in the Category: music

Every time I create, I want my family to understand and feel it

Musician and performer Oriana Mangala Ikomo visualises her sound and shares dreams on the phone with friends to give life to her art. Fed by a musicality anchored in neo-soul, experimental electronics, and jazz, her collaborative projects square the circle between James Blake, Erykah Badu, ambient, and her classical training. We had a long chat about empathy, inclusive music, and art as a form of self-reliance.

Interview by Anna Lancry
Photos by Catherine Lemblé, shot in Ghent

Hi Oriana. How should we introduce you?

I sing and play piano, but I like to present myself more as a performer overall; I integrate a lot of mediums into my music. I like to visualise things, make things that are aesthetically beautiful – according to what is aesthetically beautiful to me. 

Is there anything you want to convey through your work?

Music is therapy. All my songs – especially ‘You’ – are written in an emotional moment; it comes naturally, I dive into it and afterwards feel much better. It’s a release when I sing or play piano, I can say what I want to say that I don’t necessarily feel like saying to people. 

I’ve worked hard to develop the self-love and self-reliant strength that I realised I could depend on no one else for

So music is a form of self-reliance? Does that tie in with the role that emotion plays in your practice?

Over the last few years, I’ve worked hard to develop the self-love and self-reliant strength that I realised I could depend on no one else for. Next to this, emotion is the biggest thing I want to create and convey.


Because if it’s not there, your music doesn’t come across. Empathy is so important. It may be naïve or idealistic of me, but I believe if people were more empathetic the world would be a much more beautiful place. 

I don’t want to make “difficult” music

You talked about other mediums. Do you have an affinity with other art forms?

When I was younger, I dabbled a lot. I did ballet like many little girls, but I understood quite quickly that this world was not for me. The teacher made me feel like I was too big, too black, too whatever; she called me out in front of the class. But I also did a lot of jazz dance and there I could improvise, let go of everything. I like that improv aspect in everything: in live performance, I never interpret songs the same way twice or I would be bored to death. I also played music, I painted. I’m an analog photographer too, and fashion has always been somewhere in my life. As a child, I dreamed of becoming a stylist.


That all plays into what you’re doing now...

Indeed, my ideal would be to combine all the mediums I love and create something beautiful with it. Actually, my milieu forms my music. The starting point is always me alone behind my piano, but then I bring it out to other people to do something with it, we collaborate and then the music starts to live for me. 
For instance, for ‘You’, I had this idea of the music being visual. I had a dream in which I was in a room and there were people standing statically everywhere around me and staring into a camera. It was sinister and very beautiful. I called my friend Lena, who ended up directing the video, we brainstormed, and suddenly the idea for the music video was there.

Do you often use your dreams for inspiration?

I use my dreams more for aesthetics than anything else. I dream often and intensely so I like to integrate them into my visuals and music for wavy, atmospheric elements.


Any non-musical influences?

All my friends. I look around me and feel so happy to be surrounded by such beautiful people who make me feel safe and inspired. It feels almost too good to be true that I’ve reached this point because it was a lifelong process to get here.
My biological family also inspires me a lot. We have a lot of history and trauma; every time I create something, I want my family to understand and feel it. I don’t want to alienate or exclude them, or to make ‘difficult’ music that only people in certain elitist artistic circles can relate to.

Have you seen or experienced something or someone that moved you recently?

Stef Van Looveren; their personality, their work and what they stand for. I spent such a wonderful time working on set for their project, Adagio. It reminded me of why I love being an artist.


What changes would you like to see around you this year?

I would like to see people minding their own business more.

I’m still trying to accept myself as I am, but I would also like to change people’s minds about things. It’s important for people underrepresented or misrepresented in certain areas – black people, women, trans people, (I hate this word) ‘plus-sized’ people – to be assertive and take the spot yourself. I take the opportunity of using my medium, my desire to create something beautiful, and open that representation with it. I’m just a tiny piece in a big puzzle, but it’s part of what drives me.

Different Class - 07 August, KASK, Ghent
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