20-something

Mika Oki

Age: 28
Location: Brussels

Unless you’ve been living under an extremely heavy and soundproof rock, chances are you’ve tuned into one of The Word magazine’s eclectic and myriad online radio programmes. Musician, visual artist and all-round cool gal Mika Oki is the ringleader of a platform that’s currently playing an important role in giving visibility to the Belgian artistic community and bringing homegrown music (and music lovers) to the foreground. With a seemingly interminable roster of activities coming up – including gigs at every interesting sounding festival under the sun, most notably in Uganda (!) for the Nyege Nyege festival and an audiovisual collaboration with Ulf Langheinrich – Oki’s artistic output is intimidatingly impressive, whereas her attitude is humblingly nonchalant. Catch her hiding behind the airwaves, between water currents and among the ether of visual spectres – all of the sprawling creations of her own making.

Photo by Miles Fischler

It’s always difficult to resist conforming to those around you but every form of creation is in perpetual movement and evolution. You just need to be clear and feel comfortable with that

What’s your specialty?
I’m a visual artist with a background in sculpture, video and electro-acoustic music. At the moment, I dedicate my time in music working for The Word radio, as a musician and a DJ.

What are you working on?
I’m in charge of The Word radio, a Brussels-based radio station created by Nicholas Lewis (director of The Word magazine) and Quentin Materne. This new platform merges a large community of musicians and DJs, sharing their music 24/7. Recently created, it already has more than a hundred members, from Belgium underground talents to international guests. It’s more than just work; I also consider it a project to offer visibility to the Belgian music scene. And constantly feed this platform with new music discoveries. As an artist and musician, this job is really rewarding.

Do you have a show soon?
Next month I’ll be at Beursschouwburg for the Out Loud festival. I’ll do a three-hour DJ set after a Born in Flamez show. I’ll also play in Paris for a festival organised by Parisian label Tsuku Boshi. It’s an independent music label that releases great artists and art-related music projects: Aymeric de Tapol, AKM, Sebastien Roux etc.

What will the second part of 2018 bring you?
I’ll play at some festivals in September, like Sonica in Ljubljana. I’ll also be in Uganda for the Nyegue Nyegue festival. This time, it’ll be a video and live musical performance alongside Ulf Langheinrich, a German a visual artist and composer. Ulf co-founded the media-art duet GRANULAR-SYNTHESIS. Really excited about this future collaboration.

Are you part of a crew?
Ive just joined SHAPE platform in 2018. It’s a vast network of sound, art and music. It allows a selection of artists to play and exhibit at several festivals across Europe during a single year. It’s also a great tool to develop relationships on the platform and do collaborations. As another aspect of community, I’m part of Liquidation Totale. Created by Martijn Verrycken, this project explores what derives from water in music and the feeling of liquefaction that spans every musical genre. It emerged as a show on the French LYL Radio and is now organising concerts around that field.

Do you think it is important to have a good social entourage? How did peers influence your life?
Yes, in every form of creation, it’s necessary to be in a flourishing, active cultural scene.
Great new ideas are always articulated by individuals but they’re also in a way generated by communities. You hear a lot of people putting one artist on top but many of these are often only one element of a group. Brian Eno uses the term ‘scenius’ more than ‘genius’, adding the social influence and the importance of the creative intelligence of a community for every artist, even more in this actual society where people seem to be more and more individualist in their way of living. I’ve never been more inspired and flushed then when I’ve collaborated with other artists, especially from other art fields like dancers or filmmakers.

Do you experience peers more like a positive or a negative phenomenon? Do you feel the need to conform to those around you?
It’s always difficult to resist conforming to those around you but every form of creation is in perpetual movement and evolution. You just need to be clear and feel comfortable with that.

Is there anyone in your scene who needs more attention?
There are many artists who needs more intention but naming some of them:
Gigsta: I had the occasion to meet her as a DJ, collecting a huge panel of music and always mixing with a singular sensibility. Based in Berlin, she’s also a radio show animator on Cashemire radio, write articles for Trax Magazine and is making a thesis on electronic music.
Myako: Paris-based musician and DJ part of the Qui Embrouille Qui crew. She also has a residence at Rinse France. As a producer she’s always bringing interstellar universe with unlimited musical horizons.

OKODJ: An amazing DJ always breaking barriers between genres and time, from contemporary and futuristic sounds to ’80s music. She’s also at the head of LYL Radio for the eclecticism and the quality of her selections, and is also part of the SHAPE artists this year.
Dj Eliot, a London-based graphic designer, musician and DJ always offering atmospheric journeys in her shows on Worldwide FM. She’s also creating her own label.
And last but not least, Nobuo, the young and talented rising DJ based in Brussels. https://www.facebook.com/nobuo.pcfq/