Oakland singer, writer and composer Itoro Udofia is capturing the attention of music lovers throughout the Bay Area with her eyes set on the global community. Her voice is soulful at its core, recalling Nina Simone, Esther Satterfield and Sade. But, as you can hear in the clip below, Udofia’s voice is uniquely hers.
Wear Your Voice recently had the opportunity chat with Udofia about musical storytelling, artistry and the current trends she’s seeing in the Bay Area music scene.
Heather Jones: What inspires you to sing?
Itoro Udofia: I’ve always loved music. I grew up on many different types of singers who I also loved for their storytelling. I remember listening to Jimmy Cliff, Enya, Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, Michael Jackson, soft rock and a lot of ’90s R&B groups as a kid. As I got older I listened to Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, John Coltrane and I was really into jazz. I love singing because it’s a way for me to tell a story using music. I also just love music and the way a song can make you feel. The way a story can be told through music inspires me to share my world through music.
HJ: How’s the music scene for black women in the Bay Area right now?
IU: Oi! That’s a question. I think the musical scene is growing for black female and queer identified artists. There are so many great collectives of people doing their own art on their own terms, making music that’s relevant to their lives and the lives of so many people. That work is important to the Bay Area and beyond. I’m really happy to see any black artist have an entrepreneurial spirit when it comes to sharing their music with the world. I’ve seen a lot of creativity with this and with black artists in the Bay. I’ve seen a need to use music in a way that connects to healing and wellness for black people and I’m glad that artists are making such important connections.
My personal journey in the music scene has been an interesting one. I actually started out as a background vocalist with different musicians, mostly folk, funk and jazz. I was a little shy to share my own work, and really enjoyed harmonizing, so I figured doing background work would be a great way to begin singing professionally. I learned many lessons along the way about being a black female singer. I think the biggest lesson for me was knowing the importance of being autonomous in what I do and own that I am a composer and vocalist who can be confident in what I produce and know. I think another lesson is that music can love you back. It doesn’t have to be all suffering to make your art. Music can come from a place of joy and resolve.
HJ: What sounds have you been experimenting with lately
IU: I’ve been in the folk scene so much that in my live shows there’s usually a folk element in my music. But in my studio recordings, I like to work with more electronic sounds. Lately, I’ve been focusing on adding more instruments to my live shows to give it a fuller sound, playing around with different textures with the electric guitar and adding more ambient sounds to the music.
HJ: Where can we keep up with you?