Eight light sources revolve around her. They shine on her, protect her, enlighten her. The beats sometimes sound dark, the violin cuts eerily through a blue mist. The band stands in a semicircle around the singer Pink Oculus, as an extra wall against the outside world.
With her long braids, black boots and silverware, she exudes confidence. But as strong as Pink Oculus is, it’s how little Esperanza Denswil – her real name – has felt in recent years. Only now, after six years of darkness, does she finally have the words and the music to talk about it.
The project with the lamps was shown for the first time at Le Guess Who in 2021 and last week she performed with it at the Holland Festival to promote her new EP hide† The four new songs are the prelude to a very long awaited album to be released after the summer.
In 2016, the singer debuted with delicious, a strong, idiosyncratic mix of avant-garde soul and hip-hop. She made an impression at festivals and a beautiful and cheerful album would follow. And then, for six years, she was almost gone.
“Until a year and a half ago, I was in an abusive relationship, a toxic relationship. I do not want to go into details, but it was physical, emotional and mental abuse. “That she comes out with it now is part of the healing process. And she wants to show others that” your fire can burn again. “
“I often say that Pink Oculus is my alter ego, so everyone understands that, but it’s more. she is mine higher self† It sounds banal, but I’m just the spiritual girl. She is who I can be, who I want to be in everyday life. ”
I have known all my life that I am different and function differently than most people around me.
Only Pink Oculus got further and further away from its better self. “I was attacked for everything that makes me beautiful and special. That was the goal. In such a relationship, you are made small and kept small because that is the best way anyone can manipulate you: when you become a broken version of yourself. ”
The upcoming album she produced, titled Bink beats, is not just about what happened, but about her whole “mental state.” “All my life I have known that I am different and that I function differently than most people around me. I am very much in my own world. I have been exposed to depression since I was a teenager. I find life quite difficult. ”
What then helps is the music. “You are then your own alchemist. When I write a song, I feel that something changes. Even when I make a beat. Then something happens, something healing.”
But even that music almost completely disappeared in the toxic relationship. It took five years before she could free herself from the grip of her now ex-partner. Slowly she came to look herself in the eyes again. In the security of her apartment, behind her computer, new songs were created. Her voice sounds thoughtful, sometimes vulnerable, regularly burning and angry. The beats also came naturally, often with references to her Surinamese background, to her great surprise. “While Sam Cooke was at home, he got up more often than kaseko or kawina.”
She developed the stage play with the eight lamps together with the artists Boris Acket, Dennis Vanderbroeck and researcher Vincent van Velsen. “The design symbolizes my emotional journey. We create a temple where I connect with my higher self. I want to show myself that you can get through it, but I also hope to touch someone else, someone who may not believe in themselves anymore. ”
She is now in a healthy, fun and happy relationship. She still needs to get used to being herself. Sometimes she is afraid that others will see what she sees. ‘I see the damage when I look at myself. It is confrontational. I blame myself for allowing myself to live unlovingly for so long. I am in the process of accepting that. ”
Isn’t it emotionally heavy on stage? No, she says a little surprised. It is precisely between the lamps that she feels strong. Well, that’s the moment when violinist Yannick Hiwat solos. “He can portray that pain so well. So sometimes I feel tears. But if I don’t sing, then I’m exactly who I want to be.”