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Halima Dont Press Photo

Halima reaches for the love beyond her eternal struggles in emotionally charged “Don’t”

24 May 2024, 18:00 | Written by Camryn Teder

Halima’s R&B-inspired song “Don’t” lies at the centerpiece of her latest EP EXU. Beyond its context in the body of work, the song also points to the core of who Halima is as an artist: eager to transform and push past self-limiting beliefs to embrace all the other possibilities of this powerful, transcendent life.

Raised between the cultural hubs of Lagos and London, and now based in Brooklyn, Halima’s regional and personal evolution propels her music-making forward. Many of the concepts for the project are drawn from her Nigerian background, with Yoruba salutations and cultural references peppered throughout. The album’s title, for example, comes from the name of the Yoruba deity of crossroads, Eshu, the trickster messenger that connects the heavens with the earth.

"They are known for being the God of change, chaos, and unpredictability, so they are often misunderstood, but they are present in our lives to bring us to better versions of ourselves,” Halima said. “This project is about facing Exu and resisting it. Then succumbing and realizing Exu is within you."

Beyond the cultural references, EXU is just as heavily influenced by the themes that shape Halima’s present life too. “During these past four years of making this project, and even now, I’ve been overwhelmed by change. This project was a way for me to let go of fears, insecurities and limiting beliefs I didn’t even know I had,” Halima shared. “This project in many ways is the scariest thing I’ve shared. But it is raw and true.”

She recorded the project in the early mornings before work, collaborating with co-producer Ben Shirken to bring the EP to life. Together they sought to create a new project using unfamiliar concepts, relying on all thats analog to bring the sound of EXU to fruition. "I remember walking in and seeing all these cables on the walls and thinking, this is cool, unchartered territory for me, messing around with synthesis and oscillators; this is what I need to dive into right now,” Halima said. “It’s exciting and scary,” she said about exploring the new technology and sound.

At the centre of the new EP, which marks her first release with the Brooklyn-based label drink sum wtr, sits the enigmatic track “Don’t”. The track looks at the abstract concepts of life and love, and explores just how infinite they really are. Diving into the idea of self-limiting beliefs, Halima calls out the intrusive thoughts that pull us backward in life, and the eternal struggle that is pushing past those harmful ideas into the limitless possibilities that lie beyond. "I'm searching for real endless life,” she sings in the track. Still, the irony of it all is that it’s that uncertainty exactly that has also inspired Halima in her art too. "Both artistically and culturally, it represents all the places that informed my spirit,” she said.

The message speaks especially powerfully to Halima, who left the booth crying after the final take. Musically, the track is just as compelling too, with Halima’s signature rhythmic R&B and sultry bedroom pop sound driving the track. Perfectly engineered with many oscillating textures, “Don’t” is full of dynamic sound from lush synthesizers and driving drums that make for a track that’s simultaneously eerie and ethereal.

"Don't" is out now, alongside EP EXU. Find Halima on Instagram.

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