“It’s what music does to everyone. It transforms you.”
Pink Oculus, Esperanza Denswil’s alter ego, is back stronger than ever – with a new-found maturity and a sound we’ve never heard before. The much anticipated “Before Wisdom” is not easy to describe – Pink Oculus tiptoes the lines between hip-hop, jazz, afrobeats and genres that are yet to be born. With sharp, deeply introspective lyrics and blazing rhythms, it’s a project that deconstructs the past and ventures into the future. Delving deep into a heart-to-heart with herself, Pink Oculus creates a hypnotising space for exploration, and we are invited to observe. In light of the release, we caught up with the Netherlands-based artist to learn more about what’s hiding behind.
Hi! How are you today?
I’m wonderful. I feel amazing, I feel very blessed.
So great to hear! In that spirit, could you tell us about your latest project “Before Wisdom”? Looks like you’ve been very busy since the much-anticipated release.
I’ve been very busy actually. Been busy for the past few years, just getting this album done. It’s been a journey. I’m very excited that it’s coming out now, as a tangible product. “Before Wisdom” is about me, about a dark period in my life and how I got out of that. It’s about a journey back home. The decisions you make before you’re wise, while you’re still learning. You never stop learning, of course. But there is a difference between the type of lessons you learn when you don’t listen to your intuition and when you do. In my live shows, I start with a quote from Maya Angelou, it’s about a wise woman choosing to never be anyone’s enemy, anyone’s victim.
How does that quote resonate with your work?
When I heard that quote, I was like three quarters done with the music, and it really resonated with everything I was talking about. I don’t explicitly talk about abuse, but I have gone through that. Abusing myself and being in an abusive relationship, which is also a reflection of yourself. If you go through these kinds of things, it’s very easy to look at yourself as a victim. I didn’t want to do that because it would mean giving my power away. Seeing that quote was a confirmation that I was on a right path in the choices I was making. Another way to take the power back was by producing music myself as much as I could. It was still too big of a task to complete on my own this time around, so I asked for help from Binkbeats, who is a very talented producer from the Netherlands. I’ve really closed that dark period, it’s really behind me now. I want to use this album as an inspiration for myself, as a reminder of where you don’t want to be. A reminder of how strong and resilient a human being is, and how important it is to always listen to yourself. To protect yourself.
There is so much depth through the introspection in your lyrics. Melodically, there is also so much texture and complexity. Could you please talk me through how you foster such a unique sound?
I’ve been listening to all kinds of genres my whole life. I grew up listening to jazz a lot, old soul. My mum would always play Sam Cooke and Dinah Washington and thing like this. Of course, pop and RnB as well, and then underground hip hop also came. I myself am Surinamese – it’s a country in South America, which also has a very distinct music style. The patterns, the rhythms and the drums are very unique to Surinamese music. So you can hear of those influences, along with the music that hasn’t been created yet. I wasn’t really thinking about what I wanted my music to sound like. I was just creating and this is what came out. It’s not necessarily experimental, it’s just what I created.
Would you like to forge a new genre with that? Or is it more about fluidity and freedom?
I wasn’t trying to create my own genre, but I would like for it to be perceived that way. This is just what it is, you know? Of course, you can find something that is similar if you have enough music knowledge. Someone said to me that music sounds like hyperpop or something, and I was just looking at them with this question mark on my face. I’d never even heard of it before. I’m sure people hear my music and think that it sounds like such and such. But it’s not my role. My role is to just make the music. That is all.
I’ve also read that your live performances are a whole experience in themselves. You’ve touched upon your live shows a bit already, but could you tell me a bit more about what performing means to you and how it is integrated in your art?
For me, performing live is sustenance. It just feels so good to stand on a stage and give something from yourself to an audience. It’s just a wonderful thing to be able to do. You can say something with music and only music is able to convey that. Sometimes words are not enough. For this album, we wanted it to be even more immersive – we wanted to translate what the music stands for into a light installation. I had wonderful designers work on it – Boris Acket and Dennis Vanderbroeck. The installation that was born out of it is called “Oculus”, and it’s supposed to be a temple. A place where I, Esperanza, can connect back to Pink Oculus. When I created her, I saw her to be kind of a goddess, something that represents unconditional self-love. I really needed to reconnect back to that feeling. The installation has eight arms that can all move individually, and they all have lights at the end of them. For each song, they take upon a different position. What I really wanted, was for it to be transformative object, just as I am, just as music is. It’s what music does to everyone – it transforms you.
It’s such a powerful tool for expression. How do you think your audiences connect with that?
My audience is the one that pays attention, that’s what I’ve noticed. They really listen to what I’m saying, and they listen to the music. They take it all in. It’s not the kind of audience that just has something playing in the background. What I hope for, is that they accept the music for what it is. For me, music has been a conversation with myself. So I hope my listeners can find something that inspires them to transform something in their life or let go of something that no longer serves them.
Images Courtesy of Pink Oculus
Buy tickets for Amsterdam, Melkweg & Rotterdam, Grounds, shows here
November 4th & 19th
Words by Evita Shrestha