Singing Duo Najuah brings African culture to Toronto and beyond.

Kui Mwai
3 min readMay 14, 2020
NAJUAH

Listening to Najuah’s music, it’s clear that the singing duo is bringing something different, and special, to the table.

Based out of Toronto, Canada, their exciting mix of pop, rock, R&B, and hip hop sounds enliven their already vivacious lyrics. It’s the kind of music you want to listen to on warm summer evenings, fresh drink in hand and good friends by your side. It’s the kind of music you want to sing along to in the shower or blast in the car, windows open while sunrays ricochet off your skin. Najuah makes music that celebrates life.

The two sisters that make Najuah, Hanifa and Juliet Sekandi, grew up listening to music that was grounded in a love of life.

“We grew up in London, Ontario and we listened to the radio a lot,” Hanifa said.

“We listened to a lot of different bands in different genres of music: rock, soul, R&B, the list goes on,” Juliet added. The Sekandi home was filled with music, from top-charting hits and classics on the radio to traditional Ugandan songs and melodies sung by Hanifa and Juliet’s parents.

“Our parents love music. We’re from Uganda, and there’s a huge musical culture there. We grew up listening to songs from our country,” Hanifa said with a palpable joy that’s contagious.

A fellow East African myself, I recognize that pride, and the nature of the musical culture she’s speaking to. In our region of the continent, music is a cultural device used to mark moments of great joy and achievement. There are songs for family gatherings, birthdays, weddings (and the several events within the nuptial process), and everything in between. There are even musically induced cheers and cries to celebrate the smaller but equally as important joys of everyday life.

African cultures, though diverse and varied, are united in celebrating life through music. It brings generations together, and it is the core of who we are. Najuah masterfully interweaves that element of African culture in their music, from somber ballads like Outta my Head to playful love songs like Red Light. Across their discography, listeners are introduced to the best of our culture.

When I ask Hanifa and Juliet about what led them to a career in music, their answer isn’t surprising. “Our journey to where we are now has been built on the power of dreams and pure faith,” the sisters said.

Najuah’s music tells a story. A story that compiles the best of the past, the brilliance of the present, and the promise of the future. Their sounds are multilayered, featuring elements from different genres and sing-a-long melodies that are a nod to their Ugandan background. Even their name, Najuah, holds many meanings.

“Najuah is the combination of both the first two letters of our middle names NA and the first two letters of our first names JU & HA reversed,” Hanifa explained.

“We later found out that it means ‘patience’ in Swahili, and ‘success’ in Arabic and ‘constellation’ in Hebrew,” Juliet adds.

Najuah is the perfect name for what these talented artists are achieving through music. Together they are bringing the best of a vibrant culture to Western audiences, changing the realm of popular music. Their work is the perfect example of what modern African art embodies: the richness of the African tradition and the fast-paced, deeply desired shift toward the future. The complexities of embodying both the past and the future in the present are what makes African and African-influenced art challenging, effective, and moving.

Hanifa and Juliet hope to pave the way for other African artists to experiment with their sound and share it with the world. Giving artists of this caliber and background a platform to share their voice will help popular culture continue to evolve and reflect the world today.

*This post is a re-purposed version of an article featured and written by me in The Mantle. Check out the original piece here.*

--

--

Kui Mwai

Kenyan-American. Lover of Toni Morrison, Astrology, and Whitney Houston. I write about culture, blackness, health and love. Email: kuikmwai@gmail.com