‘Take a walk at night. Walk so silently that the bottoms of your feet become ears’
As a Joyzine reviewer, it’s always a pleasure to look for musical pieces that stand out from the ‘crowd’, due to something special being relayed into my ageing ears. Such is the case with ‘Night’, the delicious new single from Aga Ujma.
It’s actually difficult to pin down exactly what makes Aga’s track stand out, because it’s a combination of separate things. Firstly, the vocals; Aga’s distinct voice pulls off the challenging ability of reminding the listener of several musical influences, whilst simultaneously managing to sound completely individual. Yes, I can hear inspirational elements of Britain’s Kate Bush, Iceland’s Bjork and the American band CocoRosie in this track, yet Aga still manages to achieve her own personal, unique sound.
Aside from the beautiful and dreamy main vocals, the music has its own personal stamp. This is skilfully achieved via astonishingly blended backing vocals and the playing of the Indonesian, acoustic sasando and a traditional Balinese/Javanese instrument known as a gendèr. The resulting harmony achieved is gorgeous to the ears.
Aga’s inspirational source for the single – recently released on April 16th – stems from ‘Sonic Meditations’ by Pauline Oliverios. As Aga states, ‘a set of beautiful listening exercises that I discovered in my library at university and that I would recommend everyone to try. Number 5 meditations instructions are as follows: Take a walk at night. Walk so silently that the bottoms of your feet become ears. I did it one night and wrote a poem afterwards which became the lyrics to the song. Then I started going for walks at night by myself a lot. I really loved my first neighbourhood in London. I would walk, dance by myself on the street, imagine I am dancing on the rooftops and on the top of cars and phone booths. There is this beautiful sports centre where me and my housemates would sneak into and roam around when coming home from a night out, it is such a breathtaking space when no one else is around, and I really wanted to include it in the video’.
The video for this single, directed by Emma Parkinson and stunningly choreographed by Isi Ridout, reflects the above description perfectly and reminded me fondly of Kate Bush’s 1985 video for the hit single, ‘Running Up That Hill’. Yet, Aga’s personality constantly shines through as the music and video blend effortlessly together.
‘Night’ may only be slightly less than two minutes in length but this gorgeous piece of music remains in the head for much, much longer.
‘The video is also a love letter to this not-so-cool North London area, with always open off-licenses bursting with intricate mosaics of obscure mixture of Turkish and Polish food products and cheap wine; with Tesco’s staff that knew my name and would always ask how my day was and cheekily tell me what time they will put out their ‘reduced’ items on the shelf; the neighbourhood where one street was full of families and playing children and the next one was dotted with confused dealers, not knowing if they should cat-call me or maybe try to sell me their stuff today? There is this sense of constantly fitting in, you don’t have to be a cool artsy kid as you do in East London, you don’t have to be fancy as you do in the West – nobody really cares here and it felt like a soft pillow to land on after moving here all by myself from Indonesia’.
‘Night’ is taken from Aga Ujma’s debut EP, Songs of Innocence and Experience out on 13th May via Slow Dance Records – pre-order on vinyl here.
Follow Aga Ujam on Facebook
Review by Kevin Milsom
Photograph by Fly Cheng