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ARTS FEATURE

Black and Queer and Living in the South, Ahomari Sings It Like It is

Siren Song

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ahomari

Ahomari | photo by John Carlos

Ahomari is a gender-nonconforming singer-songwriter from Columbia, self-described as “the black queer siren of the South.” Writing pretty much every day since the age of 8, the 26-year-old issues a lot of material. Exploring experimental pop, R&B, and beyond, the last year has seen the artist release material as Ahomari, Cyberbae and the more sonically subdued but still emotionally searing blue,girl, a collaboration with local jazzer and rocker Sean Jones.

Still, despite this prodigious output, Ahomari says it’s been difficult to break into the local scene.

“I’m problematic, but nobody is not problematic,” the singer offers. On Facebook, the singer’s become something of a local watchdog, calling out hurtful tendencies seen in the music scene and beyond.

“I’m just seen as a danger and a headache because I’m not one of the ‘good blacks,’” Ahomari continues. “I don’t find it necessary to spend time at these events or go to places I’m not welcome. Ahomari won’t coddle you. Just recently I was at a place and a white man yelled n#!ga two times and no one said nothing.

“That’s my Columbia. My music is an escape from that world for me.”

For Ahomari, finding other people to engage creatively on these terms has been a struggle. But connecting with Michael Jones, WUSC DJ and host of The Local Beet, at age 20 helped open up new possibilities.

“I was writing for other artists while I just stayed hermiting it up on the northeast side,” Ahomari says. “Michael Jones taught me how to produce music because essentially no one wanted to work with a queer black singer. Especially one with no proximity to whiteness. I had no white friends at the time.”

Things have turned around a bit lately, with appearances for Ahomari’s projects each of the last two years at the Hoechella festival at New Brookland Tavern and a gig last week playing before a screening of Madonna: Truth or Dare at the Nickelodeon Theatre. But starting blue,girl with the white, cisgender, heterosexual multi-instrumentalist Sean Jones wasn’t so much a bid for acceptance as it was an attempt to extend their creative chemistry.

“blue,girl was kind of a thing for a while,” Ahomari offers. “Me and Sean had been talking about doing music way before he joined our now dissolved band, Loamers.”

Jones tinkered with impressionistic guitar riffs and loops in his home studio, sending them to Ahomari. The singer would take those sketches, jot down some lyrics and send them back.

“We didn’t really know where we were going with it,” Ahomari says. “It was so organic and fast.”

There’s a moment on blue,girl’s song “Home Tonight,” where Ahomari’s voice breaks — “Hold me, I’ve been / Dreaming something I wish I knew but I never know.” This need for connection permeates the anguished reflections on the duo’s self-titled EP, a stark gem of dreamy bedroom pop, stripped to text-message length and tied together with Ahomari’s bruised tenor.

“The internet is a big part of my life and through the years I’ve networked with a lot of people,” the singer offers. “Some I’ve been romantically linked to as well. When you have no connection to the internet, you fear your connections with those online are dying.” 

It’s a timely fear, a big part of what makes blue, girl so compelling. On “All We Have,” Ahomari begs for honesty — “If I text you too much / Just please don’t reply / And If I read too much into this / Just pretend that it’s fine.” Ahomari isn’t interested in platitudes, believing that such pleasantries hinder real conversation about who we are and what our problems are. 

Such themes of isolation carry over to a pair of 2017 solo EPs, FEMME and GHETTO GOTH PRINCESS, released under the Ahomari moniker — ethereal collages that echo with gated reverb, syntactical meaning taking a backseat to the back beat. The first Cyberbae full-length, a self-titled effort due later this month, offers dialed-up dance floor fever dreams that seem equally alien to the hushed blue,girl. But in both instances, the singer’s emotional honesty remains, binding these disparate pursuits.

[Online copy updated.]

“I’ve been here for a while,” Ahomari concludes. “Performing here for a while. Yet I’m constantly overlooked because I’m black, loud and queer. Some will read this and say I’ve isolated myself. I’m fighting for my life and that fight is often met with more violence.” 


What:Cyberbae

Where: Infinite Room (Tapp’s Art Center, 1644 Main St.)

When:Thursday, Oct. 5, 8pm

With:6izz, D_dn_m_

More:803-988-0013,tappsartscenter.com

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