Energy speaks volumes and Niambi Sala and Thandiwe of the Afro-futuristic duo Oshun, have it in abundance. Their music speaks as an ode to their namesake, the Yoruba deity, Oshun, serving as a celebration to the goddess of love and sweet waters, feminine energy and sensuality, beauty and prosperity. They joined me in the gal-dem offices to speak about their new album Bittersweet Vol.1, self-care Sundays and self-love.
With only 24 hours in London, their first impression? “It’s very black. When we were driving through Peckham we were like, is that African food? We saw all these black kids coming out of school and it just felt very black and very affirming. We came at the perfect time, we are doing exactly what we are supposed to be doing, speaking to exactly who we are meant to speak to and making an impact in the spaces that need it. It feels very on purpose. Connecting people throughout the diaspora via our music is powerful, you know?”
Niambi Sala reminisces on the beginning of their friendship, which began after they were both accepted on the Martin Luther King Jr scholarship program for people who wanted to be leaders and make a social impact. “We were the only two on the wave,” they laugh. “We clicked immediately and when we went to NYU, we lived just six floors apart in the same building and literally spent every moment together. It was kind of weird, but it was meant to be. We started singing obnoxiously in New York City, then we were like hey, we can make some money out of this, so we started to sing really loudly on trains. People told us we were really good at this and should record; so we put out our first project called ASASE YAA, and we’ve been on this movement ever since”.
The pair are joyful reminders of the power that stems from friendship and sisterhood between black women. Thandi describes Niambi Sala as “radical, strategic and caring,” while Niambi Sala paints Thandiwe as being “brilliant, fearless and a doer”. They lovingly refer to their mothers as the first people to teach them what it meant to not only love themselves as black women but also to love one another. Thandi explains that “whilst I don’t have any sisters, I have a lot of sister experiences and a lot of cousins who are also girls. We were always singing, dancing, being cute and taking pictures of ourselves. Looking back now, they were little reminders that yeah, I am a black girl and that’s poppin”.
As a lover and advocate of all things self-care and self-love, I couldn’t help but ask what their own self-care Sundays look like. For Thandiwe, her self-care Sundays involve waking up after 10am, with a lot of food, especially American Morning Star veggie sausages because “they feel like Sunday Morning on your tongue”. While Niambi Sala explained that “I just want to be on my own vibe all day, I want to be quiet, eat some good food, get a massage, do a yoni steam, you know, live like a real life monk. Which reminds me, we need to do this when we get home from tour on Sunday”.
It’s not surprising the girls are already planning their downtime as they’ve been on an incredibly busy tour around Europe that started in Switzerland at the beginning of May. Personally, I find it stressful just trying to navigate life travelling through London, let alone travelling on a strict schedule throughout Europe. So, I wondered how Oshun managed to find balance while touring. “We asked the same questions to our friends who are artists” explains Thandiwe, “like how do you not go crazy? How do you stay balanced? They let us know that it’s important to find a regime. Even if that means that in the morning, every morning, you clap your hands three times, you do it. For me, every night I journal about every city before I forget about it tomorrow. It’s not even so much about the content of what I write, but more so the practice of me taking time for myself every night.” Niambi, on the other hand, says “I try to journal, but I keep forgetting (laughs). I see Thandi writing and I’m just like damn, I should be doing it too. I just make sure that I take my vitamins every day but most importantly, that I try to take moments of silence and just be quiet.”
Their new album, Bittersweet Vol. 1 has admittedly become an integral part of my self-care Sundays, I’ve spent many weekends dancing naked around my bedroom and burning sage to their album; in particular, to their song ‘My World’ featuring the UK’s very own Jorja Smith.
“When you’re new to spaces, you can feel insecure; you can be worried about what people think and how people will perceive you because you’re different. But for us, you need to love yourself regardless, you are different and that’s exactly why you’re poppin”
When asked what message they hoped their listeners would take from the album, Thandiwe let us know that “spoiler alert, there’s more to the story, this is just the beginning; it’s the prequel, a particular part of the story. It’s a story of self-love, but self-love in spaces where you have to exude confidence. You know, on Bittersweet Vol.1, we are on a journey to the Oshuniverse, we are new to this earth, new to this land, new to this culture and when you’re new to spaces, you can feel insecure. You can be worried about what people think and how people will perceive you because you’re different. But for us, you need to love yourself regardless, you are different and that’s exactly why you’re poppin”.
Niambi Sala goes on to say, “I feel like there is a lot of angst and anxiety right now, a lot of fear, sadness and depression. Which makes sense. This is where we are in this moment, across the diaspora, we can see that there is a shift of consciousness. Black girls are winning everywhere, we are so magical and we know it. It’s new now, but in five years’ time, we will feel a sense of relief, a sense of peace, a sense of calm and it will be a matriarchal society. We’re not there just yet, but we’re getting there”. After watching Oshun perform and seeing the pure joy, energy and black girl magic that exuded from the audience, I have no doubt, that we will most definitely get their one day; with Oshun pioneering the movement.