Shikoswe: Being in the Tall Grass

As a black body in Norway, Nora Shikoswe shines as a sedative alternative artist. She writhes and stands out in the midst of her peers. Her career in music began after she graduated from high school- an endeavor which stood as an attempt to move and contort to a new mental space. Ultimately, she ended up in Denmark.

Her big move represented a journey that granted her an ability to feel free from the familiar. Illustrated within her music, she subtly depicts her strive for happiness, obstacles, and relationships gained along the way.

“I was done with high school, so I just moved from Norway to Denmark. The transition- getting away from family and feeling [myself] outside of what [I had] been used to,” Shikoswe said. “I had a lot of thoughts going on about who I was and how I viewed myself. “

“I escaped to Denmark. That was very exciting for me because I took myself seriously as a musician. I had never been told that I could do that. I met my boyfriend at the time,” Shikoswe said. “He was a musician and I think that really encouraged me to view myself in that way too- to be able to view myself as someone who I want to be as well.

The music she made at this time represented the constant transformation and experiences she lived through. She found herself in-studio sessions with friends and partners, striking at random chords and concocting progressions in hopes of conceiving a song, reflecting her life in real-time.

“The guitar melody and the chorus- I started out with that. I’m very intuitive whenever I’m writing music or playing instruments because I was never really schooled in guitar playing,” Shikoswe said. “I’m more self-taught. I have to enjoy trying being intuitive.”

“Music has always been an important part of my life. I used to play the violin when I was 8 and I thought it was really cool because I was really touched by music as a kid. I was very stoked that I was going to learn an instrument,” Shikoswe said. “I did that until [I was] maybe 13 years [old]. My music teacher didn’t think I rehearsed enough. I sang in the church choir- a typical protestant church.

Throughout Shikoswe’s discography, an emphasis on black womanhood and home life stand poised in each song. Tracks like “I Wanna Be Right” and “To the Dogs” speak on the projection and desire to feel complete, chucking blame and problems back at our adolescence.

“We always go back to our childhood. I was quite quiet. I was quite introverted [and] there was a lot of stuff going on around me. A lot of subtle unsaid things which made me quite introverted,” Shikoswe said. “It’s all a process in learning how to forgive yourself. I think we’re all quite hard on ourselves a lot of the time.”

“In my teenage years, my best friend was black, [and] it helped me a lot. I found someone who I could identify with. We found each other and I think that meant a lot. I was just very multicultured- listening to Tupac and Kanye. Those things gave me strength,” Shikoswe said. “It was definitely confusing [because] there’s so much bias and I’m still dealing with that stuff. The fact that people are talking about these things- it’s happening at a collective level.”

Currently finding herself back in Norway, the enigmatic artist continues to try and see beyond the places that remind her of her hometown.

“I had a quite rough time after coming back to Norway. My parents and my younger brother still live there. It’s a place with a lot of childhood memories. It’s a place with a lot of houses that people spend time in,” Shikoswe said. “This past year has been very intense. Intense in terms of reprogramming myself, connecting with myself, and being able to connect with myself.”

Her most recent album, Back in the Tall Grass, focuses on connectivity, and the importance of leaping back into a rhythm of normalcy. In the record, she details each experience that helps her recount the significance of returning to what makes her feel whole.

“[The title of the album] came to me. I’ve always been very nostalgic. It has to do with nostalgia somehow- being back in the tall grass in your mind,” Shikoswe said. “It makes me think about when you suddenly answer yourself and you’re taken somewhere within you.”

“I’m looking for spontaneity and playfulness. I have been prone to hold back my spontaneity- for different reasons. I think a lot of actions are based on fear,” Shikoswe said. “A lot of spontaneity comes from the love you have inside you- it can get held down. When I make music, that’s when I really experience my spirit. I think I can do that in all other aspects of life if I surrender to that each day.”