Josephine Oniyama’s music is like listening to friend confided deep secrets to you, while the two of you cram together in a secluded café. And the tea you ordered has barely been touched, because you’re lost in their words.
The Manchester singer-songwriter, originally from west Africa, has been performing live since the age of 15. Her debut album, Portrait, produced by Leo Abrahams, was released in 2012, and received favourable reviews. She has also supported fellow UK artists, including Michael Kiwanuka, The Noisettes, and Paloma Faith.
Save for contributions to albums by Matthew Halsall & The Gondwana Orchestra and Travis’ eighth album, Everything at Once, things have been quiet on the new music front for Josephine.
Nevertheless, if you haven’t heard of her before, here are five songs that are sure to turn you on to Josephine – and just in time for her second album, which her official website says is set to be released later this year.
‘Portrait’ is one of the songs of this decade. Violins yaw and piano keys jangle as if in quiet reflection, a springy bassline bobs, and Josephine’s verses about identity and purpose (“We are constantly trying to prove our worth”) vertebrate in your mind like a eureka moment. Unforgettable.
Original Love (2012)
There’s a lot of love in Josephine’s debut album. And she gives you honesty and poetry in equal measure. The lyrics of ‘Original Love’ speak to the essence of what so many of us yearn for, regardless of who we are (“there’s nothing I would chose than having somebody to lose… I wanna play no games / because there are too many games”).
What a Day (2012)
This song is one of Josephine’s up-tempo numbers, and shows off the side of her music which is all about life in motion – in this case, strolling around Deansgate-Castlefield area of Manchester.
I Pray That I Move (2012)
A tremendous air of lonely burden hangs heavily about this blues folk track. From its foreboding opening, to Josephine’s summoning of “the beat”, to the threatening eyes of the addressee she is speaking to at the sea’s mouth, this is break-up music for nomads.
House of Mirrors (2012)
Writing this piece reminded us just how fantastic Josephine’s debut album is – artful lyrics (‘Last Minute’) and stirring sounds (‘Pepper Shaker’) can be found throughout. But if you only listen to one track, listen to ‘House of Mirrors’. This song is the sound of fine art being painted directly onto your mind by a piano and the heart-rendering honesty of Josephine’s words. It’s still life in the empty, neglected manor that nobody sets foot in any longer. It’s atoning for one’s foolishness and regrets. It’s Josephine at her most flawless.