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09:15 LA

12:15 NYC

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KINIDA On Sound & Color, And Making People Feel Things

A conversation with Brooklyn-based sound and visual artist KINIDA

Nada Mesh, Writer

Nada Mesh

Writer

Updated

If you haven’t heard of multidisciplinary sound and visual artist KINIDA, a quick glance at her conceptually written artist bio on Spotify will give you an idea of just how metaphysical the scope of her work is. 

“We are all changing under the same sky, metaphysical mysteries, art is emotions, you are making me feel things.” Indeed, KINIDA’s approach to her sound and artistry is simply a transference of her and her collective, YenseSori’s (alongside GINJA and WEST1NE) sentiments about what it means to share this lived experience.

The Brooklyn-based artist makes sure to always include visuals alongside her music, as a representation of the explosive creativity she has access to, in attempts to “paint a picture” with her art. Her most popular video {{{머리 아파/MURI APA}}} perfectly represents her style, which melds together hyperrealism, and a consideration for the substantiality of human emotion through her lyricism (which fluctuates between her mother-tongue, Korean, and English).

A few months back, I sat down with her to have a conversation that covered a whole range of topics varying from her evolution as an artist, her creative processes, spirituality in relation to creation, and the astral message she hopes to convey through her art.

We also spoke about her next moves after releasing her first full-length EP with her collective back in February, and she gave me a teaser into what we should be expecting from her upcoming projects. Keep reading to delve into the mind of this one-of-a-kind creative.

Where are you right now?

N

Venus.

KINIDA

And you live with roommates, or?

N

No, I just moved in alone. First time living alone actually.

KINIDA

Oh nice, are you enjoying it so far?

N

Yeah, I like it a lot honestly, it’s been giving me a lot of space to think.

KINIDA

So give me a little background behind the inspiration for your name, Dakini, and the relevance that it’s had in your life and art.

N

Yeah, so I would describe the Dakini best as an energy form, one that has very high female energy. My dad’s side especially is Buddhist, but it was never pushed on me, so I kind of did my own research. I really resonated with the origin of where East Asian Buddhism started, which was in Tibet. One day I came across Dakini, and resonated with its energy really highly. KINIDA is backwards, my response to DAKINI, with sound and color, finding my own highest female energy, or tapping into different kinds of female energy that I embody within us.

KINIDA

I know you’ve spoken about ambiguous energy a lot as well, what does that mean to you?

N

We’re very complicated consciousness of minds, and I feel like as a creative, ambiguity exists because of the fact that we can express ourselves in different mediums and formats. That goes in any blurred lines of any type of art. For me, experimentalism, and just exploring myself in ways where I’m not setting those harsh lines of who I am as and artist, has been very freeing. When I was younger I kind of was really hard on myself and quite confused because I didn’t know which direction I wanted to go in. But as i got older, I kind of accepted that this is who I am and how my mind works, so while I’m figuring it out, that’s what it means to me: fluidity.

KINIDA

I think we’re so prone to categorizing things in our society, and English words they’re so interesting because there's no playfulness, unless it’s within poetry or something. But when you look up a definition in the dictionary, it’s never really on a grey scale. 

When I write I tend to look up words in the dictionary and I like to put those definitions on the grey scale and give it more of a fluid meaning.

I know you’ve done some visual spoken words pieces as well, I really like that side of your sound too. Would you say the creative process associated to those are different to your music? They seem to me more personal.

N

Umm, it really depends. I feel like when I write with sound, I feel mostly colours at first, and they trigger certain words and ideas out of me during that moment. But i also do write a lot with my collective as well. So when I’m in that environment of the three of us, there’s a bunch of bouncing around feelings that circulate within the collective. As for my spoken word, I actually like to write those pieces mostly when I walk. So it’s really one of the two or three or more.

KINIDA

That’s cool, I never really heard of anyone writing as they walk but I definitely feel like motion inspires me too, like when I’m on a train, or an airplane. Maybe it’s that transitory state on second thought.

N

Yeah exactly! It’s being in transit, that’s a huge source of inspiration for me.

KINIDA

Speaking of your collective, I know you released your first proper project with them - so it’s a fully collaborative project right?

N

Yup. So YenseSori, we started about - it’s been like 4 years I would say. Since I met my best friend GINJA, who’s also my creative partner. At the time we met, she was getting into production, and I was getting into vocals. And now it’s kind of reversed. Then she brought in our other homie WEST1NE, and he's kind of the mastermind behind engineering and is so good at organizing channels, he’s also an amazing producer as well. 

