Say goodbye to classical music and hello to urban and Afro sounds. Because yes, Onikae is one of a kind, and she makes a difference by interpreting the greatest hits with her violin and her sweetness. An interview with a music from near and far.
Brigitte Osei : Onikae, could you introduce yourself to our dear readers?
Onikae: My name is Onikae, and that’s my artist name. I’m a violinist, and what’s special about the music I make is that I use the violin, which is known for being a classical instrument, for a repertoire that’s a bit different and out of the ordinary, so more hip-hop, Afro and Caribbean music.
Where did you get your passion for music and violin playing?
Well, I risk disappointing you, but I don’t know if I have a passion for music. I know it’s not necessarily common, but to make you understand, I really identify with the image of the top-level sportsman. So, ok, we love it, ok, it’s a passion, but at the stage where it requires sacrifices, I can no longer call it a passion, it’s more than that. It’s a love relationship.
Apart from that, I’ve been playing the violin for fifteen years, I can’t count the years, and I’ve been playing this kind of music for a year and a half now.
” You don’t have to be good, you have to be excellent everywhere and all the time and sometimes that’s tiring.” Onikae
And just what is complicated about playing a musical instrument?
There are two types of difficulty in a musical instrument: the first is the repertoire. The violin has the reputation of being a virtuoso instrument, and therefore complex. The second is competition: the instrument does attract quite a few players, at least in classical music circles. Competition is tough, especially when it comes to auditions. You don’t have to be good, you have to be excellent all the time, and that’s tiring. But on the other hand, there are also many positive aspects. There’s a kind of adrenalin rush that you can also feel with athletes. Sport is a very important part of my life, and it also helps me in my violin playing.
And how do you feel when you play the violin ?
Playing the violin is like being on a cloud, you’re completely disconnected and the sensation is just incredible, it’s like parachute jumping, you feel something extreme.
So you’ve become a professional, what do you do during your performances ?
There’s stage work and studio work with artists, which can even extend to video clips. I try to work out with customers what they’re looking for as precisely as possible, and then I give them a quote based on that. I have my own style, which can be devalued, so it’s extremely complicated to impose yourself, because you’re not understood, no matter what the environment. In urban circles, seeing the violin in the foreground is still innovative, because of the elitist image of this instrument, and in classical music circles, everyone who plays the violin wants to put you in a box, except that I just don’t want to be categorized. I’m looking for a form of freedom in my work.
I’m extremely careful about my image during performances, so as not to close doors for myself. I think that’s important when you’re a young woman, and even more so when you’re of mixed race. I’m talking about image, because before people listen to our music, they look at us first. I’ve already had comments like “yeah, you’re beautiful”. In a way, it’s a shame, because I’d rather be encouraged for my art.
How do you define your musical style?
Well, I differentiate between what I have to do for my customer and my preferences. I’m particularly fond of hip-hop and melancholy music, because piano-rap and violin go so well together. I also like afro, zouk, dancehall and soca, as well as the very sentimental side of oriental music. I have a very varied style.
What you’re doing is quite modern, but aren’t you afraid it’ll fade over time? Aren’t we going back to classical?
Well, I don’t want to do classical music, not because I don’t like it, but rather because I find that the closeness with the audience is lacking. There’s no exchange, and when I play, I share. I want to involve the people in front of me, and when you’re rocked by the audience, it’s an incredible force. The worry, unfortunately or fortunately, is that my music is so surprising that the audience remains stoic, they’re surprised, they have no reaction, so they’ll pick up their cell phones, creating a barrier, except that we also need energy to give back.
Finally, I think this innovative repertoire also corresponds to new needs, including in the music industry, where we’re “going back to basics”. So it’s a form of modernity, for sure. Now, classical music is the most technical of all, so it’s bound to last…
Onikae places great importance on encouraging young musicians to invest in themselves and their equipment, even if this comes at a cost.
To come back to passion and fears…
I think that passion is what allows us to invest, but sometimes when you make your passion your profession, it can turn into an obligation, and that’s what scares me. You know, there are mornings when I want to stop everything, and others when I’m in tears, and that happens to everyone, it’s normal. So I don’t like the word “passion” because it conjures up a kind of extreme positivity that I think is wrong. It’s a word that doesn’t reflect me.
One last word to define the violin ?
Wow, I feel like saying sacrifice or investment… no, I’d say “Worth it”, that’s enough. When I play, when I meet people, even foreigners, we speak the same language, that of music, it’s just magic !
Find the violinist on her Instagram (@Onikae) or Youtube (Onikae3096) accounts.