New music from Josephine Oniyama doesn’t come along often, but it’s always worth the wait. The Liverpool-based singer-songwriter has one of the most distinctive voices in British pop – a soulful, complex contralto steeped in the musical heritage of her Manchester upbringing and influences ranging from Joni Mitchell to Motown to Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti.
‘Tears Will Never Be Mine’ is the first taste of her new EP, Human, with a long-awaited follow-up to her 2012 album Portrait scheduled for the autumn. Oniyama steps into new territory here, giving the song an airy electro backdrop that makes way for a strident, string- heavy chorus that she says represents “the elevation possible when healing happens and you’ve worked out of trauma and pain to a place of freedom and hope.”
Oniyama has always been an intriguing artist, often popping up in surprising places. Her 2015 collaboration with producer/trumpeter Matthew Halsall showed off her sophisticated jazz side, while her inspired pairing with Travis on ‘Idlewild’ was appealingly noir-ish and spooky. Her commissioned work for Manchester contemporary arts centre, HOME, adds another layer of interest. Broadening her scope as a songwriter and sound artist, Oniyama worked on composing new, contemporary soundtracks to silent films, including an ambitious electro-acoustic score for the 1922 Swedish/Danish witchcraft documentary ‘Häxan’, together with students from the University of Salford.
With all this activity – as well as completing a Master’s degree and having her first child – Oniyama is bringing a whole new set of influences and perspectives to her forthcoming releases. Due next month, the Human EP promises to “celebrate bonds”, exploring the ties that bind people from all backgrounds in the current era of political division and cynical culture wars. As the old saying goes, change starts from within, and ‘Tears Will Never Be Mine’ is Oniyama’s “call to self-forgiveness and self-healing, as a way to be better to ourselves and others.”
Listen to ‘Tears Will Never Be Mine’ below.