Above the honking cars and surreptitiousness runnery of Midtown Manhattan, we met with Singer-Songwriter-Actress-Designer Sandflower.
In a recording studio, where the old Atlantic Records recording rooms used to be, we sit to wax lyrical about musical influences. From the myriad of genres and unbeknownst avant-guard artists that constitute her daily playlist, she highlights one of the leading forces of the Afrobeat music genre, Nigerian multi-instrumentalist Fela Kuti, as a constant source of inspiration, as well as, traditional Indonesian and Balinese Gamelan. The genre-fluid artist has recently paid her homage to Indonesia’s ancestral music. Her single “Oceans” with the percussionist DuoPercussion bridges old worlds with the new.
“Our collaboration merges the alternative pop and street culture with traditional Balinese Gamelan. I am going to perform it for the first time next week at Jakarta’s International Indie Festival. It is going to be my first time in Indonesia.” – She replies. The cross-cultural movement has indeed started to gain momentum, with artists from all sides of the globe collaborating more than prior decades.
“I believe that music is a conversation. It will shift and morph into many other things in our lifetime. I love the fact that contemporary artists are finally free to create genuinely groundbreaking art that is inspired by different genres, categories and cultures.”
For Sandflower, water appears to be a re-occurring theme this year. Her rhymes and melodies are the soundtracks to Evian’s latest global campaign, which features cultural forces such as Mariah Sharapova, and Luka Sabbat. Her full-length project is in the works too. She teased us with the lead single, ‘No Regulas’ back in March.
Even though the project does not have an official release date yet, “Goddess Cxlture” is to be released later this year. When asked about the concept and the topics that she wishes to address with this body of work, she thoughtfully replies;
“Goddesses inspire it. The goddess of waking up and going outside. The goddess of slaying. The goddess of speaking your own truth. – She reflects – All the women I look up to now are modern incarnations of that energy. Sometimes its larger than life, sometimes its super focused, sometimes it’s just this person that shines light out of them. ”
We can get so caught up in extolling celeb culture that we forget to value the real heroes out there sometimes. The people we see every day who help build us into the people that we are. In conversation she specifies these IRL icons that she ascribes as praise-worthy;
” The moms who are raising their kids on their own. Or that lady in the post office who’s helpful to you, or the token booth woman who let you go through that time when your metro card didn’t work. I am happy that we are living in a time where we can be more honest about that.” – She shares as we exit the building.
Sandflower and her producer David Sisko wrapped up this morning’s session. Even though they have just concluded a three-hour recording session, it is still, relatively early, and we sit in a nearing park to stretch out in a non-artificially ventilated room before her next appointment. Being a doer, she has long designed her clothing and jewellery for her performances, some of the previous creations have made their way to one of the issues for Italian Vogue. According to her, creators have high stakes to pay, and having a clear vision of your intentions before any artistic endeavour is crucial for its success.
“Every time an artist has an idea is the same as standing on a ledge of the Empire State Building. There’s always a moment of: is this a good idea, is it a bad idea, what even is an idea? You stand at this edge and jump hoping that you’d create something that has never been done before. That is crazy if you think about it.” – she replies as we discuss the differential creative processes behind her cross-medium expression – “I can tell you, most of the times I only realise it after I got it. That a-ha moment when I realise that something that I have been thinking about is fully formed before my eyes. It’s about allowing your true self to come through. Sometimes your true self is going to be lit; sometimes it’s going to be quiet. It is what it is.”
New York and its rapturous pace of living will eat you up and spit you out if you don’t have a clear centre to come back to. Considering the times that we are living, where we are continuously bombarded with the polarising material, one wonders what kind of regime she implements on a daily basis to keep herself grounded.
” I come from a very artistic and spiritual family. If I was bad, my mum used to say to me ‘go meditate’, or ‘write me a paper on gratitude or humility.’ That’s the kind of punishment I had as a kid. I was a vegan before it was cool too, but I had to hide it as a kid though.” – She proceeds – “When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do is meditate. I try to clear my head before I check my phone, or even think about what happened the day before. I don’t want to talk to anyone, or interact with any media or socialise first thing in the morning. By the time I get to the studio or an audition, I’m already in that mode.”
Break time is over. The atypical high humidity and temperatures make every movement feel like a mini cardio session. We must make haste to 42nd street, where Sandflower is due for her noon meeting with Sprayground. A musical collaboration led her to express herself into other mediums, being recruited to design a backpack inspired by the indigenous cultures of the African diaspora in collaboration for the streetwear brand.
“DBD [Sprayground’s CEO] is working on this project with David Sisko called ‘Money on the Plane’. It’s an epic project, with all these fantastic features, crazy visuals and sounds. You never know what to expect, just like the backpacks.” – she muses – “We came up with the idea of creating masks out of Sprayground bags. Cutting a backpack open is an exhilarating feeling, and to be given the opportunity of creating visual art out of something that is already so creative is much fun.”
Other than the future collaboration with Sprayground and visit to South East Asia, this year, the artist has also performed at the Faena Arts Forum in Miami, at Moma PS1, Coachella, Saturday Night Live alongside Dua Lipa, and shot for Random acts of Flyness for HBO. With the decreasing reliance on traditional industry methods, such as securing record deals and airplay, the exploration of undiscovered sonic territories has been promoted, and cross-genre and multi-industry collaboration are slowly becoming normalised. By sharing her artistic vision through music, modelling, acting, and designing her clothing lines, she has slowly built a world of her own, become increasingly more inventive on how to push boundaries to create impactful moments.
“If we keep on going forward with that as entertainers and creators, now we are up to something new. Now we are finally getting into a place where everybody can have a shot at being part of. As a culture, we have to get out of our own way. I’m just not trying to take it slow anymore.”
Photography by Setor Tsikudo
Words by Catarina Ramalho