Amongst the many talented local Sydney acts that graced stages across the city last Saturday, you would have found Zindzi Okenyo, commonly known as OKENYO, sharing her new EP, WAVE, with the sold out crowd at Newtown’s Bank Hotel. The soulful RnB, Hip Hop singer-songwriter invited us into her ‘WOMAN’S WORLD’, as she delved deeper into some powerful and relatable elements of her life. She expressed both strength, vulnerability and the essence of understanding the human condition. This notion was infused with a unique approach to how she celebrates and recognises her individual journey of change.
“I mean; I think I’ve always tried to stick to my individuality. I didn’t train as a musician or anything like that. I write and produce music that sounds good to me. Even when working with other producers, I really try and stay true to my own weirdness or uniqueness. I think it’s really important to stay true to yourself because there are so many ways people will try and push you into some sort of a box in the entertainment industry. It’s not easy but it gets easier; it matters to stay true.” – Okenyo
Dressed in a red-on-red ensemble with graphic typography ‘I feel you’ embroidered on the sleeves, OKENYO was flanked by two backing vocalists suited in matching tracksuit sets– it was clear that this trio was a force to be reckoned with. Emily Havea and Meklit Kibret’s harmonies and synchronised choreography transcended the atmosphere and added dimension—Their expressive and enigmatic vocals only enriching OKENYO’s powerful storytelling.
Spreading the #blackgirlmagik, OKENYO’s opening acts featured goddess Price J and the young jewel Rebecca Hatch. Price sang her way through explaining she wrote and released songs stemming from her own heartbreak. Something that takes courage to process and convey through music but also remains extremely relatable. Rebecca Hatch gracefully performed some sweet melodic covers balanced with some of her own singles.
We’ve heard OKENYO experiment with a range of sounds, a constant surprise and delight to witness and in this new EP, she combined flowetry with rhythmic electronic tunes that she wasn’t afraid to drop bars over. As she waved through her expressive lines of neo-soul sounds, a deeper and vulnerable persona arose; figuratively opening up questions about the concepts of change, growth and how we navigate our relations with each other. The EP’s opening track Demons of her ultimate superintended six-track release, highlights a concept of love, vulnerability and overcoming fears – “If I don’t face my fears, if I don’t…”
With forthcoming energy, the crowd clinked and raised their glasses to Okenyo’s newest single, “Woman’s World” Okenyo and her backing vocalists revealed some #blackgirlmajik on stage wearing white t-shirts that read “Don’t look down on me”-A statement on a unique cut of an expressive and beguiling narrative of her storytelling leaving the crowd to enter into her utopia.
“It’s a weird one as I’m sure you know; you do feel like you’re constantly like, how do I place myself but at the same time I’m also me. It’s definitely hard to be a black woman in Australia but also within this genre doing what you do; and also not for it to be about that. There’s time where I’ve performed overseas especially in America; I remember so distinctly the feeling of like “Ah they just get it” Obviously everyone can see that I’m a black woman but it’s not a new thing whereas here I can see people going “Omg… this is full on… she’s strong” So that’s definitely just within the Australian cultural identity. We have a long way to go.” – Okenyo
OKENYO invited the crowd to engage and understand the fusion of personal influences and celebrating our imperfections in the contemporary world. With being a very busy woman with a lot on her plate, Okenyo continues to push boundaries with her lyricism and storytelling.
“Woman’s World” is available to stream anywhere where music is accessible. The debut EP ‘The Wave’ (CD) is also up for purchase. Be sure to stay on that wavy journey.
Image Credits: @hazey__ –Gianna Hayes