Ever since she could make noise, junior Zahara Williams has been singing.
The music composition major grew up singing in her church in Woodinville, Washington, but since coming to SPU she has felt a newfound identity and understanding of how to bring her musical ideas to life.
She finds herself constantly creating and writing melodies and recording them on her phone, storing over 1,000 different compositions.
Rather than keeping her work to herself, Williams says she began to ask questions and work with others to bring her sound to life. That is what led her to her most recent musical project, ZAUX.
“What inspires and pushes me as an artist is when I see other people in their element whether they’re musicians or other types of artists,” Williams said.
A collaboration with two other SPU students, seniors Josh Lim and Cody Kilpatrick, ZAUX showcased their latest work at The Vera Project on Friday, Jan. 13.
While Limanjaya — Lim’s musical project — Kilpatrick and ZAHARA have performed at various venues and past shows, this was the first time for the three to perform their work together live as ZAUX and for an SPU-dominated crowd, enthralled with the group’s stage presence, to hear them.
“If I recall correctly, ZAUX simply started as the three of us seeing each other perform in different places and wanting to do a few collaborations with each other,” said Lim, a music technology major. “We ended up having so many beats for [Williams] that we ended up doing an entire album, which will be out soon.”
A very soothing, electronic sound echoed through the intimate venue neighboring Key Arena as a community of just over 50 listeners embarked on a musical journey with the student performers.
The night started off with Kilpatrick’s new project entitled Yesicant, pronounced: yes I can’t, that involves a large degree of importing, tweaking and mixing other people’s sounds and styles with his own to create an electronically processed sound.
“My work with [Lim] on ZAUX had prompted me to indulge in the realm of sequencing, sampling and synths, which radically altered my composition process,” said Kilpatrick, a music composition and music technology double major. “Previously, [on a project called Wandr] I had been very self-focused, trying to challenge myself to get out of my head, stop hating on my sound and just put music out to see what people thought and practice performing. With this project, I wanted to reflect the artistic community that has influence on me.”
Following Yesicant, was ZAHARA and her band. Though Williams is technically a solo artist, her band consists of senior English major Luke Martin on electric guitar, senior music composition major Jake Kelly on bass and Jawann Blanchy on drums.
Williams says Martin and Kelly are two people who inspired and encouraged her to start producing her own work.
“Not only are they talented musicians, but they both help me feel at ease with what I’m doing and being on stage,” Williams said. “I think it’s important to have a tight band, but it also helps when we all care for each other as people.”
In regards to her drummer, Williams feels he has taken the vibe and sound of her music to a whole new level.
“He is so creative and is able to take my ideas and make them his own,” she said. “I think the goal with them for now is just to continue to grow together and develop what we have.”
She also noted that each person in the group is working on their own music outside of hers, so as of now, nothing is set in stone with them.
“They are all so talented and I am truly grateful for them,” Williams said.
At the show, ZAHARA showcased her first and latest EP, Efflorescence, released Nov. 30 on iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, SoundCloud and Amazon Music.
“My name, ZAHARA, means flower, and Efflorescence is the blooming or growth period for a flower; therefore this album is about my personal growth,” Williams said. “I feel that each song is about something that has helped me grow with relationships of all types, processing pain, anxiety and confidence in who I am today.”
Following ZAHARA was Lim’s musical project entitled Limanjaya showcasing his use of a wide variety of synthesizers, drum machines and, his favorite newfound instrument, his voice.
“I want my music to be something people resonate with on an emotional level,” Lim said. “I don’t necessarily want to make pop songs or songs for easy listening; I want to challenge people.”
The night ended with the much anticipated musical stylings of ZAUX. Just following the release of ZAUX’s first single, “Cruel,” the crowd couldn’t get enough of their sound.
“This project was so cool to do because of the sound we were able to create,” Williams said. “It’s very different from my own stuff, so it’s really fun to be able to branch out from the genre I usually do.”
According to Williams, Lim and Kilpatrick created the instrumentation while she took the lead on the lyrics, melodies and vocals.
“This project has helped me get into a different headspace with my writing, and I really loved what I was able to expvress with the music [Lim] and [Kilpatrick] created,” she said. “We all respect each other as artists, but we also have grown to be really good friends. As of now, I’m not sure what the plan is with us as a group, but we all know that we do enjoy making music together. Our debut album will be out soon so be on the lookout!”
Williams attributed her current success primarily to the support of her parents.
“Their strength and wisdom has been such a strong example in my life, and [they] have always encouraged me and my brother to give everything we have into what we are passionate about while staying true to ourselves,” Williams said. “My parents have made so many sacrifices in order for me to be where I am today. God has truly blessed me.”
Williams also said she wouldn’t be where she is without support from members of the SPU community.
“I’m so grateful for the love, encouragement and positive feedback [I’ve gotten] on my EP and musical journey,” she said. “The support I have from people, especially within SPU, blows me away.”
As of now, Williams is looking forward to ZAUX’s debut album and a new personal EP in the spring. For the more distant future, Williams aims to travel and perform full time.
“On stage is my favorite place to be because it’s the place that I feel most myself,” she said. “That’s what I want my music to do — help people feel understood no matter what they’re going through.”
ZAHARA’s next show is set for Thursday, Feb. 23 at The Vera Project.