“Music to listen to while everything is burning down,” is how STEFA* describes her debut EP Sepalina. “To create my own sonic landscapes is to build the world I can exist in wholly.”
A vocal artist born, raised and currently living in Queens, she constructs vocal universes with traces of choral music, classical minimalism, and electronic beats.
Inspired by STEFA*’s family and secrets that are still only partially revealed, Sepalina tells the tale of a native alien and how she came to inhabit this planet, washed up on shore in the present, stripped of her memories and her language.
“My mother recently uncovered things about my grandmother’s life that has shocked the entire family – she’s become this mystery character who can't speak for herself because she’s gone, and so everyone is trying to piece together her story. I was told my indigenous side comes from her, so I started researching the tribe she was from, the Emberá-Chamí.”
She describes: “I felt I had to go back in time in order to begin to understand my present. I started looking up anything I could find online of the Emberá people — chants, songs — I found one and tried transcribing what they were singing, listening and writing down whatever vowel sounds and phrases I could hear forming – and so I transcribed ‘Sepalina’.”
“The title track ‘Sepalina’ is my protest song, my song for the revolution. I was living in Bushwick when I wrote it, and so much was happening around me – violent gentrification, police brutality and countless protests against all that.
"There’s this Pablo Neruda quote that translated into English says: You can cut all the flowers but you can’t keep Spring from coming.’ I thought of all these uprisings around the world and the fact that we are no longer okay with being oppressed or marginalized.
"We have enough language, knowledge and ways to spread information around that we’re becoming stronger – that’s what they’re so afraid of, the governments and these powers. And so that was the connection that I made between those worlds – and Sepalina – but I don’t know what it means. I haven’t given it a direct narrative.”
Growing up, STEFA* sang in choir and had profound experiences blending her voice with groups: “I’d sing these very epic pieces as a 15 year old girl. When I started going into my solo work, I wanted to replicate that feeling I had when I was in a chorus and I was singing one harmony line and there were four other lines around me and 80 other voices and yet, it felt like one voice. So that’s how I got into looping and harmonizing with myself. I thought, how do I just rely on myself and how do I become this chorus and this orchestra of voices?