welcome 2 Okcello
Okorie “OkCello” Johnson’s new album Resolve proffers a healing balm of hope. He invites listeners to move through and beyond their pain into a new perspective. The American cellist-songwriter’s sophomore album marks his evolution as a communicator and a storyteller who reveals personal truths: of time travel, of the African Diaspora, of a deep love for women and of unspoken prayers. Though dealing with grave matters, Resolve is an uplifting album which builds on the musical rebirth that began with OkCello’s debut album, 2015’s Liminal, which established him as a pioneer of electronic and experimental string music in the United States.
“Resolve is the moment in my life where the tension of uncertainty gives way to a harmony of ‘me’, for which the cello and its dancing drone are the patient core,” says the Washington, D.C.-born, Atlanta-based musician who began playing cello at age six. His music integrates cello, live-sound-looping and improvisation on original compositions which collide classical with jazz, EDM, reggae and funk. The songs are deeply emotive and, complementing one another like short stories within a collection. Eloquent, cathartic and transcendent, Resolve’s intricate and harmonically nuanced compositions are buoyed by jagged, global rhythms that aptly fuel the of-the-moment themes of migration (“Broken Teacup”), racism (“Incredulous”) and resilience (“I Wonder What Your Life Was Like”), while also celebrating love (“You Make Me Smile”), joy (“Springtime in Wakanda”) and desire (“Silence” – which features a rare OkCello vocal performance). Recorded over six months, Resolve was produced by OkCello and by Monyea Crawford and Richard Rollie for LoveChild Productions.
OkCello has balanced musical pursuits – which include performing and recording with major label artists such as De La Soul, India.Arie and Big Boi - with a career as an educator. In 2015, he launched “Epi.phony,” a multi-city, 12-show, concert series which produced the track list for Liminal. “After years of putting my cello down and picking it back up, after years of deciding that the cello wasn’t financially practical, after years of thinking that my other voices were my native ones, I realized that the cello was the oldest, the most central and the most sacred part of me,” says OkCello. “I resolved never, ever, to deny it again.” He is a recipient of the Alliance Theatre’s 2018 Reiser Atlanta Artists Lab grant.
Photos: Michael R. Reese