The Berlin-based duo OY describe their new record as a “landing”. After releasing music together for the past decade, Melodydreamer and Joy Frempong have explored various destinations of sound and themes and are earthbound on World Wide We. The album follows Space Diaspora, which took the two musicians happily experimenting all the way to space tapping into the footsteps of Afrofuturist tradition.
After the utopian dreaming on Space Diaspora, World Wide We follows the question of how these dreams connect to reality. “The basic idea is one of connection”, the two artists tell us. “In today’s world, problems can only be solved on a global level. Everything that happens in one corner of the world will affect the rest.” This world wide web, the interconnectedness of the planet, and its systems are at the center of the album. It combines the musical adventures of the previous records into one cohesive sound between electronic and acoustic.
Back to Earth
This knack for experimentation has always been part of OY’s philosophy. On World Wide We, they went as far as working mostly with sketches based on Joy’s self-made sample instruments. Based on the playful approach of cutting up a variety of sounds and placing them on the keyboard, the band developed their dynamics and a fluent process over the years. OY explain that Melodydreamer worked more electronically than on the previous record, producing sounds that leave more room for vocals and celebrating the breaks and cuts they love in Hip Hop albums.
OY have a way of translating a myriad of sounds and genres into their own language. These translation processes are echoed in the lyrics and the experiences of the artists. Joy, growing up in Switzerland, has described her diasporic experience as living in a state of in-between. While these spaces also bear their hardship, the musician has found inspiration in their freedom. Born in Translation for example talks about that feeling. When talking about music Joy and Melodydreamer describe a similar experience:
“Moving between styles, combining languages of music has always been present with OY. We both have this thing that our taste seems to be much broader than average. It is more about energies that speak to us, than a specific genre.”
Playing around with musical languages and spoken languages, the record features songs in English and French and touches further upon the roots of Joy reciting spoken word passages in Ghanaian-accented English. “Language certainly has a huge impact on how emotions can be transported”, the singer comments. On Place des Clichés, OY switch to soft French, a play on Place de Clichy, a district of Paris largely inhabited by migrant families.
“I recall using the Ghanaian English accent, which was my first language, in a song. It was super emotional because this language had always been looked down upon – by myself even. It was not considered ‘proper’ English. But it is probably the most natural way of expressing myself with my voice and it felt so good to own it.”
Language comes with certain emotions and memories, especially in the diasporic experience. For first- and second-generation children it is often a space of refuge, and family, but also stigmatized by society as an inferior language. Joy had not learned her father’s native tongue and only reconnected to it later in life. “Singing my first song in that language made me cry in the studio because it felt like I was releasing something that I had withheld in me. So, I guess there is a place in our hearts for each language.”
While OY love to play with language and its different possibilities and emotional layers, they have also had to acknowledge that language is limited. Their music and creative practice fill the gaps of expression that not even the broad range of languages they work with could fill. “Music always felt like the easier choice for communication than talking”, Joy says. “Words are so limited.” As a person who used to be shy Joy remembers struggling to find the right words at the right moment.
“Being in a room with other people and experiencing the same moment of expression together, be it at a concert or in a club – that is very satisfying. When people look at each other and not or hold each other at such events, it tells everything.”
Joy and Melodydreamer connect on that base. The producer, like the singer, considers himself a shy person. Forming part of the duo for a long time now, he still prefers performing under the safe anonymity of a mask. He describes the mask as a way to feel more at ease and focused on the music when on stage. “On another level, I simply love costumes and the transformation from a private person to a stage figure. It has such an old tradition in theatre or rituals even in the Swiss mountains where I grew up.” The mask that Melodydreamer uses is not tied to any particular tradition, he explains. Rather, it was designed by a Berliner artist and costume designer, especially for the musician. Its colorful cloth and high-rise structure, give the musician space to project and create new personas for the stage.
Music As A Healer
The music resonating from the two artists has intensely personal connections to each of their stories. At the same time, it explores political themes on a global scale. Struggles, injustices, and violence find a place on the record, but OY manage to call attention to them while maintaining an overall positive note – one of hope.
“We believe that hope is a driving force, and bittersweetness is the true reality of life. It is easy to find joy in little things. It is also easy to be drowned in the sadness of bad news or difficult circumstances. Acting a bit foolishly like a child or practicing the inner smile are magical tools that lift the mood and balance the spirit. All is good, all is fucked. Music is a healer, too.”
World Wide We is out now via Mouthwatering 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.
This time, we curated the playlist together with OY. Along with tracks from her new album, this week’s update includes Little Simz, Perera Elsewhere, Otra, and more. Tune in below.