Meet Oshun, the Hip-Hop Duo Inspired by Ancestral Magic and Afro-futurism
Photos by Taji Ameen
Identity

Meet Oshun, the Hip-Hop Duo Inspired by Ancestral Magic and Afro-futurism

Broadly sat down with the musicians to discuss their origin story and learn about their secret obsessions, from reading about whales to watching "The Office" on repeat.
June 25, 2018, 5:02pm

Oshun is a beloved Yoruba deity; a benevolent goddess of love, beauty, and fertility. Oshun is also the name of an independent hip-hop and soul duo who “connect with the spirit of their ancestors to manifest a sweeter tomorrow for us all.” Made up of Thandiwe and Niambi Sala, two young women from the DC area who became artistic collaborators as NYU students, Oshun describes their music as “the sonic manifestation of Afrofuturism.”

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Thandi and Niambi tell Broadly that they met as seniors in high school, when they’d both been accepted to the same NYU scholarship program for young leaders focused on community service and social change. Once they became artistic collaborators, Niambi says that meeting each other during a big life transition caused them to support each other while figuring out the meaning of womanhood and sisterhood—and that meeting each other in an activism-inspired context imbued their relationship with a higher purpose.

“Our music, our writing, our relation to each other, how we relate to each other, and how we support each other—it was all grounded in us coming into ourselves as women,” Niambi says as she explains the band’s connection to the deity Oshun.

“Yeah I agree, and I think also to just add onto that, our relationship with Oshun is one of empowerment,” says Thandi, who adds that they are both active practitioners of Yoruba. “The concept, the energy, just the known facts about this deity Oshun, are very powerful for a young woman, especially [one] of color, to essentially look up to. This goddess, this literal god that is a woman—is a mother, is beautiful, and she’s not a bossy, mean bitch—she’s a loving, beautiful, sweet energy. That really teaches all of us that we can be sweet because we’re all extensions of this energy that we come from.”

Broadly sat down with Oshun (whose debut studio album bittersweet vol. 1 is now available!) to learn all about their secret obsessions, from reading about whales (the goddess Oshun is associated with the water element!) to watching The Lion King over and over.

Photo by Taji Ameen

Favorite shows to binge-watch

Niambi: I do have a favorite show to binge watch and everyone makes fun of me for it. Its DC Legends of Tomorrow. They time travel.

Thandi: The Office is a genius show and I will forever binge-watch it. I’ve probably seen every episode like, three times, and I’ll watch them again.

Favorite movies to watch again and again

Niambi: Step Brothers, for sure.

Thandi: The Lion King. And Finding Nemo.

Favorite comfort food

Both: Popcorn. But like, on-the-kettle popcorn. And seasoned very nicely. It’s actually kind of bad, it’s like an addiction. When we’re stressed it’s like—I just need popcorn!

Photo by Taji Ameen

Favorite bizarre food combination

Niambi: We’ll do like, a breakfast sandwich that has like avocado, lettuce, whatever—and then jelly. Yeah. It’s so good.

Favorite subject to fall into an internet reading hole

Thandi: Yeah, one for me is celebrities’ lives. I love Wikipedia, I like to look at people’s signs, when their birthday is, where they’re from, what their mom did, like, are they dating anybody? Scroll all the way down to “personal life.” I don’t care about your career—who are you dating!

Niambi: I could just be on Instagram all day and just look at whales.

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Thandi: She follows the hashtag.

Niambi: I could just—they have some really cool like, now that drones are so accessible, there are very nice drone shots of these massive whales swimming, just like in formations, dancing. [People] say that the great white shark is the apex predator of the water—but that’s not true. The orca whale is the apex predator. There’s this one YouTube thing when I was in my “whale hole” on YouTube—and this orca whale ate a great white shark! And then I was like, oh my god, I gotta get an orca tatted…orca is life.

Photo by Taji Ameen

Memorable celebrity obsession, past or present

Niambi: I think I had two really big celebrity—I would say one was a crush and one was more admiration. I didn’t realize it was so obsessive until I met her and I started crying and was like, ah I’m so silly what am I doing. It was Lauryn Hill and I just couldn’t keep it together. I didn’t even know I was crying, I was just like, “I just… I… ah… ” and then it was just so yikes. But then also when I was a kid, I had the biggest crush on Bow Wow. He was so cute.

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Thandi: That’s hilarious. I think for me, I’ve gone through so many phases, like so many artists. The funniest one I think was [during] MySpace days, and Never Say Never, the movie by Justin Bieber came out, it was like his documentary about him and his life. And I was just like, this young man is so talented! I love you so much!

I was on Facebook and my friends were like “JB Girls for Life” and I was like yeah, JB! And then after I said that, I got embarrassed. I was like, oh my god why would I admit this. And she was like, “You’re into Justin Bieber?” And I was like, “No, Jungle Brothers—what are you talking about?” But he was pretty talented.