EmmoLei Sankofa is always making music. Even when she’s working the cage in SCAD’s film and television department, she makes sure to bring her portable keyboard along so she can make music. “I am working on music all the time,” says Sankofa. “It’s full-time art making.”
If anything, Sankofa makes music obsessively, working until she “exhausts” an idea before moving on to the editing and polishing processes. She admits that her music may not fit into the mainstream mold: “A lot of the things I create don’t fit in the mainstream. “Osmosis” is my first attempt at creating something to capture a wider audience. But I’m not really focusing on that, I’m just focusing on making people feel good,” says Sankofa, whose newly released single samples a hidden track from Pharrell’s new album.
While Sankofa’s body of work seems to float between upbeat minimal house and airy, dissonant jazz with some funky lyrics and samples in-between, she’s not just trying to make music — she’s really feeling it. ”I’m just trying to do what feels good to me at the moment,” she told me.
During her last two years at SCAD Atlanta (while completing her Masters degree), Sankofa grew and gained the confidence to make art “no matter what.” Sometimes that means not caring about ‘going mainstream,’ and sometimes it means scrapping an entire night’s worth of work.
Even with her album YCANIMRETEDNI, Sankofa remarks on all the songs that just didn’t make the cut. The album, released in November, was created with John Cage and his musical philosophies as inspiration. But even Sankofa knows that some of the music on the album came from an “out of body” artistic process, saying that she often asks herself, “Where did that come from? Did I make that?’”
But maybe she didn’t make it all herself. Sankofa recalls a quote from Erykah Badu that’s always stuck with her about making art: As soon as you release it into the world, it’s no longer yours. Sankofa seems encouraged by the thought that other artists and makers could have an impact on her work, even if it doesn’t make it to The Hot 100.
So what’s next for the musician and collaborative artist? Before she moves out west later this year, she’s working on two collaborative projects with local creators: One with The House of Gunt, and one of which can’t be named because the project is a secret. What she can tell us is that it’s going to send people “over the edge.” Excitedly, Sankofa sets the expectations high for the mystery release: “When you hear it — you know when someone releases something and you’re like ‘I thought I knew, but I don’t!’ — It’s going to be like that.”
With each new work and experience as a musician, Sankofa is constantly trying to one-up herself. It’s a process she’s been working through for years. Could it even be called osmosis — her ideas, moving from an impermeable realm into a space where we can experience them in full sound and color? From YCANIMRETEDNI to “Osmosis” to whatever Sankofa dreams up next, her drive to create overrides her interest in the conventional. But in the end, that just might be her ticket to the top.
Check out more of EmmoLei’s music here: http://e-sankofa.net/music