Article by Isaiah Hawkins. Art by Tiana Anderson
. What Yoruban Deities inspire you?
Niambi: Obviously Oshun because that's our Yaa Yaa and embraces you to explore our
femininity. Along with Yemoja the deity of motherhood, she's over all the Orisha's. She's able to
build and destroy like a mother saying "I brought you into this world and I can take you out"
that's how I feel with Yemoja. As of lately I been having a growing connection Elegua and
Obatala. Elegua is the deity you have to go through before you reach the other Orishas and
Obatala serves as the Orisha creations. These Orisha's are there to guide you when you're
making any transitions or steps in your life to make your vision possible.
Thandi: All the Orisha deities inspire me, but primarily it's Oshun. Being that we have dedicated
our music to her and the whole pantheon. As of recently I've been feeling Yemanja working and
being very present with me during this whole journey. His energy goes with any relationship that
you have with the divine and it feels like he is opening a gate in a new chapter. The third is
Shango the Orisha deity of thunder and lightning. Like Oshun is the representation of a female
deity, he is the male sensuality. The fierce protector of strength and power, by me being a Aries
and realizing that Shango has power over Aries helps me to balance my sweetness with Oshun.
A. What drew you to the Orisha?
Niambi: I was drawn to Orisha through my parent’s tradition. We lived in a community in DC
where everyone was in tune with some type of religion or sensuality. My sister and mother was
a combination of Yoruba and AKAN. Yoruba, which stems from Nigeria and AKAN, stemming
from Ghana. We all portrayed the Orisha as a human force and that's how we connected to
evaluate situations. We are all representation of some form of love and nature with an
understanding that god isn't everything, it's all things, all things that have life are god. It was
difficult for me in high school because I had to "pick a side" as they say. At the end of the day I
followed my heart because Orisha felt like home.
Thandi: It was definitely a different path for me because I grew up in a Christian home. My
Family started going to church when I was around the ages of 4 or 5 then we just stopped when
I was 12. At that time we were in and out of church until I started going back in my later teen
years. My brother had left home by then and my mom noticed the nest was getting empty. We
still observed our ancestors, not in a traditional way, but a black way. My father is a theologian
and he dedicated his career to African theology. He studied deities from South Africa to Ghana
which was bestowed upon me in the process. It wasn't my family religion, but it was still present.
I never practiced Orisha until I moved to New York, learning thru Niambi and my own
observation I felt more at home with the culture.
A: There's often this discussion of sexuality throughout your tracks, what were some of the
biggest points or precautions you made while tying it into the project?"
Niambi : It just had to be real It wasn't strategic. We expressed ourselves however nature
Thandi: The fact of the matter is, we know what our intent is. "you could be sexual and say "oh
twerk it like this..." but when you speak on the power of sexuality, we are allowing that energy to
flow through a space. It's the act of creating. If the intent is pure, the words can't be impure.
Niambi: If there were precautions it was because we said something impure. We're sharing our
Thandi: continues Women are sexual beings. We give life and have a connection with the Earth.
A.: Feminism is ever evolving and each activist carries Her own beliefs and values in regards to
sexual freedom and emotional behavior. Where does OSHUN stand in it's mission as ladies
expressing themselves with something that is almost taboo for women to discuss publicly?"
Niambi: We walk in the steps of our ancestors and learn through our cultures & traditions.
Women had to learn to express themselves sexually. It wasn't inappropriate. It's not
inappropriate because it's something that's pure. It's natural. & we try and emulate that...We
know that we are sexual beings. We must be free in it.
Thandi: The fact of the matter is, there's no absolute way we'd exist without the sexuality of the
woman. A man has a seed but needs a women in order to plant it. If we're hiding that from the
forefront, we're hiding life. We're hiding God.
Niambi: *sings* "Go Best friend, that's my best friend."
A: Tell me about the music that stems from Yoruba?
Thandi: For one it's definitely drum based. Drumming is a language in Yoruba culture that
connects with the divine. I studied the language briefly but FAYLAKEY originated from Nigeria
and his music is very Yoruban with deep percussion equaling to the language. KUFFE is one of
the greatest Yoruba artist of all time.
Niambi: Well there are three different percussions and from the music we make we made our
own drum sounds. We created music from our soul to create "Asase Yaa". Yoruba is very jovial
from the purestrawest form. It's the most soulful because it's based on what the body can
produce. I have a special passion for melody because I come from a classical background, so
my mind works in major 3rds and what not. So that's necessarily how we take our music. Our
music is all about the vibe and sound vibrations. It's a lot more freedom with Yoruba music and
all the rules goes out the window.
A: What was it like finding balance with each other when you first started making music
Thandi: I think me and Niambi are just equally balanced. When you think of balance you usually
think opposites attract, but not with us it's more like a pure vibe. It's opposites of the same thing,
we're both water, we're both fire, and within that we have a a lot of differences. In nature we are
balanced. I was making music with our producer Proda and Niambi really liked it. She became
my supportive best friend and we would walk around New York just harmonizing. That's when
we really saw the balance between the both of us. We would just make song out of nowhere
and it's really unexplainable. The moment we met each other, we bonded simply from the love
of our people and our work in the community from our previous years in DC. We always both
had a mission and it was clear to the both of us what we wanted to achieve.
