Words by:
Photography: Michelle Helena Janssen
Photography Assistant: Nkeiru Ofor
Hair: kekebraids
Stylist: Keanna Williams
Styling Assistant: Yacelyn Anthonio
Makeup: Laura Yard

“I think 12-year-old me would’ve been shook if she’d seen me! Like, who’s that? Is that me?”

Currently in sweats, a bright yellow fleece and matching yellow bonnet, Gaidaa is peak cosy today. Speaking from her home in Eindhoven, Netherlands, the 22-year-old Dutch-Sudanese singer is reflecting on the photoshoot she’s just wrapped. “This was something different for me,” she explains. “I’m realising, especially with shoots, that I enjoy being theatrical more than I gave myself credit for. I was afraid to do it, or afraid to look stupid, so I decided it wasn’t for me.”

Top: REconstruct, Trousers: 1/OFF Paris, Jacket: Polo Sport Ralph Lauren, Shoes: Gucci, Earrings: Stylist’s own

Gaidaa first hit the scene four years ago with A Storm on a Summer’s Day, a track written and released with Dutch-Armenian producer Full Crate in 2018. The track, which opens with Gaidaa’s rich vocal over her own acoustic guitar, was released during a formative time for the artist. Back then, she’d just returned to the Netherlands after completing A-levels in Bristol and had moved back into her parents’ home in Eindhoven to attend university. But instead of heading to class, Gaidaa would hop on the train to Amsterdam, using her free student railcard to travel to the capital. She spent her time meeting people from the music world, going to events and building connections with the friends that today she calls “my tribe”. “I was pretending to go to school every day,” she laughs. “I would leave the house and go to Amsterdam. I was just talking to people, I didn’t really have a plan.”

Parallel to all that, she had been spamming Full Crate on Snapchat, sending clips of herself singing. They linked up and recorded A Storm on a Summer’s Day, which began picking up traction. “It did much better than I expected,” she says. “After that, things happened very fast, but also quite organically.”

Top: 1/OFF Paris, Trousers: REconstruct, Boots: sascha

Looking back at the last four years, Gaidaa’s journey through music has been punctuated by three aesthetic phases. Her style back then was: “Cutesy. Modest. That word is drilled into my head by my parents,” she says. “I experimented by being colourful, playing with patterns and finding shit in my attic – suitcases filled with my grandparents’ old stuff.”

The months that came after that saw the start of a hectic new phase: a whirlwind of constant travelling to Amsterdam, parties, events, playing shows and working towards the release of her debut EP, Overture. The record’s tracklist – eight pieces of gorgeous R&B – reflect moments from the artist’s life at the time, and were recorded chronologically. She mentions the opener, the lilting I Like Trouble, as one of the songs that came out of this turbulence. “I was reckless,” Gaidaa admits. “We would travel from the south to Amsterdam, not knowing where we would be sleeping, or what the plan was for the night. We would just get there, and lo and behold…” Gaidaa explains, emphasising that comfort, for her, is a feeling of freedom.

That frenetic period drew to a sharp close with the first lockdown. This sudden stop gave Gaidaa, who had been nearing burnout, time to focus on Overture, which she dropped in July 2020. She’s since spent a lot of time at home, recentring, setting up a home studio, learning to produce and working towards a new release.

Skirt and cropped blazer: REconstruct, Blazer and top: 1/OFF Paris, Boots: Zara

The Crack Magazine shoot, which Gaidaa describes as “dramatic; not my everyday look”, seems to have fallen at the right time to showcase her next phase and some of that personal growth she’s been cultivating. “It was like an accumulation of things I’ve worked towards mentally,” she says. “Letting myself be comfortable in my skin and not overthinking in front of people and on camera. I was feeling myself!”

As the world has opened up, Gaidaa has been pushing herself to try new things and, crucially, to find new ways of being comfortable. She has a busy few months ahead. As well as playing shows over the summer, she’s due to tour Europe and the UK with Chicago rapper Saba and London rap star Enny in September. Gaidaa has also earmarked autumn for the release of her new EP, which she’s keeping tight-lipped about. “I’m feeling better; more confident to express myself and show people more of myself…” she muses. “I realised I have to trust my own thing and my own voice now.”

Overture is out now via Gaidaa on the Webs