours. But however long I was there on any given day, the crew was there far longer. I really appreciate how hard-working and kind everyone was.

7) How is the music scene in Montreal?

Oh boy! I feel like anything I say won’t give a complete enough picture. In a word, colourful. There are events big and small, for all kinds of crowds. The busking culture here is fantastic. There are initiatives to carve out space for BIPOC, queer, femmes, trans, and disables people and that freaking rocks my socks. There are always shows with 3 bands of 4 white dudes, and they’re cool… But you also have Chilean percussionists and Japanese slide guitar guys and Malaysian bassists and Egyptian Afro beats and RnB brass bands and Haitian hip hop and Riot Grrl projects and drag queens. It’s all amazing, and there’s always something to discover. I’ve been welcomed with open arms.

8) Who were your musical inspirations/favorite artists growing up?

Etta James, Otis Redding, Joss Stone, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin, Parliament, Aretha Franklin, Amy Winehouse… I think I’m drawn to powerful vocals, blues-based melody, rock n roll and funk grooves.

9) What is your favorite venue you have played?

I have two! Casa Del Popolo is great, because it’s a really artsy scene. I can be weird if I want to there. I usually paint disposable cameras and toss em to the crowd, that’s always fun!

I also love Honey Martin. It’s so cozy and our residency there last year has pumped my heart full of love and nostalgia. We cut our teeth at these places as a band.

10) Who are you currently listening to?

Ouhh! Japanese Breakfast, Luna Li, Tennis, Po Lazarus, Aiza, Teke Teke, Jealousapinter, Lightbulb Alley, Brenda, Electric Octopus, The Rolling Stones, Paul De Rita, and Aretha Franklin. I’ve also got Revolver by the Beatles on repeat these days. Mix of old and new, near and far.

11) Any upcoming shows? Where is the best place for fans to follow you?

Here is my Facebook page where I put all the events. Let’s be friends on Insta too! We’re planning a release soon with Dare To Care, so there’s much to be excited about!


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