Eight light sources rotate around it. They shine on her, protect her, enlighten her. Sometimes the tunes sound dark, and the violin cuts through an evil blue haze. The band stands in a semicircle around the singer Pink Oculus, as an extra wall against the outside world.
With her long braids, black shoes and silver clothes, she radiates self-confidence. But as strong as the Pink Oculus standing there, that’s how Esperanza Denswil – her real name – has felt in recent years. Only now, after six years of darkness, does she finally have the words and music to speak of.
The project with the lamps premiered at Le Guess Who in 2021, and last week she performed with him at the Holland Festival, to promote her new EP. Hide† The four new songs are the prelude to a much-anticipated album to be released after the summer.
In 2016, the singer appeared with Tasty, a powerful and special blend of avant-garde spirit and hip-hop. She made an impression at festivals, and a beautiful and cheerful album will follow. And then, for six years, she was on the verge of leaving.
“Up until a year and a half ago I was in an abusive relationship, a toxic relationship. I won’t go into details, but it was physical, emotional and mental abuse.” Being out with her is now part of the healing process. And you want to show others that “your fire can catch on again.”
“I often say the Pink Oculus is my alter ego that everyone understands, but she is more than that. She is mine. higher subjectivity† This sounds cliched, but I’m just that soulful girl. She is who I can be, whatever I want to be in everyday life.”
I’ve known all my life that I’m different and function differently than most people around me.
Only Pink Oculus was further and further away from her best self. “I’ve been attacked for everything that makes me beautiful and special. Those were goals. In a relationship like this, you get small and stay small, because that’s the best way anyone can manipulate you: when you become a broken version of yourself.”
Her next album is titled beats between you, not just about what happened, but about her entire “mental state”. “I’ve known all my life that I’m different and that I function differently than most people around me. I’m in my world a lot. I’ve been prone to depression since I was a teen. I find life very difficult.”
What helps then is the music. “You are your alchemist then. When I write a song, I feel something changing. Even when I make a rhythm. Then something happens, something heals.”
But even that music has almost completely disappeared in that toxic relationship. It took five years before she was able to free herself from the clutches of her now ex-partner. She slowly saw herself again. In the security of her apartment, behind her computer, new songs were created. Her voice sounds thoughtful, sometimes weak, fiery and angry on a regular basis. These rhythms came naturally as well, often with references to her Surinamese background, much to her surprise. “While Sam Cooke was in the house, he got up more often than a Casico or Kawena.”
The Eight-Light Game Theater was developed with artists Boris Ackett and Dennis Vanderbroek and researcher Vincent van Velsen. “Design symbolizes my emotional journey. We create a structure in which I connect with my Higher Self. I want to show myself that you can get through, but I also hope to touch someone else, someone who may not believe in themselves anymore.”
She is now in a healthy, fun and happy relationship. You still need to get used to being the same. Sometimes you are afraid that other people will see what you see. “I see the damage when I look at myself. This is confrontation. I blame myself for allowing myself to live unloved for so long. I’m in the process of accepting that.”
Isn’t she emotionally heavy on stage? No, she says, a little surprised. It is precisely between those lamps that you feel the power. Well, there’s that moment when violinist Yannick Hewitt played. “He can portray that pain so well. Then I sometimes feel tears. But if I don’t sing, I’m exactly what I want to be.”