Fresh on the Scene

Esinam

Pictures by Yvonne Schmedemann

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Some have already spent years in the shadows, waiting for the right moment - others have barely left their bedroom studios. Some aim for headlining festival stages, others aim for nothing in particular – but all of them have developed a sound with the potential to turn a lot of heads. With this feature we shine a light on some of the most interesting emerging new talents our tiny country has to offer.

Some of you might have heard of the extremely multi-talented Esinam already. But for those of you who haven’t: she’s committed, she’s passionate and she really is a jack of all trades. After spending a few years in the shadows of other artists, the Brussels-based musician is ready to step forward with her own live show. There are not many artists in Belgium who truly do everything by themselves, but Esinam is one of them. With a healthy attitude based on self-taught, improvisation and hard work, she proudly presented a solid debut EP last month – and now she’s ready to show the country what she’s got. Time to pay this woman a visit and listen to her story.

Hi Esinam! Let’s start off with a straightforward question: what’s your story?

"Hello there. I do a lot of things to be fair. Mostly, I’m a flutist and percussionist, but I play keyboard and I sing for my solo project too. I am also part of a few other bands, so it’s safe to say music defines my life. I was born in Brussels, with firm roots in Ghana. As far as my daily motivation goes: I like to challenge myself constantly, looking for new sounds and creative ideas."


What do you say when unknowing family members ask you ‘what kind of music you make’?

"I make my music in a personal way. It’s not easy to describe because it’s a mix of a lot of different influences moulded into one. The easiest way to describe it would be a mix between contemporary music and African roots. It’s challenging to take traditional roots music into a new, modern context. I like to improvise and there’s always a lot of stuff going on: the flute, rhythm, grooves, melodies, vocals and a large soundscape of colours and samples. So it’s really up to the listener to decide in which category it belongs."


To be honest, we hadn’t really heard of you before, but your sound is quite well-rounded and finished. Where have you been all this time? Or was it a conscious decision to only start bossing up once you reached a certain point?

"It’s part of the process. I’m still taking my first steps in the business for my solo project: dropping a debut release, having a team working with me, getting signed to a record label, etc. It’s true that my solo project took a while to grow into what it is now, because I needed to wait for the right circumstances and opportunities. I’m constantly on the lookout for new gear to improve my set-up, adding new hardware and instruments as much as I can."

So it seems like you like to do everything yourself: vocals, instruments, artwork, etc. Is ‘what you do yourself, you do best’ your motto in life?

"For this project I wanted to bring everything together; every instrument that I can play needed its place. This motivated me to continue to improve my skills on each of these. I love to know every step of each part in my project. Composing, arranging, producing, designing the artwork, rehearsing the live show and even arranging the sound and light effects! I love to work on the whole thing in its entirety, because I believe everything is connected. It’s part of the same goal. I dropped out of school on a young age, so I always had the habit of teaching myself how to learn stuff. That’s how I created a passion for constant self-improvement. So yes, I’m quite a perfectionist! Additionally, I didn't have the budget to hire someone to make my artwork the way I wanted it. So I just did it myself. That said, I will work with a painter for the next EP. Sometimes it’s better to have an outsider’s perspective."


What does your live setup look like exactly?

"I’m alone in the middle of the stage, surrounded by my gear: a microKORG, an SPD-S, some music instruments, an effect pedal and my EXH Looper. Most of the time I’ll switch between the flute, my voice, the drums and the keys. It’s a lot of fun for me and I love to show that on stage. Each performance is a little different, because I work with live loops and a great deal of improvisation. That’s another way I like to challenge myself to create extraordinary moments."


So with a show at Botanique and STUK, it looks like you’re well on your way already. Have you played live shows before this where you could cut your teeth?

"Yes I’m getting a lot of really cool opportunities this year. I've played as opening act for different artists before, like Melanie de Biasio, Selah Sue, Témé Tan, Alsarah & The Nubatones and Moses Sumney. So it was a great test for me to see how people who don’t really know me would react to my show. So far, the feedback has been really positive!"

What are your most unlikely sources of inspiration?

"Well, there are many: soulful music is inspiring, but so are other live shows, art and travel. Often, when I’m cruising through Brussels on my bike, I’ll suddenly think of a certain melody or theme for a song. So on the next red traffic light, I’ll take my phone to record it!"


Do you feel like Brussels (or Belgium in general) is a good environment for you to grow in as an artist?

"Brussels is a nice place to live. It’s a small city, like a village everybody knows each other and it’s really diverse, that’s why I love it. Meeting interesting people on a daily basis is really inspiring. Which is only possible because there’s a lot of things to do here. Also, it’s a cool bonus to know you’re not far away from London, Paris, Berlin or Amsterdam. I hope to take my show to these places soon!"


So what comes next after the EP drop and these few shows?

"More shows are coming! Both inside and outside of Belgium! Currently, I am working on a few new songs and a music video for the next single!"

Follow Esinam on Bandcamp and Facebook to stay up to date with the latest news and gigs. If you want to see her live, check her out Cc De Werft on December 12: Seizoensklanken Nodigt Uit: IV Movements, Geel