For Nya Kuziwa ‘23, music is anything that sounds good and makes you want to keep going. “It’s my second therapist,” she said.
Originally from Waltham, Massachusetts, Nya is graduating this year with a major in theater and minors in music and Black Studies. Nya started playing the drums in fourth grade and in high school she became interested in classical music. She almost applied to a music conservatory, but opted for Swarthmore instead, stating “I had bigger fish to fry than playing the colonizer’s music.” A music theory class her first semester made it clear to her that she wanted to take part in the program. Since then Nya has explored a variety of music while at Swarthmore, from performing in jazz ensemble and chorus, to studying ethnomusicology, though her true love is songwriting.
In high school certain artists, like Massachusetts band You Won't, began to take on new and important meanings to Nya, and she thought “could I also do this?” But like most songwriters, she wasn’t happy with her early efforts. Not until this past year when Nya took time off from school and focused on writing did she start composing songs that in her words, “are actually pretty decent.” Now she finds inspiration in folk music, rapper Billy Woods, and the African music she grew up listening to like Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
Nya wants music to be a part of her life post-Swarthmore. After graduation she plans to get a job that gives her time to work on writing, recording, and producing her music, and then apply to graduate school for theater in the spring. “Getting paid to play music is the dream, whether as a drummer or a solo musician or whatever.” Nya has set a goal to make more of her music available online in the future.
“I want to start sharing [my music] with other people and not just have it be something that I do alone. I’ve put out little albums online before, but within a year I would take it down cause I thought ‘no, this isn’t what I want, this isn’t me.’ Now I feel like I’m starting to write the music that I want to share . . . I’ve recorded my own autobiography in the songs that I’ve written,” Nya said.
Besides playing and writing music, Nya loves playing video games and watching The Sopranos. She currently works for the United States Postal Office.
Favorite Music course at Swarthmore? Africa through Musical Ethnography with Professor Krystal Klingenberg. It was the music of my people in Africa, and I learned more about African history in that course than any other course. I was able to do research on Tanzania, my dad’s country, which I’ve never done.
Most influential Music course at Swarthmore? Music 11, Intro to Music Theory because it introduced me to basic concepts that have been useful to me in songwriting.
Favorite music making experience at Swarthmore? A few years ago students put together a concert series called “NPPR tiny desk.” It was very clever. They did little concerts in peoples’ apartments in NPPR. The summer before my sophomore year I did a little concert. That was the first time I performed music that I had written, and people liked it. Thankfully that recording seems to have been lost to time.
What sound or noise do you love? My favorite tone is about 40 Hertz. My favorite sound is silence, because you so rarely hear it.
What sound or noise do you hate? A onecard reader declining.
What's the last song you played on your phone? The last song I played on my phone was a song that I wrote, I don’t know what it’s called yet. I’m in the process of writing it.