A creative "orphan" thrives in an industry that thinks in narrow ways
For a fiercely independent, multi-disciplinary artist pursuing a singular creative vision, the degree to which Lafawndah prizes community might seem surprising. Certainly stylistically, there’s no obvious peer for the polymath performer, who mines indigenous sounds from all over the planet. But it’s this hunger for connection that drives her to take the road less travelled, both figuratively and literally.
“It’s important for me to make links because sometimes I feel quite isolated,” she reveals today, in the verdant surrounds of Hackney’s Conservatory Archives. Certainly geographically, Lafawndah’s heritage is unique, being of Iranian, Egyptian and English descent, and raised in France. She repeatedly describes herself as “an orphan” creatively too, “because my music doesn’t fit in with a thing that’s already going on.”
Her 2015 and 2017 tours with Kelela are cited as a case in point. “We only went on tour together because we’re really close friends. Musically, no agent would have put us together, and yet it made it such an interesting tour.
“The industry thinks in such narrow ways, in terms of the type of connections that there could be musically,” she continues, increasingly exasperated. “It’s like, ‘So these people are black and doing kind-of gospel: they should go on tour together.’ It’s very narrow-minded marketing, like, ‘I can see that the people that like Solange also like serpentwithfeet,’ and you’re like [slow hand clap]. That’s literally the world we live in – the algorithms are making the circles even smaller. It’s like, why would you want to go to the same show that you’ve already been to?”