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Manchester, United Kingdom

UK’s Josephine has a Voice That Could Topple Dictators

UK’s Josephine has a Voice That Could Topple Dictators
Credit: Jo Mirrot

By Halley Bondy
November 14, 2012

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.

Thankfully, I’m not the only one in my Josephine worship. She recently appeared on Jools Holland, and is now touring the UK with The Noisettes.

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.

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