If you’re at the point where you’re growing a bit tired of the whole, “what is alternative RnB?” debate, and just want to get on with bumping some really good music, you’re not alone. Which is why, when I checked out this song, ‘For This Life’ on YouTube through a link sent to me by a friend, I was shook.
It’d been a while since I’d heard anything so good… of course, it didn’t hurt that the video had that retro, whimsical vibe that is totally dank. The artist, Hana Ni (also known as Hanani Taylor in her avatar of professional actor) boasts a “Norah Jones meets Whitney Houston” sort of voice. Add to that the silky jazz notes of ‘For This Life’, that reminded me of the ethereal ‘Cranes in the Sky’ (Solange Knowles), and I knew I’d stumbled onto my new favorite.
I hopped onto Spotify right away to see if I could find the artist there, and couldn’t resist bopping every single one of her tracks… and loving them all! ‘Life of a Lotus’, with its message of feminine empowerment and neo-soul vibes was reminiscent of the inimitable Erykah Badu (‘On and on’ was one track that leapt to mind). The next track I bopped – ‘Spaceship’, with a more techno arrangement and peppy four-beat; the ethereal, trance-y feel of the song evoked a feel similar to ‘Into You’ by QUIN.
Other songs that hit different included ‘Bodhisattva (Interlude)’ which is a great meditative track, and ‘Changes’, which I found to be a really thoughtful track about the evolution of people and relationships, deeply meaningful in a way that I’ve seldom encountered in either mainstream R&B or in alternative R&B (how sad but true).
But the track that stood out the most for me, though, was ‘Mantra (Sun Girl)’. The rippling piano and soft violin notes are the perfect counterfoil to the breathy, slightly husky vocals delivering lyrics that infused a sense of strength and wellbeing (“just say you can ’coz you can and you will and you can”… “live well, love well, be well”), the ensemble combining into a beautiful benediction.
By this time, I felt a deeper connection with Hana Ni, and was determined to get to know the artist. Technology worked its usual magic, and after a couple of DMs and mails exchanged, I had a fuller picture of this artist that I’m excited to share with our readers here.
I learned that Hana Ni (aka Hanani Taylor) has been a musical prodigy since childhood, appearing at the tender age of nine on national TV, in shows such as “Showtime at the Apollo” and “Kid Star of Tomorrow”. I was further impressed (but not really surprised) to hear that at age 15, Hana was one of the top 60 contestants in American Idol! The multi-talented youngster grew up to become an accomplished actor, appearing on hit TV shows like “Criminal Minds”, “Mr. Student Body President”, “The Orville” and “Punky Brewster”. She has been making her mark in movies as well, with projects like “Raise Your Hand”, “Fantasy Football” and “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” already under her belt.
In the musical domain, Hana’s blend of soulful sound and thought-provoking lyrics has made her stand out amongst popular alternative R&B artists as someone who combines beauty of expression with poignant, powerful messages. Her approach is as inspiring to old school fans of the classic greats as it is to listeners who want to hear something that goes beyond tired tropes to combine ‘relatable’ with ‘uplifting’.
With her ability to engage and impact listeners deeply through her music, Hana Ni sets herself apart as one of the few current artists who can make meaningful art while still being accessible enough to appeal to different generations and backgrounds alike. Her thoughtful approach towards songwriting, paired with her gifted vocals and transcendent music are gaining Hana a dedicated and rapidly expanding following among fans of alternative R&B. We can’t wait to see what she does next.
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