Extraordinary queer hip hop artist Okenyo brings you a fierce new urban collaboration alonside visionary dancer, Jeremy Santos. Packing her music with unashamed confidence, poignancy and intrigue, delivering it with exuberance and flair, Sydney musician OKENYO is an artist whose musical journey is one of constant evolution. Respected and renowned for her meticulous crafting of music that pushes the boundaries, OKENYO’s artistry reflects the fluidity and changing perceptions of hip-hop and R&B, as created by Australian musicians. The release of OKENYO’s EP THE WAVE in 2018, fans and newcomers were on the receiving end of a powerful statement. OKENYO captured attention with effervescence and revitalised charm, coming off the back of successful tours and writing sessions that proved momentous for the artist. Evocative and passionate, OKENYO’s presence on record became matched onstage, with enthusiastic crowds building in loyalty and number. As an outlet, music was a saviour as much as it was a creative ambition.
“Music was the thing that helped me come back to life creatively and personally. I want to push myself to write what I want to write and not follow trends or succumb to whatever preconceived ideas we culturally and societally think the path to ‘success’ is.”
The artistic versatility and strength that fans had heard from OKENYO on Urthboy’s ‘Second Heartbeat’, not to mention her own ‘10 Feet Tall’ release, was further animated with the defining single, ‘Woman’s World’. With a voice striking stronger than ever before, ‘Woman’s World’ proved demonstrative of OKENYO’s creative fervour and bold approach to lyrical delivery, coating pointed messages in slick raps that were likened to the talents of Frank Ocean and Janelle Monae. Working with songwriter Lionel Towers on the fiery follow up in ‘Hang Your Hat’, OKENYO began laying the foundations for what promises to be a powerful 2019 of new music. As she hypnotically intoned on ‘Woman’s World’, she’s a very busy woman with a lot on her plate. Firmly establishing herself within a strong new generation of women pushing Australian music forward, OKENYO is hitting the ground running with a new sound. A sound from someone unafraid, someone bold. Someone who says what they want. 2020 is the year of OKENYO.
OKENYO’S EYES TO THE SKY
CONSTANTLY EVOLVING, OKENYO SHOWS US ANOTHER SIDE WITH ‘EYES TO THE SKY’, A STRAIGHT UP HIP HOP JOINT. Bringing her signature swag to the table ‘Eyes To The Sky’ is OKENYO at her best, oozing with style and carrying an empowering message. Created in a one day writing session, Sydney producer Tasker accompanies OKENYO’s effortless flow, yet again establishing her as one of Australia’s most talented rappers. Complete with trashy drums, guitar and a side of distorted bass this track gets down, dirty and wild all the while not trying to be anything it’s not. TBQH it slaps. Throwing down a chorus that reminds us to dream big and get on that hustle. ‘If you like it then go get it, won’t regret it” raps OKENYO ‘Eyes To The Sky’ doubles down as a personal pep talk and one to bob your head to. OKENYO on ‘Eyes To The Sky’:
“The track is about navigating ambition and giving yourself permission to strive. Work hard, play hard and give it your best shot so you can look back and know you put everything into your endeavours. It’s easy to dream but you gotta hustle to make the dream a reality and sometimes the only person standing in your way is yourself”.
Releasing the single while in the midst of touring with Bell Shakespeare as the lead in Much Ado About Nothing there’s no denying that ambition and hard work are second nature to the multifaceted artist that is OKENYO. Going from strength-to-strength following the release of her 2018 EP ‘The Wave’ featuring praised singles ‘Woman’s World’ and ‘20/20’, OKENYO has offered listeners a taste of what’s to come with flirtatious and heavily rotated bop ‘Buckle Up’. Coming in hot with this new release and a show at Woodford Folk Festival in December, fans can look forward to big things from OKENYO with a thematic and conceptual larger body of work set to drop in 2020 but for now, “Play it nice, roll the dice”. “Eyes To The Sky” came out Thursday, October 24th through Elefant Traks.
Equality Australia Interview with OKENYO on COVID19 and the Queer Arts Scene
How has your work been impacted by COVID?
Apart from losing money through events and festivals either being cancelled or postponed, creatively it’s had a big impact. I do a lot of preliminary work at home however a lot of the magic can come from collaboration and that means being in the studio together with your creative partners. Obviously that’s not possible so it’s now about how to be motivated whilst dealing with the curveball.
Why are cultural events so important for LGBTIQ+ people during isolation?
Being together and engaging in culture and society is so paramount to mental health and connection. The LGBTIQ+ community’s strength comes from that core of connection and imbuing individuals with a sense of belonging, sometimes a party or an event can be a real and true safe space for someone. Often minority groups seek this connection more actively because they may not see themselves mirrored in the every day. So without that real life kinship, it’s very possible that a lot of people are struggling in isolation. We need to continue to let people know that we’re all still here for each other.
What’s one thing that’s been helping you get through this period?
Being kind to myself and taking each day as it comes. Riding the wave of motivation when it hits me but also being easy when I don’t get anything ‘done’. Asking for help and helping others has vital effects, also connecting with family and remembering that we’re all going through this together.
What does equality mean to you?
In my mind, equality has always meant normality. I remember throughout the postal vote such a burning desire to just be ‘normal’. All my fears from the past about not belonging and being ‘other’ came to the surface during that time – it’s what a national vote will do to you no matter now resilient you think you are. By normal I don’t mean anything other than myself, I mean that being myself is nothing to contend with for any reason. It’s about respect, privacy and equilibrium. Oh, and it’s a civil right.