May 29, 2019
Culture & Music
Emmanuel Sanchez Monslave
Oyinda is a modern day sorceress of sound, weaving together lush soundscapes and resonant beats with her dreamy mellifluous vocals. The mesmerising nature of her work is no accident though, and we discover how she merges inspiration and personal insight in her process to create unique and magical work.
Left: Proenza Schouler blazer & Celine trousers (both stylist’s own), Y/Project earrings, Oyinda’s own rings worn throughout Right: Asai top
GL: You say your music relies on a hint of make-believe – how does this translate for you?
O: It’s simple really, I create through the process of shedding everyday constraints. I think this is true for a lot of artists. Rather than focus on how things are, or what is necessarily ‘mainstream’ and acceptable, it’s honing in on your own point of view. It’s like going back to the earliest stages of your childhood when everything you imagined was possible; your imagination is your canvas.
GL: You’ve also described your sound as cinematic, what’s the relationship between sound and visuals for you? Does one come first or are they intertwined?
O: I have always been inspired by films and the experience of watching movies in theatres. The mood is set once the lights are off, the room is quiet and the sound surrounds you; your senses are completely enveloped. That’s what I hope my music does and why I approach creating like I would film scoring. The sound and the visuals intertwine: my lyrics are the dialogue, the sound is the underscore, and my videos are the scenes for those cues. It’s seamless that way.
GL: You describe Whitney Houston as ‘your first sensei’ – can you tell us more about why you feel that way about her?
O: I started singing trying to imitate the music my mum would always play, and she listened to A LOT of Whitney. I’m so grateful for the CDs she had on repeat. The constants were Whitney Houston, Luther Vandross and Celine Dion, and they were all powerhouse singers. I connected with Whitney the most because she was a young, black, female artist making a huge name for herself in the pop world. She helped me believe that my dreams were possible – she’s everyone’s fairy godmother after all. If you haven’t watched that woke version of Cinderella you’re taking naps.
GL: Telfar had you play at their show – how was that for you? Do you enjoy the fashion world?
O: The global fam is truly my fam. Everyone at Telfar has always been so welcoming and kind; genuine goodness emits from that circle. It’s always a pleasure to create with them, and I never know what to expect. I would never have im- agined I’d be singing while crowd surfing during fashion week. It was like being baptised in a sea of loved ones. You’re never the same after something like that. I like the direction newer creatives like Telfar are going because it’s more about experiencing fashion rather than it merely being on display. I’ve always loved fashion regardless, so it’s nice to get that support from designers I’m lucky to call friends.
GL: You’ve studied hypnosis – can you tell us more about that? What is it that fascinates you?
O: I was studying hypnosis whilst making the song Serpentine. I stumbled upon the topic while I was deep in an internet-search rabbit hole. The song idea itself had started from my fascination with the snake charmer con, and hypnotism in a way related to that trance. There are instances where patients wound up referring to themselves in the third person – seeing them- selves outside their own sensory systems; that’s truly what Serpentine is about at its core: subverting the male gaze and exploring the way a woman relates to herself.
GL: Narrative is an important part of your work – what are some storytellers that inspire you and why?
O: All artists are trying to tell a story through their medium of choice – I think this is part of the reason why I find it odd to refer to myself as just a singer. I’ve been blessed to be able to use more than one at a time, whether it’s my writing, my production, or my videos; I think the storytellers that influenced me most do the same. Artists like Nina Simone, Grace Jones, Diana Ross, Aaliyah and Missy Elliott were undeniably their own artists. Their sound, their imagery, everything is so distinct.
Left: Louis Vuitton dress, Charlotte Chesnais earrings
Right: Pihakapi leather coat, vintage leather trousers,Charlotte Chesnais earrings
GL: Collaborating and remixing are a big part of your work – what do you enjoy most about this and why?
O: When you consider defining collaboration as interaction, then I don’t think you can truly grow without it. When you choose to seek something out or embrace an experience, that direct involvement with someone or something will change you for the better if you allow it. That being said, I collaborate a lot with my best friend Low Noon. We’ve taught each other a lot throughout the years. As for remixing, when it comes to my own music I’ve only ever considered remixing The Devil’s Gonna Keep Me. That edits in the music video. Typically, I’m only involved in selecting the artists who remix my tracks, but I enjoy hearing how they reshape and renew the songs. Wether they hone in on the darkness and take it deeper into the pit like Canteen Killa did for ‘Serpentine’, or hear the whimsy and humour behind the lyrics like Empress Of did for ‘Never Enough.’ Other artists will take it where I didn’t think fit my sound or my mood. They make it their own and that’s what I learn from the most..
GL: Who would be some dream collaborators for you?
O: Missy. Massive Attack. Tricky. The list goes on and on. It’d be great to work with anyone I’ve learned from or my likeminded peers. Artists that work in completely different fields or genres. Collaborating is filled with endless possibilities and I’d love to embrace whatever comes my way and feels genuine. I got to collaborate with my friend Suzi Analogue for her upcoming project ZONEZ V.4 which comes out soon. I might release a remix for that track, but only time will tell. My own project consumes me at the moment.
GL: You have a new mixtape coming out – what’s the story behind that coming together, are there certain themes and collaborators you can tell us the story behind?
O: It’s an ekphrastic journey through the work of Kerry James Marshall. I started working on it after I went to see his work in person, and I wanted to express that experience through my music. The mixtape stemmed from the importance of representation; how the personal can be political. It’s about the beauty behind merely existing, and appreciating even the mun- dane within our narratives. I related to his paintings the way I hope others can relate to my music, and I think the most exciting yet most daunting part about this experience has been writing more personally. I had the pleasure of working with a few artists I’ve always admired, and friends who I’ve grown with and continue to inspire me.
Acne Studios shirt, skirt & tights