Latanya Alberto is an Amsterdam based singer/songwriter who creates jazz-infused, neo-soul and mellow alternative R&B sounds with deep meaning. Earlier in the year she launched her EP 'Cede' then followed up with a live version of the EP. More recently she released 'Trouble', with the theme of female empowerment, shining a spotlight on women being classed as trouble in their battle to earn respect. Her latest single 'Red Flags' was picked up by COLORS Studios to be profiled as a COLORS Show, cementing her rise into the alternative soul and R&B scene. Her personal project DAWN is a reflective docu series, where she shares her artistry and the meanings of her songs.
How did the DAWN docu series come about and what inspired it?
The songs I make always serve a deeper meaning and require a bit more reflection to understand the intention. With my DAWN series I wanted to assist listeners of my music, and viewers of the video’s on their journey to create an understanding of the music. My music often touches social subjects which hardly get the light and attention that they deserve, it being something that concerns everyone. I hope these start conversations in even the smallest places, so change and the nature of questioning things and making those a subject of conversation. In addition to this message I want to introduce my audiovisual and visual personality through the video’s, and show the things I value most as an artist; Aesthetic storytelling.
In DAWN episode 2, you mention that "Red Flags" has an underlying message. Please elaborate on the message.
DAWN episode 2 is dedicated to my song ‘Red Flags’. The underlying message is to always try to be open and use your gut in making a decision, before you judge anyone on things you consider to be Red Flags right away. I believe it’s all about finding the balance between knowing your boundaries and trusting your feelings romantically. We are all so consumed with everything that happens around us. For us to have a clear mind, which you yourself are in control of, rather that the things that influenced your mind and your decision making, in my opinion your gut is the most honest and uncensored device we have. So let’s use that.
Your single “Trouble" is focused on female empowerment and shines a spotlight on women being classed as trouble in their battle to earn respect. Why is it important for you personally to address women empowerment?
I’ve been raised with the idea that I could do anything, If I’d just do it. That has made me into a personality where I, regardless of the restrictions that are set in this life for women, aspire to grow beyond any set potential for me. Too many times I’ve been in situations where I’m being judged for being too much of a woman, too little of a woman, or for being a woman in general. If I look at my sisters I get motivated to encourage them to create their own potentials and to always question restrictions that are made for you because you’re a woman. We are human first. And all sexes, there is a lot that still needs to improve in regards to making room for feminine energy.
Looking into your discography, some of your songs touch on social justice issues artfully. Do you feel that it is your duty to reflect the times or are there deeper reasons you are drawn to social justice issues?
I believe it’s everyone's duty to do something to better situations. Even if it’s as small as thinking about it, and educating yourself, or as big as organizing awareness collectively. This is because, no matter how far from or close to the reality of these matters you are, as a human being, it concerns us all. The pressure on how big your gesture is, is up to yourself. I do feel that the weight of these subjects concern me so personally, that I can’t not write about it, and use my platform to discuss this.
And as a woman of colour living in Amsterdam, what are some of the challenges that you've had to overcome in terms of racial and gender equity?
I like to look at the results and outcomes of the things I’ve overcome despite of racial and gender inequality more than how I suffered from it. Things like having a group of friends to discuss these things with, and having a safe space to be the most outspoken version of myself and my race as a part of my identity. I’m born and raised in Amsterdam, so for many things I’ve only realized later on in age that these are restrictions, based on the color of my skin or my gender. The biggest thing I feel has grown into me as a person, is knowing you always have to work harder and receive less. The fact that I’ve accepted this and keep in mind when approaching things is something worth unlearning for sure.
You express your identity through your hair. How did you learn to embrace and celebrate your crown?
When I was younger a friend of my mother taught me how to braid hair. I’ve always been interested in creating art in the form of hair, and expressing myself through it. I read a lot, and do a lot of research into (my) history. I focus a lot on characteristics of pre-colonial civilizations. This gives me inspiration because It shows blackness at its most pure and untouched state. Braids and certain hairstyles where worn as symbolism and with pride and confidence. A lot of the things we consider ‘beauty’ now, is based on a colonized version of beauty and acceptance. I think It’s important to know when you wear your hair straight, in braids, curls as a black woman, it’s
important to know where the hairstyle comes from, and what message and history (good and bad) you are carrying by doing so.
You recently performed your latest single "Red Flags" on COLORS Studios. Tell us about that experience, and what it means to you as an up-and-coming musician.
The things I personally find most important in expressing and exposing art, is that it is unique and comes from an honest place. COLORS gives artists from all around the world a platform to showcase their talent, lending the artist their huge audience of music lovers. These values stand in direct connection to my personal values and therefore is my great honor to be a part of that. As an upcoming artist, especially in a more alternative corner of the genres, it is a journey to find your audience. COLORS has offered me more visibility and involvement in a group of artists that each make their own stuff and are on their personal journey as well.
You share ounces of wisdom in both episodes of DAWN, touching on topics like trusting your gut and honoring the gems, the beauty and the wins in the Black community. What is the most profound wisdom someone has shared with you?
Everything is perspective. You can grow trees from the tiniest seeds, and depending on where you stand and how you look at the tree, you can create your own definition to statements like: Beauty, progress, wealth and more.
Photography: Ashley Rottjers
Interview: Phendu Kuta