Following a sold-out first show at AsiaTOPA as part of SIGNAL Young Creatives Lab, Melbourne soul’s ‘new-kid- on-the-block’ Rosie Clynes aka Komang is finally releasing her long-awaited debut single ‘Dewi’ today. Endorsed by a mentorship with local electronic powerhouse Sui Zhen and citing Kelsey Lu, Erykah Badu and Little Dragon as her influences, the multidisciplinary producer, performer and vocalist blends soul-based groove and echoes of traditional Gamelan to create vibrant electronic RnB described as ‘neo-soul meets Balinese mystic power’ and ‘Solange with an Indonesian twist’. We had a chat to Komang herself to talk us through her creative process, her background in music and the performing arts, future goals, and all things feminism.
Hey Komang, congratulations on the release of your debut single ‘Dewi’! Can you tell us a bit about yourself, your music and this track?
Hey, thank you! It feels good to finally be releasing it. I’m a Melbourne/Narrm-based vocalist and producer who holds a particular interest in blending electronic RnB, neo-soul vocals and 90s house-style production. My most recent body of work has also been influenced by a lot of Balinese and Indonesian music, from Indonesian folk-pop to more traditional elements from Gamelan. Dewi is my firstborn child from this family of songs!
How important is womxn representation in music and the mainstream media to you?
I find issues of representation really important in music and broader media, especially of those of multiple marginalised identities like trans womxn, First Nations womxn and other womxn of colour – the more marginalised identities you hold, the less you’re going to see yourself portrayed in the media. And when you are a young womxn trying to understand your place in the world, that can be really devaluing. Growing up, I didn’t see many womxn producers out there being celebrated, and while that is beginning to change, we have a long way to go.
Can you give us a shortlist of some of your favourite womxn and GNC artists or people in your life that inspire you?
It’s been amazing seeing some local initiatives spear-headed by some really powerful femme musicians, like Jaguar Jonze leading a huge conversation on sexual assault in the industry, and Bel starting a much-needed community space ‘Aus womxn and GNC Folks in Music’. I’d say my main inspirations are local at the moment; womxn and GNC folk like Bell and Jaguar, as well as Sampa the Great, Elle Shimada, Ngaiire, Kaiit, Mo’Ju, Milan Ring, Sui Zhen, Kira Puru… so many others, I could go on. People who are not only making incredible music but are also being vocal about what they feel is just and important.
You’ve got a background in contemporary-theatre and performance – do these skills seep into your music practice too? How so?
For sure! I studied drama at VCA before turning to music because I found it more exciting and empowering. But, I still love so much of what theatre has given me. I love building worlds and creating visuals around music, and using storytelling as a powerful tool. My project launch for Komang took place at AsiaTOPA this year, and I was able to marry my music with a multidisciplinary approach; all the supporting acts were dancers and spoken word poets, instead of other musicians. I guess I’m a theatrical person and I think that shows in my lyrics and production.
This new single ‘Dewi’ draws from two seemingly disparate sonic worlds, both in its electronic production and its traditional Gamelan tropes. How do you go about bridging the gap between tradition and experimentation whilst staying true to each avenue respectfully?
I’ve just tried to do it from the perspective of being a student, rather than ever pretending to myself or anyone else that I’m an expert. I am still learning so much about Gamelan, about RnB and other genres and traditions. I try to play with referencing them from a place of really deep respect, acknowledgement and care, and acknowledging that there is no ‘right’ formula to get the perfect blend of tradition and experimentation. I use them as reference points and just go from there.
As an avid performer, how have you been finding isolation and not being able to perform live or attend live shows? Has this been challenging for you?
Yeah, I was really ready to get going after my launch at AsiaTOPA in February – I had some shows lined up, but then of course lockdown hit a couple of weeks later. I find such a sense of community by attending live shows, so that’s been hard too. But, there is no point in resisting what we have no control over. I’m in a really privileged position where I’ve been able to use this time to create, reflect and take time out, and I suppose the next best thing you can do is try and create that same sense of community online, which I’ve definitely been doing. I’ve been forming some lovely new friendships and collaborations with other musicians just through Instagram.
This single was developed off the back of a one-on-one mentorship with Melbourne artist Sui Zhen, how did this mentorship come about, and how has it helped shaped your music and creative process?
Sui Zhen is amazing. The mentorship came about because I applied for a grant last year from SIGNAL Young Creatives Lab (also an amazing organisation – check it out!). The grant program allowed me the resources to create new music, including Dewi, and also paired me up with a mentor. My first choice was Sui Zhen and that’s who I got! Sui Zhen has been incredibly helpful by encouraging and pushing me, teaching me about what is possible, and teaching me so much about both the creative and business side of music. Mentorships, in general, are amazing. I would love mentorships to be a more common and accessible part of our industry.
Finally, what’s next for Komang? Can we expect any music in the not-too-distant future? Any online gigs? Collaborations? Etc.
Keep your eyes peeled, cos there may be some livestream gigs in the very near future. Also, the music video for Dewi will be releasing very soon which I’m mega excited about. You’ll have to let me know what you think!