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From Addis Ababa to Whistler, ZADA has arrived

Ethiopian-born neo-soul singer plays her debut show in front of a hometown Olympic Plaza crowd on July 22
Whistler's own ZADA plays a homecoming show at Olympic Plaza on July 22.

When Whistler’s ZADA and the team behind the stunning video for her breakout single, Nomad, were looking for the kind of scenic backdrop that could stand in for her native Ethiopia, they settled on the arid desert landscape of Ashcroft, B.C. 

“We love the scenery and we loved being able to have a bit of rainforest vibes and then going straight into the desert,” she says of the video. 

It’s this kind of reimagining of home that the singer-songwriter has become accustomed to in her 19 years. Born near Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, ZADA—full name Zada Geremush Szocs—was adopted by the Szocs family as a child and has spent the past decade and a half in Whistler. It’s this confluence of touchpoints that has helped shape ZADA’s unique sound, which blends neo-soul and R&B with elements of Afrobeat and her Ethiopian roots. Her first single, Nomad, even includes a breakdown meant to mimic the cacophony of an Ethiopian market. 

“I wanted to write about what it’s like to be an immigrant, and for me—coming from Ethiopia—that meant excessive TSA checks, accustoming to new cultures, and travelling,” says ZADA of the song, produced by Vancouver-based JUNO Award-winning producers, Chin Injeti and Brian West. “There are beautiful parts about this lifestyle and the perspective gained from my story, so I wanted to bring light to that.” 

Released alongside Nomad was the companion track, Tear Us Apart, ZADA’s distinct take on a love song that was inspired by a story her grandmother once told her about how her royal bloodline was jeopardized by the actions of a palace gardener and a princess. ZADA switched the roles around, turning the gardener into a dapper prince and the princess into a rugged, nomadic bandit. 

“Everyone’s always like, ‘When are you going to write your love song?’ I’m not writing it, but I just knew there was a story kicking around here. So I called my grandma and said, ‘You’ve always wanted to talk about this. This is your time, because I’m looking for inspiration.’ And she was like, ‘Well…’ And she got all into it,” ZADA recalls. “It was pretty cute. I did change some things to make it a little bit more 2022.” 

This summer marks something of a coming-out party for the young artist, and she couldn’t be more excited to announce her arrival on the scene in Whistler—just one of the places that makes up the idea of home for her. 

“It’s pretty cool to have your town support you first. It’s just amazing,” she says. “All I can say is people gotta bring their dancing shoes.” 

ZADA plays a free show at Olympic Plaza on Friday, July 22 as part of the Whistler Summer Concert Series. Crippledwheel will start things off at 6:30 p.m., before Injeti hits the stage at 7:30 p.m. to introduce Whistler’s own ZADA.