A. What realizations did you form from the project after making these tracks?"
Niambi & Thandi From a sonic level, we felt our experiences speaking through ourselves. We
obviously recorded this in the studio, but listening to it back, I (Thandi) don't even remember
these moments; it wasn't like me speaking. We were a vessel through our message. It was a
connection through us, through our ancestors, through the universe.
A.: What's one of your most favorite and personal songs from the new project? And how did it
feel in that moment when it finally came together?
Niambi: There all my favorite but as of right now I've been in a Yaa phase which is the second to
last track. That song illustrates the power and protection of our mothers. When you are such a
spiritual being you have to learn to filter because it can be overwhelming, especially being
around the negative. That song teaches us that we are protected from bad aura that may cross
our path. When we were done with the project I felt like wow. We already had the tracklist set,
along with the transitions, besides the boondocks intro all the skits were originally done. If you
really listen closely there are a lot of things going on in each track. Like the opening track is a
sample from a concert band, so we took it and flipped it to make a worldly sound to it. The
whole album is built thru the concept of Sankofa, a journey traveling back to our ancestors using
the underground railroad. We wanted to illustrate a journey that was never taught to us as black
Thandi: I feel like every song on the mixtape is one big cohesive song and it might sound like a
cop out because "stay woke" is my shit, but that's how I feel. During the process it felt like all the
deities was there making the mixtape and I myself was a vessel that they used to do it. So they
was there to be like "alright Thandi turn up" and we made some hot fire. So at the end of it all it
doesn't even feel like my music It's there's.
A.: Based on the current state of the earth, what can we as people learn from your music or the
Niambi: We don't want people to think we want them to go back in time, we definitely have to
move with the times. Reality is that we are black in America and there is such a high
observation on us based off our pass history. We want people to use the tools of knowledge and
culture in the world today. Sankofa is said to reach Nigeria but that's not the end of our history.
We want people to understand that there is so much more passed what we already know. Our
life is more than physical, it's the essence of our lives and our souls transcend that. We are the
ultimate creators, gods, and our light in our soul is eternal. We want to teach our people the true
meaning of Sankofa. For people to realize that we are not human beings having a spiritual
experience, but we are spiritual beings having a human experience.
Thandi: Well I want people to recognize the progression in black people and like what Niambi
said we want people to have knowledge of Sankofa. To know the path in front of you is to know
the path behind you. Now is a very critical time because people still think we had the Civil Rights
movement and we just lost it. That's just not true. People think when they see us that we are
part of a afrocentric movement. In our music we're not just chanting, we really have experience
in what we say. We're experiencing new things in the process, because we just came from
Houston Texas and we noticed that there is a real self sufficient black community down there.
There were black owned businesses and a really together community that we never knew. It
shows that we can do what we want and still sustain a value.
A.: What was the thing that stuck with you after sitting with Ms. Badu?
Thandi: For me it was primarily her aura is what I got from her the most. We were technically
supposed to interview her for Okayplayer, but we wanted to take advantage of sitting down with
our elder musical mother for guidance. Her presence and energy was a lesson in itself. She's
been my favorite artist since I was 11 years old and to sit there and gain knowledge in her
presence was unreal. I sense the youthfulness and peace within her even though she is this
famous star/revolutionary. She is a goddess in herself, what I got from her was a "Awe" feeling.
She even talked about her children and that for me was great. Us doing this at a young age
people look to us for guidance and it can become stressful at times. So I can't imagine what
Erykah goes through on a daily, but to feel the peace and strength that she has now I really
valued that from her. That moment let me know that I can do this, I can be the mother I can be,
and the woman I can be.
Niambi: Like Thandi said her aura. I'm the type that always want to to know how she obtained
her goals and the steps to actually get there is what I got from Erykah. She was in meditation
with us at the time. Most people just want the general answers, but I wanted to learn the story
within the path. I asked her things about her diet because that's important to our culture also.
We're a work in progress when it comes to our diet and to get that information from her was
A.: How similar or different are you two when it comes to musical taste?
Niambi: I listen to a lot of nature sounds and I have a gang of pandora stations. Jill Scott,
Azaelia Banks, dancehall, and whatever I come across on soundcloud. I get a lot of my music
from Thandi and I listen to a lot of Drake.
Thandi: I'm definitely the type to explore and find different music. Niambi definitely listens to
more Drake than me, but we are mostly similar.
A.: What track on this new project brings out your most ratchet in you?
Thandi & Niambi: Well we have a little ratchet in our DMV language that come across a bit often
on the mixtape. I don't know if ratchet is the word to use, but to pick a song then it's definitely
"Honey (Oxun)" and "Protect ya self" just because of the content alone. We feel that all the
songs context can be a bit shocking.