Presented by Puma Rookie of the Year

Acclaim Allstars Card Pookie


Acclaim Allstars 2020

When talking to the personable Pookie it soon becomes apparent that her demeanor is one that dissolves the need for strict guidelines. Instead she hones a mentality that oozes from the loose seams of the box she’s been put in, and makes obvious a want to create for expression rather than just for creations sake.

Most likely it’s her artistic past that gives her leverage in this aspect, having circled worlds of visual art and poetry before her inevitable progression into music, and at the very least is what gives her her genre-bending aesthetic. Her first two singles ‘Tuesday’ and ‘I’m So Sad’ fuel this theory. Sensual, slow moving, hip-hop inspired, they act as parcels for something wholly visceral and in the process create a sound distinctly unique to Pookie.

With her band The Kevins set to transform her live sets once live sets reemerge, potentially reproducing a back-catalogue of songs performed together across 2019, Pookie is also set to release her debut EP ‘Dinka Girl’, an introspective look into her own identity. In the meantime we caught up with the talented Pookie to discuss her early moves into music and the inspiration behind her first couple of singles.

You started as a visual artist and a poet, was moving into music just a natural progression for you?
Yeah, I think I’ve always dabbled in different types of creative outlets. Being a visual artist I found a group of likeminded artists that I started to hang around with. Everybody in that group did their own thing, we had photographers, painters and in that, I got into spoken word poetry. I started recording myself and playing around with that stuff on Garageband, and I was like I can just make music. So it was just organic.

Had you always been into music or was that the first time you really started making it?
I think I’ve always loved music. I’ve always been into it but I didn’t think until then I could be a musician, it’s never been something that’s been tangible or made sense. Before I decided to do music I was actually studying to be an architect, so I think it’s kind of like me breaking down a lot of the conditioning that was brought on me by general society, my family, my culture.

Do you think it’s allowed you to express yourself in a different way then your poetry and visual art could?
Yeah, it’s been the best way to express, cause you can do anything with music, and I mean you can do anything with poetry and painting and all that stuff, but I think with that other stuff I already kind of had a specific vibe, where once I figured out music, music was kind of like just my way of expressing the way I feel then and there. Whereas with painting and spoken word poetry I feel like I go into that with a preconceived idea of what it is that I want.

I read in an interview that you don’t describe your sound as hip hop, you describe your sound as an extension of your creativity, or something along those lines. So when you’re approaching music what’s the process?
Well, I’m heavily influenced by hip hip but when I go to create music I don’t really like listening to anything really, I like whatever it is that I’ve been listening to up until that point. I want whatever has held onto me to come out as opposed to trying to create something that exists. I just want the music that I listen to casually, the music that I like, I want whatever it is that I like about it to come out. You know sometimes how you can like a song but you don’t know what it is that’s really got you? Well, that’s why I listen to a whole bunch of genres. I really love rock, I love jazz, I love all that kind of stuff and when I go into the studio I don’t like limiting myself to one type of sound. Yeah, like ‘Tuesday’ compared to ‘I’m So Sad’, they’re different, that’s kind of like my attitude, it’s more how do I feel rather than what kind of sound.

It’s more a visceral feeling that comes from inside you than trying to put together a certain sound?
Yeah, exactly. If you’ve got some drum pads or whatever they’ll come out naturally anyway, so that’s why hip hop does show itself regardless.

What was the process behind your track ‘Tuesday’ with Baasto? How did that come to fruition?
Well, the first quarantine we had, it just got really dark. I think I was at a point where I hadn’t seen anyone besides my housemates for weeks. Like you don’t even know what reality is anymore. So I was pretty low and I think it’s sad because those are the times where I do make something that I do enjoy, but it sucks that I have to be in that space for something to come out of it. But yeah, I was just not feeling good, but I wanted to feel good, like I knew there was no reason for me to actually feel bad except just being contained. I just really felt like, “I hate this”, so I just made ‘Tuesday’ to cheer myself up. I was just like dancing or whatever, having a good time and then when I came up with that hook. I couldn’t hear anyone else on it but Baasto so I hit her up, I sent her the demo and she got back the next day and was like, “yeah”. I wrote another verse after that and yeah it was cool, it was fun making that one.

On ‘Tuesday’ you talk a lot about your day ones, was that what you wanted to do to cheer yourself up, talk about all the people that had your back?
Yeah, I think I had to remind myself that it’s good that I’m surrounded by really positive energy. I think also just being in that state of mind that quarantine puts you in, you kind of have to remove a lot of layers from yourself. Not things that aren’t working but things that don’t serve you, and some of those things were friendships that were just for friendship’s sake, not even friendships, relationships in general. I think just being isolated for so long made me see clearly about other people in my life that I actually value and other people that, though they’re cool, I shouldn’t really feel. I don’t know, I’m one of those people that’s like, “this is me growing”. I’m one of those people who’s super chill and really casual and very nice with everybody, so sometimes I get to a point where I don’t have boundaries. So yeah, it was also like I am good and to continue being good, just make sure I’m operating in spaces that are safe for me.

Was ‘I’m So Sad’ also a lockdown, feel bad inside-type song?
I wrote that song a day before I dropped it, actually that day. I was really sad, I got some really bad news about a family member not being well and for awhile I jumped into practical mode. I’m always like the hero where everything’s fine, I’m not going to cry about this right now cause I got to hold everybody down, and so for a week I was just like it finally hit me and I was like nah I’m actually sad about this. I went and sang it out and once I did it I was like, “I’m glad I did that”, but for me to truly release it I need to let it go. So I just made a makeshift cover photo and was like, “here, out”, and I felt really good.

I’m surprised to hear that you only wrote it in one day. I love ‘Tuesday’ but out of the two I think ‘I’m So Sad’ is my favourite cause it’s so simple but so catchy.
Oh wow!

Did you expect that?
I didn’t, I didn’t cause when I released it I liked it but you know when you’re not…I was in a space where I didn’t care if anyone else liked it either, so I didn’t expect anyone else to like it to be honest. I was like this is just me and my shit [laughs].

Have you thought about any collaborations you might want to do in the future?
Not really. I think for me collaborations are a very organic thing. I think, not that I’m opposed to a set up collaboration, but I think for me how it usually comes about and what’s been most comfortable for me is that I connect with that other artist and we genuinely want to make a song together. So yeah, I don’t really have anyone specific, I get really excited being like, “hey, I like that what’s that, you’re voice is nice, alright wassup”.

You’re about to release an EP Dinka Girl, I was just wondering what exactly Dinka irl means to you or what the story behind the title is?
So I think it’s like me self-actualising who I am to myself or who I’ve been from birth till now, and I think for a long time that’s been something I was sure about, but really was I sure about it? I don’t know. So now I think I’ve been through enough to know who I am and be solid in that and I think Dinka girls is just my arrival. I think Dinka girl is also just me breaking out of a lot of restrictions that are put on me as a black woman, but not only as a black woman, but as a South Sudanese woman. I think Dinka girl is just me being like, “you know what I’m actually human, I fall in love as well, I have fights with people and then we make up or sometimes we don’t, I’m a human person”. So this is what a Dinka girl is and I’m sure you guys are gonna relate, you don’t have to be Dinka to understand what I’m saying. So I wanna be free in my music career so I just want to lay it out now.

When can we expect that EP?
Before the end of the year. Before 2020 is over we’ll have Dinka Girl.

Follow Pookie here for more.

Words: Julie Fenwick
Photography: Georgia Haynes