Caturday with Denai Moore

India Hendrikse

Denai Moore’s music doesn’t just speak to conflicts of the heart, but bravely, conflicts of the world. The UK artist – an avid environmentalist and passionate advocate for social change – is fuelling our current paradigm shift with her tunes. She rose to prominence featuring on SBTRKT’s 2014 album ‘Wonder Where We Land’, and has just released her third studio album, ‘Modern Dread’ – a name that brings to mind mutiple metaphors – perhaps signifying the sense of dread we feel in 2020, or speaking to the experience of being a Black women in the 21st century. Here, Denai divulges on music’s role in dismantling racism, the heaviness of being a Black artist right now, and her fave Jamaican eats. 

IH: Hi Denai! As I write these questions, the UK has swathes of people protesting and taking to the streets to say ‘ENOUGH’ to systemic racism. What does it feel like for you being a Black artist in the UK today?
DM: It feels like we’ve been building up to this moment for a while now. It also feels like a shift in our relationship with a system that has failed us and doesn’t align with us. It’s interesting to see the face of these protests being so broad and mixed, which shows so much progression in terms of true allyship. So many uncomfortable conversations are often the ones that are the most necessary. Justice feels possible if we all fight it together, which has been proven over the past few weeks with cases being revisited post all the protests. Being a Black artist during this time feels quite heavy. When I feel angry I write, and it has already affected the music I’m making right now in my bedroom at home.
IH: What do you think the music industry, specifically, can do to dismantle racism?
DM: I think we have to look at diversifying the rooms with people in power in the music industry to really help shape and preserve the authenticity of Black artists and voices. Black art is so diverse, and it does feel like many artists are cornered into specific boxes due to racism and the lack of foresight of allowing artists to be themselves.
I hope in my future I can be an A&R that can be that person on the other side validating Black artists in ways that many aren’t right now, because they aren’t understood in the same way. The music industry does have so many things to address in terms of how contracts work, and ownership of artists’ work.
IH: You’ve been inspired by SUCH a wide range of artists, from Bon Iver and Sufjan Stevens to Kanye, Solange and Beyonce. What music is inspiring you right now?
DM: Right now I’m really inspired by Charli xcx’ new album ‘How I’m Feeling Now’, which was made entirely in lockdown and is just so unfiltered and pure. I’m also still in awe of Fiona Apple’s new album too.
IH: I’m vegan but have never ventured into Jamaican cooking because I just assumed it was meat-heavy. Your vegan supper club Dee’s Table proves my ignorance! What are your fave Jamaican dishes to vegan-ise? 
DM: My favourite Jamaican Dish is stew peas which is really warming and coconut-y. I love Jamaican breakfast – if I have time on a sunday, I’d make fried dumplings and ackee roasted tomatoes & plantain. The full works.
IH: Environmentalism is really injected into your music. What are the changes you hope people start to make in their own lives?
DM: What’s hopeful to me about this generation is there’s a real connection between the things we do and how it affects the world around us. It’s really powerful to understand that even though you can’t individually change the world, you can change your own, and even affect the circles around you. Change your community, and create a ripple.
IH: You and your partner Nadira Amrani collaborate on lots of projects together. What’s your working dynamic like?
DM: Our dynamic is very natural as we see each other very authentically. She understands me more so than anyone else. It’s really fun to work with someone that’s also your best-friend & lover.
IH: Explain the changes and developments in your music, from ‘We Used To Bloom’ to ‘Modern Dread’?
DM: I think the music feels more unhinged and very abrasive socinally. The references were more electronic and the palette is a lot colder, intentionally. I think in theory, writing most albums feel the same to me. It’s all about making something that feels authentic to me at the time. Which can be quite haunting and hard to face. ‘Modern Dread’ challenged me in the sense that I really had to stick up for it, when at times even the people around me didn’t necessarily understand it.
IH: Fashion-wise, who are you inspired by? And what/who do you love to wear?
DM: Really inspired by Robert Wun during this whole campaign, who have had the pleasure of wearing on my album cover and various music video shoots for ‘Modern Dread’. His work is very futuristic and timeless.
IH: Aside from the release of your new album, do you have any plans and goals for the rest of this (tumultuous!) year?
DM: I’m currently writing new music, which feels good. I think I really want to tour this album, which I’ve had more time to really think about how I’d want to present it on a live show.

Click to listen to Danai Moore’s playlist