Name: Josephine Oniyama, known as Josephine
Where she’s from: Manchester, UK
When she started: Debut album released in 2012.
Genre: Folk soul
Most Similar: Nina Simone, The Marvelettes
Sounds Like: A great big hug.
Josephine’s voice is a truly rare gem. The Manchester native (borne of Liberian and Jamaican parents) doesn’t sing in the pop, show-off, million-octave diva soul voice standard we all live by. Rather, she is a contralto, which means that — while she has an impressive range — she sings in the deepest female vocal range on the classical scale. The sound that winds up emanating from this petite rising star is an all-powerful feminine force; comforting and wizened, yet utterly heartwrenching and vulnerable at the same time. Even during her happy songs, you’ll want to cry. Even if you’re a dictator.
Though I could write novels about, and build monuments to, this woman’s voice, there’s also lots of interesting stuff going on in the music that’s worth noting. Her new album Portrait is a light-footed stroll through Motown, 60s folk, soul, Afrobeat, and indie-pop. Sometimes, it even sounds as if there’s a great big spotlight on Josephine as she croons a climactic ballad from a Broadway stage.
Check out her track “Original Love” off her debut album Portrait for a hint, but be sure to visit her Soundcloud to get the full picture. It’s insanely worth it.