After receiving high praise for her energetically experimental r’n’b, Pheeyownah is now releasing her third EP. We meet an artist with a crystal clear vision for musical creation and a seldom seen determination. This spring Pheeyownah is raising hope in more than one way and she has blessed us with a personal mixtape.
“Vivid, Fearless” is Pheeyownah’s latest single, from the EP zero9zero9 which takes its name from the singer’s birth date, September 9 1987. The EP is the first of her releases to be launched on a label other than her own. Not because Pheeyownah hasn’t been offered record deals, but because she has been firmly determined to do to things her own way. Including the writing, producing, releasing and marketing of her previous work.
“I knew exactly how I wanted it to sound, the vision was clear to me before I started” she says when we talk about her 2014 EP Under the Dock. All five songs on Under the Dock, of which three reappear on zero9zero9, were created in the way Prince likes to work, entirely recorded, produced and mastered by the artist. The music shows us Pheeyownah, simply and exclusively Pheeyownah. For a trained ear it is possible to recognize the difference between Under the Dock and its predecessor City, an EP made in collaboration with producer Daniel Markus, AKA Megaman Dee.
“The plan was that we would be a duo, Pheeyownah and Megaman Dee, but Daniel wasn’t comfortable performing on stage. After we released City he went back to school and I was left on my own, wanting to continue what we started. I started looking for other producers but I didn’t find anyone who was a good fit for me, so I decided to do it myself.”
Pheeyownah began watching studio tutorial videos to widen her basic knowledge about recording and learned enough to make the impressive Under the Dock. As a mother of two she simply wasn’t able to attend an education in music production, so her only option was to make the EP at home. I myself have always been very inspired and fascinated by people who show the world that an expensive education is secondary to passion, talent and true commitment when it comes to the creative arts. After only a few minutes in Pheeyownah’s company I see that she clearly is one of those people.
The mixtape that Pheeyownah put together for us is a compilation of artists and songs that has inspired her own musical creations. The incomparable Björk is one of her absolute favourite artists, partly because of the Icelandic singer’s ambition to do whatever she wants. She reveals that the tape contains many different musical genres and that she has always had an eclectic taste in music.
“I remember when I was younger and my cousins from England used to visit us during the summers. They asked me what music I liked and when I said that I was into Oasis they thought I was crazy. For them it was absurd for a black girl to like that kind of music, they expected me to say TLC or Aaliyah. I did listen to that music as well but not exclusively. I didn’t understand why I was supposed to listen to only one kind of music because of who I am.”
Pheeyownah is not only a singer and producer, but also a professional dancer. As a member of the dance crew JUCK (named after the Swedish word for a grinding hip movement) she tries to provoke by moving on stage in ways unconventional for a woman. During a JUCK performance last year Pheeyownah had a solo that impressed Stockholm dance venue Dansens Hus so much that she was offered a one-woman-show. The solo act SUUBI will be shown at Dansens Hus during the dance festival Urban Connection and the story behind the show is a difficult one.
“Me and my family were going through a very tough period when I got the offer but a solo show at Dansens Hus is a dream come true for me, so I couldn’t say no. SUUBI is a very personal performance, a way for me to put everything I’ve gone through behind me. I use my own music because my songs are based on personal experiences, anything else would feel strange to feature in the show. I named the performance SUUBI after my new born son, whose middle name is Suubi, which means hope in Luganda (a language spoken in Pheeyownah’s parents’ native country Uganda).”
Even though it seems like Pheeyownah’s life has been troublesome at times, she is now glowing with hopefulness. With her new born son and the rest of her supportive family by her side she is ready for the release of her next EP and the staging of her solo dance show, both in May.
Words by Filip Lindström
Vivid, Fearless is out on the 6th of May on Labrador.