Inspired by the punchy, artsy beats of M.I.A., the syrupy soul of Erykah Badu and rave-ready pioneers like The Chemical Brothers, singer, rapper and songwriter Bonzai was born in Indiana to a jazz singer and drummer. She then moved to Wicklow, a small village near Dublin, cutting her teeth in local folk and trad bars before metamorphosing into the super cool R&B star we see today.
Spurred on by an obsession with bass, hip hop and minimalist beats, she moved to London to pursue a music degree, where soon after she became a backing singer for NAO. Ultimately, she was taken on by NAO’s manager and introduced to production wunderkind, Mura Masa, who sampled her on his mixtape ‘Soundtrack To A Death’.
Bonzai wears: Jumpsuit, Carhartt @ Beyond Retro, Jewellery Bonzai’s Own
On this unusual chain of events, she says “I quit my job at the start of summer 2015 with no plans other than to travel and spend my savings. I played some festivals with Mura, then managed to get a little publishing deal… and here we are now.” Working with Mura, now a close friend of Bonzai’s, opened her up to a whole new way of approaching music, “he taught me how to dig deeper and dissect every element of a song. The boy is an actual genius.”
This year, she’ll be doing stints for Annie Mac Presents, Pitchfork Festival and Warehouse Project, as well as going on a UK/EU tour with Australian DJ extraordinaire, Flume. She feels fortunate to pursue this as a full-time career in a world where many people the same age as her are experiencing a lot of confusion about their place. “It’s intense, and it’s hard work, but so is everything that’s worth it… I love spending my time writing and performing. I’m lucky enough to be able to do that at the moment. If I can swing a few people along the way and make them feel something too, then great.”
And whose footsteps would she like to follow in the future? “Maybe Grace Jones or someone like that… just an absolute beast of a woman at however many years old. Ladies doing it for themselves!”
This article/ photoshoot originally appeared in Notion 75