A walk through the city of Yaoundé, ambient sounds of people moving, distant voices, rattling of metal. Issemou opens the debut EP by the singer and artist Cindy Pooch and its slow fade-in foreshadows a record that weaves sound with equal tenderness. Driven by the voice of the Yaoundé-born and Lyon-based Cindy Pooch chanting the Banen language word “Issemou” (translates to “light”), it is minimalist and polyphone at the same time. Maybe an antithesis but here the two coexist like the light and the darkness do in these songs.

“There was never a concept”, Cindy clarifies. “These songs either burst or flow out of me. ‘Issemou’ is a piece of music that I created in the middle of darkness in the streets of Yaoundé while wandering around with my mother. The absence of light that night, due to a power break in the neighborhood, made me call for light and I started singing that word: ‘Issemou’.”

“To me, this represents the duality in which we evolve. To consider light as a spectrum, to experience life as cycles of deaths and rebirths. This consciousness for duality is something that I cultivate.”

Saying Things With the Body

Throughout Cindy Pooch’s musical outputs, it is the voice that takes on the role of a guiding light. Layering, bending, and breaking boundaries, Cindy creates polyphone soundscapes using technology and the natural vibration of vocal cords giving the songs an almost acapella-like resonance. “I think that the layers of vocals in ‘In Nomine Corpus’ are like the layers of a safe space that I softly built to say what I had to say in this song.”

“[T]his music bears witness to my need to reconnect with myself through my body. The album is called ‘In Nomine Corpus’ after a song that I wrote and it is a scream for freedom to feel, to desire, to vibrate.”

Photo by Anne-Laure Etienne

“Je veux dire des choses avec ce corps” Cindy repeats again and again on the song. I want to say things with this body. The phrase turns into a mantra, repeated over and over until it seeps into the bones of the listener. The polyphony and the organic nature of the voice have an especially moving impact under the artistic guidance of Cindy Pooch. The songs are intimate explorations of the artist’s connection to her own body and through that gentle musical search for somatic resonance, awake that in the listener as well.

The artist comments: “I am a really cerebral person and at the same time, a really sensitive one. At some point a few years ago, I feel that I needed to focus on my body to gather myself, to gather my energy and find my way through life.”

“I believe the body knows better and can guide us if we listen to it. So, in my creative process, I try to listen to my body and observe how it connects with other energies and bodies.”  

Curiosity and Care

As a solo artist, Cindy Pooch has so far only released one EP, Issemou, yet its profound sense of tonality and emotion make it a standout piece by an artist who knows how to use their voice. Listening to the record, it bears a sense of amazement for the possibilities that rest within that single instrument. Cindy Pooch reaches warm depths and gentle heights, gets lost and found in labyrinths of her own vocal layers, or finds supportive company in percussion and acoustic guitar like on O se yatè.

“I have been hearing polyphone singing forever and I have been singing it early in life with my mother and grandmother. It came to me a lot with church choirs, then gospel and, later in my adult life, with Maloya.”

Cindy Pooch grew her craft and sonic magic by collaborating with artists and musicians and forming part of the Maloya band Ti’kaniki. Le Sang shows another facet of artistry and explores the voice in conversation with gloomy electronic arrangements. Starting her musical journey in her hometown, Cindy Pooch moved to Lyon to study literature and describes her move as formative to her musical endeavors. “I met musicians who showed me how to care for music when I thought I would only expect music to take care of me. Being in Lyon with a community of artists gave me a lot of precious tools to express myself and opened my curiosity for music.”

“A few days ago, a friend told me that the etymology for the word “curiosity” was the same as the word “care”. This is relevant to me in my experience with music.”

In Nomine Corpus is out 29th of September via InFiné Records.

Every Monday, the NBHAP staff brings an exciting new artist to your attention alongside a 30-track-strong Introducing Playlist on Spotify. Feel invited to follow the playlist and give these talents a spin. Sign up for our Newsletter to receive monthly updates about new music.

This week, we curated the playlist featuring Cindy Pooch. Along with tracks from her new album, this week’s update includes Rokia Koné, O’o, Marina Satti, and more. Tune in below.