Witch Prophet: The WL Interview

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Purveyors of: Enchanting and hypnotic Ethio-jazz featuring sultry sax riffs, timeless hip-hop rhythms and soulfully soothing melodic mantras that affirm who you are and the power you hold. Essential for solo (or not) underwear-clad bedroom dancing; getting ready and hyped to go out and face the world (a ritual that truly feels foreign these days); getting in touch with nature; getting in touch with yourself.

File next to: Erykah Badu, Nina Simone, Zaki Ibrahim, Junia-T, Lido Pimienta, Fiona Apple.

Playing: Saturday, February 27 at Wavelength Winter Festival, 8PM EST on our YouTube channel. Tune in here.

Witch Prophet is the mesmerizing vocals of Ayo Leilani backed by the musical production of Sun Sun. This power couple are active on the scene: they make up two-thirds of hip-hop trio Above Top Secret, and together they founded Heart Lake Records, self-releasing Witch Prophet’s albums, The Golden Octave (2018) and DNA Activation (2020). The sophomore album features Karen Ng delivering smokey saxophone hooks throughout. It has received critical acclaim: making the shortlist for the 2020 Polaris Prize, and the video for “Tesfay” is up for the SXSW Film Festival’s music video competition, the only Canadian nominee in that category. Wavelength’s Siobhan Murphy connected with Ayo Leilani to discuss travel, healing, manifestation, and lookin’ good. 

What has your lockdown experience been like?
At first I was really upset, because all the shows and tours I had lined up to promote my album had to be canceled. But as the lockdown continued, I was kind of relieved to have a moment where I could actually stop and rest without the fear of missing out. My wife and I moved out of the city a few years ago to a pretty secluded farm. So in terms of not seeing a lot of people, that’s been something I’ve had some practice at. I’ve mostly been mapping out the next few projects in my mind and hoping that we can get to a place where COVID is no longer a factor in our lives.

Do you have any advice for artists who might be feeling discouraged after a solid year of no concerts, festivals or touring?
Use the time to perfect your craft. Network online. Make as much content as possible, organize all your assets. Learn to pivot with the times, create music videos, or pre-recorded performance footage — be as creative as possible.

 

When it makes sense to travel again, will you revisit a favourite place or would you prefer to go somewhere you’ve never been before?
I want to go to all the places I’ve never been to first before visiting places I’ve already seen. I have a ton of gigs in Europe waiting for me when this is all over, so I’m excited to go there. 🙂

Do you have any routines or habits that keep you grounded and sane during *all this*?
To be honest, I smoke weed, listen to music, play with my puppy, and take nature walks a few times a day.

What role does music play when it comes to healing?
Music is a way for me to work out my thoughts and emotions. Lyrics, melody and music production work as a team to create a vibrational incantation that can penetrate deep into your DNA. Music is a very strong medicine capable of connecting us to the unknown while we listen.

There is an undeniable magical and mystical element to DNA Activation and The Golden Octave. In what ways does magic show up in your daily life?
Just being alive on this planet is the greatest magic of all, but to have the additional chance at living out my dreams is proof enough for me that my manifestation powers are on point. I’ve always wanted to make music and to sing — ever since I was three years old.

In “Tesfay,” you sing about looking good, feeling fine, and shining… can you tell us about a special piece in your closet that makes you feel this way? Is there a story behind it?
Hmmm… I think my best outfits are probably the ones Sun Sun has made for me. Her custom pieces make me feel special because I know they are all 100% one-of-a-kind. When I put on a Sun Sun piece, I know I’m never going to see someone else rocking the same thing and it’s a great feeling. Plus the fact that I know where she sources her fabrics and that it’s made in Canada and sweatshop-free is also fantastic.

As an independent, self-releasing artist, what do you identify as shortfalls of the Canadian music landscape?
We need more support for BIPOC artists within the rap, R&B/soul, and reggae genres. Canadian music is not just singer-songwriters, folk and indie bands. We need more money, funding, access to resources. We need more festivals and events to book outside of their comfort bands, we need media to write about up-and-coming artists as well as those living and working in the margins.

 

Catch Witch Prophet’s spellbinding and mesmerizing performance for Wavelength’s Winter Fest on Friday February 27th at 8pm, to be followed by Beverly Glenn-Copeland at 9pm. The fun kicks off at 7pm with Shabason, Krgovich & Harris. 

Siobhan Murphy is a creative who works behind the scenes in the music industry, helping artists with the business ends of things. Her blog, Frissonic Shivers, is a space to spotlight new and emerging musicians. Connect @frissonicshivers

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