Ten years ago, vocalist Via Rosa and producer Na’el Shehade got together one night and made music. The result was magical, they said, and sparked the beginning of their journey together as the dynamic music duo known as DRAMA.
Today, the Chicago-based band is on the upward. Having just released their newest single, “Tighten It Up,” at the end of March, the duo are gearing up for a series of tour dates this month.
They’re set to headline shows and make debut performances at venues and major festivals — including the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, where they’ll be playing back-to-back weekend shows April 15 and 22.
Leading up to their Coachella debut, DRAMA is performing across the American Northwest and Canada this coming week. And to kick it all off, the duo will first stop in Aspen on Sunday and make their Belly Up debut.
Sunday’s show starts at 9 p.m. (doors open at 8 p.m.), with an opening act performed by DJ and producer Eden Prince.
DRAMA is a multicultural collaboration between Shehade’s Chicago house-infused production style and Rosa’s soulful lyrics. Her vocal delivery fuses the improvisational nature of jazz and the playful elements of hip-hop and bossa nova.
Shehade’s and Rosa’s separate music styles could make for an unlikely pairing, but the duo naturally discovered a complementary dynamic to their musicianship. Together, they’ve birthed an innovative sound, blurring the lines between R&B and dance-pop.
“I think we’ve finally accepted the DRAMA sound, because the DRAMA sound is not very consistent, it’s very different with every song that comes out,” Shehade said. “There is like a similar feel, but DRAMA’s pretty much all of our favorite music into a band — you know, like R&B to disco to a little bit of rock to a little bit of rap — it’s just kind of all fused into one genre, and I feel like we finally understand that.”
Born and raised in Chicago, Shehade spent his teenage years enthralled in the DJ culture and house-music scene of the city. He went on to take up music production and engineering, which led him to professional opportunities.
Before forming DRAMA, Shehade worked on projects with such artists as Chance the Rapper, Kanye West, Chief Keef and Vic Mensa, among others. He also worked on music projects for platforms, like MTV and Bravo.
Shehade said that around the time he was introduced to Rosa, he was searching for a more fulfilling outlet than just producing other artists. His plan then was to make music on his own and potentially feature artists, like Rosa, here and there, he said.
“But when I met [Rosa], it just clicked and just made all the sense in the world; I was like, ‘wow, this is actually going to be great, I want to create a band and it’s only gonna be us,’” Shehade said. “You know, I’ve been making music for a very long time, I’ve produced a lot of amazing artists in my lifetime … I just needed someone to just believe in me as much as I believed in them — that was the only missing thing.”
Shehade expressed how he found this bond in his now 10-year music partner.
Rosa — who was born in Austin, Texas, and grew up touring with her parents’ reggae band — moved to Chicago in 2010 from California, where she had attended culinary school. She was exploring her own music path in the city when she met Shehade through a friend.
“When Drama happened, I want to say it was pretty magical because neither of us really knew what we were getting ourselves into.” Rosa said. “It was kind of ridiculous that [Shehade] even made the time to work with me, I think our sessions would be from like 11 p.m. to five o’clock in the morning because we both had like three jobs and we were working all day.”
The duo has since bootstrapped a subtle rise on their own terms. Over the past decade, DRAMA has self-released several EPs and numerous singles. They’ve also collaborated with artists, including Flight Facilities, Poolside, Jamila Woods, Tensnake and Gorgon City — with whom they released their global dance hit in 2021, titled “You’ve Done Enough.”
“It doesn’t feel like it’s been 10 years, like it felt like it took so long to get here, but then at the same time, it still feels like there’s so much more left to do,” Rosa said. “Like we’re still right there, you know, and it’s really interesting, but we’ve accomplished so much as just us, as independent artists that aren’t relying on outside funding or anything.”
With Coachella on the horizon and a series of shows leading up to the festival, the music pair expressed how they feel there’s a lot of good energy surrounding them right now. And their upcoming live sets will, no doubt, replicate that energy, they said.
“It’ll be pretty much like the most refined DRAMA that you’re ever going to hear and see, you know, just all the practice and the years going into this,” Shehade said. “I mean so much hype and energy around this leg of a tour is, it just feels really good, and we’re gonna come with it — we’re gonna give fans the best shows that they’re ever gonna see.”
Rosa added that she loves their live sets because the shows “still give you the same emotions that you would get when you listen to the recorded versions driving in the car or cooking in the kitchen,” she said, yet with an amplified element for which she credits her partner, Shehade.
“The only way that I can describe it and the way that I’ve seen it is like, people’s hearts are just completely open in the crowd,” Rosa said. “And everyone is just, you know, smiling and dancing and crying, and it just gets more and more intense with every show, so I can only imagine what it’s gonna be like this time, because there’s a lot of good energy around us right now.”
DRAMA’s Belly Up show on Sunday is currently sold out. To join the waitlist or for more information, visit bellyupaspen.com.