It kind of just happened so fast. We never had an issue where we’re stepping over each other, it just flows. And during our sessions, it’s just amazing. We don’t box ourselves in at all. We tend to make very … out of the ordinary sounds, I’d say, when we’re in the moment, not really thinking about it. Then we go back and masterpiece together all the sounds and bits.

KINIDA

Yeah, I find with your project, there’s obviously an underlying continuity, but there is definitely a sense of randomness between tracks. I really like that though, it gives a really raw and organic feel to the art. I think your strong suit is really your curation. The people you bring together even to shoot your videos, come up with graphics, typography - all those little details. It all comes together so well.

N

Oh wow, thank you so much.

KINIDA

Looking back to even your first posts on socials, you’ve had a lot of consistency, especially with your visual artistry.  I know you’ve said you struggled trying to find your medium, or what it was exactly you wanted to do. But you’ve always had a strong grasp on your style right?

N

Yeah for sure. Since a young age, I’ve always graduated towards lights, or anything blending. Kind of going back to ambiguity, nothing harsh. Even opacity, texture. I love strange textures, microscopic images. I think that came from my interest in Marine Biology actually, when I was younger. I wasn’t as interested in the science behind it, more with the imagery. 

I didn’t really pick up that I had a continuum of aesthetic within my art until later on in life, when I looked back at the trace of all of my work and it started to make sense a little more.

KINIDA

So was it the same with music, were you always sure of your style? Was there some sort of underlying inspiration that was always there, or did you find it harder to define your sound to yourself?

N

Well writing I was always very interested in, but for me sound, anything verbal really versus visual, was always cohesive for me. 

There was a moment where I experienced something in New York that made me realize “Oh shit, I really need to get into music or sound art itself, I think that’s my purpose.” It helped me categorize things in my mind, and even though I don’t like categorizing, at the time it made a lot of sense to pair sound with visuals, because there’s so much more that goes into music than just the sonic, there’s all these textures to play around with. Everything I’m interested in really. 

Sonic wise, I feel like it’s constantly changing. With my collective we’re constantly experimenting, and inspired by different things. There’s just so many sounds around us! Even my heater *laughs* everytime it rattles it sounds different, and I feel like it’s composing a piece for me. So those things push me to challenge our definition of what music is to us. It’s hard to explain. I just know I don’t like categorizing what I make, every time I make something it feels different, it’s new but still familiar to my own emotions.

KINIDA

Yeah I see that, soundscaping is what really inspires you.

N

Yup! That's exactly what it feels like. I see our music more as alchemy y’know?

KINIDA

So i know you’re super in touch with your spirituality, I read your intervew with 360mag where you spoke about dropping out of school, the financial instability and just kind of not knowing wtf you’re doing. To quote you “I try to do the things the right way most of the time, but somehow my life pattern always takes me on a harder route.” I’m assuming you know the spiritual law of least effort, so I just wanna know: at some points were you questioning your path because there were obstacles in your way?

N

That’s a good question. Umm, I never questioned my path, which is interesting. I do have moments where I flash back into the past and I think about different paths that were presented in front of me. But I do feel like, especially when I was going through my hardships, I feel like it was always sort of, meant. We’re never really in control of anything. It’s like fate, we’re put through things we never expect to be, but it’s for a reason. Either to learn something or to go through it yourself to be the person who you need to be in the present. 

KINIDA

 You can’t really be in control, unless you meditate and you KNOW you can manifest, because you know what’s coming. I never go out of my way to force things, I don’t like anything unnatural to myself or those around me.

Even with certain friendships or relationships, you may feel like something’s not aligning, and then maybe a year later, that ends up blowing up and you’re like “I knew it!” but there was a reason you had to go through that still, a reason why you didn’t just end it back then. 

Moral of the story, I don’t think I have a choice *laughs* but I do think we can definitely manifest, and meditate to find the better way you can get from point A to Z..

KINIDA

You’ve previously spoken about how important incorporating Korean (your mother tongue) lyricism into your music is to you.  How essential do you think someone’s cultural roots are to having a full scope of self-awareness? Because, for example, there are a lot of people who grow up as third culture kids, in a completely different culture, and may know nothing about that side of their identity or even speak the mother tongue. So how important do you think it is for each person to revisit their roots?

N

I think it's 10,000% important. Because you have to know your roots in order to plant seeds. 

If you can’t explain it to a 6-year-old, you don’t know it yourself. So if you don’t even know who you are, how can you make others understand? Yourself, your art. 

