Despite its soft tones however, despite its listenability, Childqueen challenges us as much as Kadhja’s self-description: “I don’t like calling myself an artist. I don’t like calling myself a singer— or even a musician.” This isn’t just paradox. Kadhja came to music early through a maniacally rigorous classical training in her childhood, mastering the violin and viola, in addition to picking up flute, guitar, and formal composition. But she abandoned classical music for wilder groves, and credits what she now creates as springing from a place of intuition and candid self-reflection rather than theory or her academic past. The Kadhja that leads us through Childqueen is unyielding, truth-seeking, and even mildly misanthropic, dismayed by humanity’s talent for self-deception. She urges us to do better. These urges may come in rebuffs to our daily thoughtlessness, from the possible love sacrificed to business sense in Thoughts Around Tea to the caustic calls from the title track: “what’s the matter, don’t you got a man, to tell you what you’re worth to him? Where you been at Childqueen?” At other points, her tone turns imploring, as in Delphine, or encouraging as in Second Wind’s reminder that “sometimes I forget, moss grows from my lips. I am fertile. I am rich. I am moist and mineral.”
The lyrics and melodic lines nudge us along a path of self-discovery— or act as breadcrumbs along her own path. Everything that you hear on Childqueen was written, played, produced, and even mixed by Kadhja, who has always produced all her own music, insisting on a total vision that is nearly as difficult to co-create as a dream. She does confess: “this record crushed my ego, and I’m surprised I’m still alive.” It pried her open a bit, recorded over two years between performances to larger audiences brimming with a communal spirit, and in studios scattered throughout the globe— Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, London, Copenhagen, and even in hotel rooms in Barcelona and Brussels. Nevertheless, music remains for Kadhja Bonet a primarily solitary activity, one in which she can tender a connection with that innermost self, the childqueen. The rest of the world, if it pleases, is welcome to listen in, and join her on the quest.