Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Ian Grimble and Richard Matthews of Communion Music at 2KHz, Crouch End, London
We're all complicated, aren't we, even when we're being base? We would like to fancy ourselves as being the onions that we strive to be, with layer upon layer, usually never peeled, usually never discovered for all of the different ones. They might not be seen, but we can feel then, prominently - like the grain of sand shifting in the bottom of our shoe that feels like a jagged rock, two inches in diameter.
We're all these things and we're nothing, if they're not appreciated. We imagine that we're older than we are, more refined and complex than we're given credit for, when we don't know a thing yet. We still feel like we haven't aged a bit when we're grandparents, appalled when we look down at our arms and see the liver spots, or when we look at ourselves in the mirror and we just look too old to possibly function.
Josephine Oniyama, a singer and songwriter who performs under just her first name, is captivated by these variations and incarnations of ourselves that we can define and differentiate so easily, but which are so related to one another. These are the false identities and those that one would like to shake or destroy - knocking them out of the directory. Her soulful and scorching singing style makes you question who you are, or who you're trying to be today.
You wonder if it's worth it. You wonder if you're doing something wrong, or if you're supposed to feel a different way, behaving the way you are. You wonder if others are finding your act appropriate, or agreeable, or just believable. You realize, as she sings, that we're all works in progress and we're all editing - in the mode of continual revisions. She sings, "How would I know if I'm a portrait of the person I'm supposed to be," on the brilliant "Portrait," revealing the uncertainty of character as seen by others, as massaged or rejected by others. So many hours are spent - maybe lost - to these productions, to the deciphering of others and to ignoring that most of them are buttered, most of them are slippery. Most of them are cooked, but they're here for a reason. It's just unclear what that reason is for the longest time, as it should be.
*Essay originally published November, 2012