With the collective, we’ve been talking about how important it is to be in touch with your roots, especially us all being Asian-American, but having to cater more to the Westernized world. And just feeling kind of in the middle. We’re told to be either the minority Asians, or cater to be white Asians. I feel like we were never able to just be Asians in America. So we’re really conscious of that, and we try to bring up as much of our culture as possible. We’re trying to tell people it’s okay to just be Asian. I feel like the hierarchy created this division but it’s just like, you can’t neglect any part of who you are, and i feel like the external of this lifetime, being Korean, and raised in a Western culture, art and music has been very important in the rediscovery of myself. 

KINIDA

I got to re-learn my mother tongue through writing music, because I kind of forced myself. I was never going to make music that just catered to Western sounds, it didn’t make sense to me to just write in English. I think we’ve been taught to Westernize ourselves to please the white man, or else to completely go the other way and abandon that inevitably Westernized part of ourselves. 

I totally get that, as an Arab who grew up in the Middle East but who was taught English before my mother tongue, and who lives in the West. There’s a certain sense of shame attached to merging the two sides of your identity, even though Western ideals were pushed on us because there’s this outdated idea that the West is superior. I know there are some people who get offended at people who are trying to balance those two polarities, as if they don’t have the right to - in a way. But I think at the end of the day it’s about paying respects to your ancestors always, but also to the present that houses you.

N

That’s exactly it.

KINIDA

On the topic of ambiguity though, I know you’re a multimedia visual and sound artist and you play a role in a lot of the different elements of the behind the scenes of the production of your art. But is there something, in particular, you like to take full control over? Or is it all about collaborating to you?

N

I LOVE collaboration. One of my favorite quote that Yoko Ono said is “A dream alone is only a dream, but a dream together is reality.” 

We as one person can only do so much. I think it’s the best when you have a bunch of dope-ass creatives in one room, and they’re bringing a lot of different mastery to the table. That’s when the magic happens: when people are bringing forward what you lack so naturally. I think constantly practicing selflessness is so important, and that comes with working in groups. 

As you said, we live in a society which promotes narcissism, but it’s important to be in groups where you balance one another out and learn from one another. Really being able to listen to other people.

KINIDA

For sure. So it makes sense that your first full body of work be released as a collaborative joint. Is there anything you’ve learnt through the process of creating a full body of work opposed to just loose singles and music videos?

N

Yeah, the very first single I released I tried to do everything on my own, but then the other two I had been a part of the collective already. This one is very special because it’s aged as long as we’ve been working together. I think releasing it is giving us more sense of right to where we can go. We’ve realized we have so much freedom, so much more to play around with. 

These next sounds we’re putting out are definitely going to be more dancey, but also a fusion of neo-spiritual, and techno? I don’t know *laughs* but it’s going to be great.

KINIDA

So kind of in the same lane as “Fweakie”?

N

Yup! If you liked that one you’ll like what we're cooking up. The slow is always going to be there, but I think we’re targeting faster, and also we are experimenting with cinematic sounds, and soundscaping. 

Personally, I'm experimenting now with painting pictures through sound, both GINJA and I are. And she's picked up the guitar recently and I’m tryna learn the bass, so we’ve been learning how to jam together lately too, it’s been really fun.

KINIDA

Do you ever have moments where you find yourself lacking creative drive or inspiration? Or because you have this collective to bounce ideas off one another you’re kind of always in that headspace?

N

I think I’m constantly inspired *laughs*. The only thing though our collective does have issues with, is that we have too many ideas sometimes, where we don’t know how to organize things as a whole and we get distracted easier with the ideas. 

What we’re trying to work on now actually is not always creating when we’re together, but also learning how to organize some ideas we already worked on. We’re trying to find that balance.

When you’re in a collective like that, or any situation really where you’re with like-minded people  - even with us the way this conversation is flowing just smoothly, kind of just bouncing off one another - that’s fundamentally the most important thing for any creative.

KINIDA

You can think all day in your head, but it’s only once you’re generating externally (even through conversation), that’s when you can see things you haven't thought about.

I read in The Courage to Create by Rollo May, that it’s a common age-old theme that creation is aided in communal settings. Even biblically, when you come together in a group of three or more, creation will sort of just, find you.

N

I like that *laughs* “creation will find you.

KINIDA

So how do you decide what ideas you let go or put on the back burner?

N

Everything’s a feeling, it’s in the moment and the energy. I feel like the dopest shit we’ve created though has been when all our energies are aligned, and it’s just free-flow. 

