Jasmine Sokko offers a proposition that is simultaneously crystalline but shrouded. Yes, she’s one of the most brightly burning stars in the firmament of local music. But the reason she’s a crowd favourite also underscores the opacity of her pen and sounds. The crescendoes of drama and the consciously nuanced vision of an artist sublimating her inner stirrings converge in the small body of work of the chanteuse-producer. We received an EP-sized helping of that in Nº, that reached the ether in September year. And as you’ll find out, there’s more where that came from.
There’s no question that you’re amongst the most buzzing and popular artists in Singapore.
Thanks. But I’m still the same. I still make music at home; I still feel discouraged. It’s really tough staying in to just make music everyday and having to deal with the doubt and anxiety that comes with it. You keep asking yourself if you’re delivering what you want. Things like anger and sadness are huge themes in my work. The whole artistic process is like a rollercoaster.
“I wanted to do something that was different from what the system had in store for me. That gives me a lot of fulfilment.”
It’s known that you’re an SMU undergraduate. How do you juggle school and music?
I don’t! It’s always pick one and be really damn good. I think the notion of an all-rounder is a myth. I don’t believe that everyone should go through a system where they try everything just because. You become a jack-of-all-trades but master of none. Time, effort and energy are limited resources. So I’m picky with how I spend them. As far as possible, I try to plan my school schedule in such a way that gives me time for music and submit open-ended projects.
And what drew you to finding your own voice and sound?
There were a number of things. Firstly, there wasn’t a lot of music I could relate to growing up. So much stuff was about sex, drugs and money that I felt I should at least try to write my own. There were songs that I covered and worked so hard at that they turned into completely different songs. Everything is still so standardised in Singapore that I feel like I just have to create my own world. It’s hard to relate to what’s out there. I wanted to do something that was different from what the system had in store for me. That gives me a lot of fulfilment.
I’m not a good instrumentalist – I’d have to work five times harder to get to where most people are. But it dawned on me that the most unique instrument I have is my voice. Nobody else can compete with there you because it’s yours. And you can do whatever you want with it.
What’s the most valuable thing you’ve picked up since your first release, 2016’s “1057”?
I’ve learnt so much but it’s hard to verbalise. The fist EP was me exploring my inner voice and the sounds I liked, such as deep house and future bass. But I gradually worked on melodies and top-lining. That’s when I realised that a song should hinge on songwriting and not on production. Production should push the songwriting further and not the other way round. That became my philosophy. I don’t just include sounds for the sake of it. That way, everything in my songs in necessary and essential.
You also featured on slodown’s beautiful “Nomance”. What was your approach on that song?
Being on that song is insane! I heard it once and I wrote the melody and lyrics in one sitting. I explicitly told him that I had no R&B running through my veins and asked if I could do my own thing and he allowed me to do so. My first reaction was, “I can’t believe I’m in an R&B song!” Laughs.
Congrats on the new single. It juxtaposes beauty with darkness, especially with the hook being, “I want to hurt you back”. Is it a revenge song?
Thank you! I’ve never thought about it that way. It’s just that sometimes the person you care about will hurt you because they were trying to be honest. I feel like intention is something that can never truly be transferred. It’s just created and understood. Someone’s actions might come from a good place but you could perceive it in a different way. In my case, I wanted to do the same to the person who unintentionally hurt me – just so they’ll understand. It’s a bit petty but it was how I felt at the time.
Emotionally, did the song do what you wanted it to do for you?
Yes! I’m so happy with it because I went through a phase of writer’s block. I couldn’t do anything for three months. Then, this song came and it flowed so naturally. It happened in one session and it made it clear why I do what I do. I played it for my friend and we both cried. It’s very honest. The other singles that I’m working on are like that but in different ways.