FeliSpeaks’s Spotify playlist: ‘I could rock with Ella Fitzgerald, then Prince, then Beyoncé’
Check out the songs that the poet – real name Felicia Olusanya – has been listening to lately
FeliSpeaks: I love Peng Black Girls, by Enny. She made it to honour and celebrate the dark-skinned black girl
My music taste is broad, but I tend to dig deep into one genre or album for long periods of time. So I could rock with Ella Fitzgerald for a week and really fall in love with a Prince song, then go back to good old Beyoncé. It all depends on the energy that I’m feeling. I’ve been listening to a 10-minute Fela Kuti song for the past week.
In the last year I’ve tried to keep myself upbeat and creative to keep myself going. Confidently Lost, by Sabrina Claudio, and Grateful, by Mahalia, the first couple of songs on the playlist, are reflective of that: they’re soothing and have a slow-paced vibe. Then it goes into a mix of tunes that make you dance a lot, from Afrobeats to regular hip hop. That sums up my last year: it started with the need to be comforted, but then I got into the groove of things, and things stayed up.
Those Afrobeat songs don’t have a particular message, but they’re going to get you moving. They’re great for getting tension out of my system and to celebrate little moments at a time when it’s weird to celebrate. I threw on music and had a dance when one of my poems was in the Leaving Cert, and after my appearance on The Tommy Tiernan Show.
I don’t actually think I’ve listened to more or less music recently, I’ve just listened to it with more intention. Usually, I’d put my favourite songs on shuffle and listen to it in the background, but I found that whenever I wanted to play music during the lockdowns I was intentional about, say, wanting to dance to something on repeat for five times in a row.
Perhaps I was trying to elicit a specific emotion, or alleviate specific worries, so I was turning to music to change my mood, or to enhance the current mood. I also turned to books for that, and journaling without the intent of that work being seen by anyone.
I tend to listen to music when I’m doing a really regular activity, usually with my partner to fill the space while we’re cleaning or while we’re making dinner. It’s like a third party in the house during normal daily activities.
I hadn’t thought about it before now, but I only listen to lyrics when I’m listening to rap. I don’t have big lyrical expectations from pop, Afrobeats or chill vibes – I enjoy it but I don’t require it. Rap is the only instance I’m really listening out for lyrics, mainly because it’s the closest thing to what I do within music.
That said, one of my favourite songs on the playlist is Jailer, by Asa, because it’s really political for such a groove of a song. It’s from her first album, which is pretty old now. Jailer talks about how the government structures place the jailer aesthetic on you, like you’re bound to them in how you work and live your life. That’s the essence of the song, but if you listen to it you’ll be able to pick up the detail.
I also love Peng Black Girls, by Enny, which came out last year. She made that piece of music to honour and celebrate the dark-skinned black girl, calling them peng – slang for hot – black girls, because socially within UK schools and society, they often they get comments about their beauty. So it’s a comment on the beauty of black girls, and encourages other people to see it. There’s a video for it, and there’s a remix online, and it turned into a whole publication too. It’s all pretty cool.
The next few months are going to be busy but fun for me. As much as I can, I’ll be focusing on specific projects over summer. I’ll be filming some things, and I’m putting together a body of work that will hopefully be out at the end of summer.
The Tolu & Feli Show is available on YouTube