That’s when we listen back to it afterwards and we’re like I don’t even remember how we did this! 

The other ones are just great ideas. I don’t think any art is bad. Before I used to wonder like is there any bad or good art really? But I’ve come to the conclusion that there really isn’t. It’s just people depicting what’s good or what isn’t, but at the end of the day creation is creation. It’s an idea being put forward and externalized, so how can we judge that?

KINIDA

Yeah, art is an entity. People forget that it’s just created for the sake of being created. It can’t be bad once it’s out there because it’s fulfilled its purpose, which is to be a release to the creator.

N

Exactly, it was for the artist to begin with. We might not be able to relate or connect to it, but who are we to say if it’s “good?”

KINIDA

Mhmm.  So on that note, I did want to ask you: on a more astral level, what is your relation to your existence and your creativity?

N

Hmmmm, yeah *pause* These are fucking awesome hahaha. 

I think the best way to try to explain it would be a dream, it’s kind of like dreaming. We have this plane, and then we have other parallel dream stages or planes, where we can’t really depict if it’s reality or not. So i do feel like I’m here, but im also not here a lot of the time. 

So just how we generate in our dreams these moments or new creations within our consciousness, this is so much smaller than what we hold. I’m constantly asking questions about it, I never have answers and I always remind myself of that - that I will just learn as I go through life. I feel like that’s the best way to create in the moment. And dreaming is just that to me; sometimes I can control some moments in my dream, if I’m practicing lucid dreaming  for example or I’m in a realm I’m familiar with, but it’s just all in that moment. But who is to say that that moment isn’t what is created by this…. If that makes sense?

KINIDA

It does make sense, it’s like the interdependent relationship between reality and non-reality. It’s like that field of potentiality basically.

N

Definitely potentialty, something that can’t be depicted by words, but could be actualized. 

I keep a dream log actually, in hopes that before I die I will find some answers through those weird connections. I do feel like dreaming, and just that state of being in that consciousness, there’s something so beautiful about it - it’s just generating moments. 

You know when you’re dreaming, and then all of a sudden you’re in another format of the dream, and it’s like whoa. I do feel like I learn a lot from that in this reality, it helps me to really appreciate these short or long lived moments that are happening on the plane that I’m in. 

Those are the beautiful moments of creation, where it’s just a spark of light that you feel, even through encountering different energies. Or hearing a sound through a colour or vice versa, just these multisensory experiences. And that’s what art is, and our duty as artists to channel this feeling into a physical format.

KINIDA

So the potential of creativity is also creativity in of itself.

N

Yup! Let’s put it that way. I can’t really define in it, but I like the way you put things. 

It’s like inception you know? The constant rolling of energy. Because energy can’t die, it’s just constantly travelling and transforming, and that’s what art is to me, the form that energy takes in that moment. 

KINIDA

So in that sense, do you find yourself sometimes gatekeeping your ideas when you’re discussing with other people? Or just being protective that the recipient of your creative sentiments is someone whose energy resides with you?

N

For sure. There’s a place and time you know? With my friends sometimes we have great ideas but we don’t want to say it out loud in that moment, because we know once we put that energy out its going to hit somebody. I think its all metaphysics at the end of the day, and once I say it, it’s travelled. 

Sometimes I think like, you know when you have these random ideas and you’re asking yourself damn, where they came from? Maybe someone else said it out loud and it traveled to meet me. So I’m always careful who I share these ideas with, for sure I have to connect on some level with who I’m sharing my thoughts with. That’s why this collective is so important to me.

KINIDA

Finally, I wanted to ask you a random question, but what’s the last song, movie, book, painting etc you remember really inspired you?

N

I actually love picking up books on the street, and I picked something up recently let me just grab it.

It’s called The Pocketbook of Quotations: A New Collective of favorite Quotations From Socrates. When I saw this shit, I was like this looks old as hell, what’s going on?

KINIDA

Yeah, it looks like it’s seen some shit for sure.

N

Yup! And every time I turn the page it kind of falls off, so it’s like I have one chance to read it ahah. 

It’s a list of quotations from A-Z, but I try not to read it all at once since I just have that one time where I can read it and absorb it. One of my favorites I’ve come across so far though is about age, and it goes like “We do not count a man’s years until he has nothing else to count.” So it’s just very kind of, witty little sentences.

KINIDA

I like that, kind of straight to the point.

N


Photo credits: Art direction: milk

Creative Direction: milk @kat.kuo @fiftyginja

Photography: @kat.kuo

MUA: milk

Nails: milk


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