5.5 Questions for Odeya Nini

What led you to the work you’re making now?

My main focus in the last few years has been performing experimental vocals integrated with movement, a full bodied experience. The physical movement of the body is inseparable from the character of the voice. Integrating these two has led my vocalizing to be very dynamic and highly expressive, opening new possibilities of sound.

I arrived at this form of art over a long period of time spent singing as different personalities – musical theater, folk, jazz and classical. I never felt quite comfortable with my voice, I was often challenged by my breath, especially when words where involved. During my third year of college at the New School, I was introduced to free improvisation, a fluid, intuitive, textural form of vocalizing, which liberated my voice.

Total liberation of my voice came after moving to California and being introduced to somatic physical practices such as Body Mind Centering and Authentic Movement. The new physical awareness I gained from learning to use my body in an authentic way led to a strong integration between body and movement.

I feel my voice like a limb. I think of the sensation of vocalizing and allow my compositional decisions to be informed by the feeling of the sound and phrase.

Working in this way is a whole – ‘whole-istic’ experience for me. It allows me to understand myself in new ways, discover and express, and transmit that experience outward.

Who are some other musicians and/or artists you admire and why?

There are so many great artists who have inspired me, but here are three in particular. Each one of these artists has a strong voice that was not compromised.

Pina Bausch – for not being afraid of primary emotions such as love, fear, pain, longing, ecstasy, and conveying them in the utmost abstract and poetic way.

Stan Brakhage – Also very emotional and highly abstract. He speaks so loudly though film – color, light, movement – seldom needing words or explanation.

Joni Mitchell – My favorite singer of all time. So many things to admire, such as her brilliant and nuanced phrasing, her long realistic stories which leave you wondering whether her songs are true or not, and the evolution of her physical voice and musical aesthetic – always staying true to herself and not her fans.

What are you listening to these days?

I am listening to traditional music from around the world – most recently ritual music from Guyana. Silence and the sounds around me are also often on my playlist.

How does location influence your approach to a performance?

I perform acoustically, so the natural resonance of the space is important. I alter my performance depending on the natural acoustics of a space. The shape, atmosphere and energy of the location also change the choices I make in my performance.

What is next for you?

I am planning some tours with my new album Vougheauxyice (Voice), for solo voice. I will also be traveling to Vietnam for a month in October and will be performing and leading a workshop in Ho Chi Min City.

Please pick a favorite or stand out clip/track from our archives and tell us why you chose it


Absolutely love Kids Play Cage Pt. 2: 4’33

So great to know these kids are being exposed to this kind of music and so great to see most of them absolutely still. One of them even has the same smile from beginning to end. I find this so moving and hilarious.


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