Right from her first email to WildnFree, Senivoda‘s Ola Milena sparkled with a warm, wise and open energy as compelling as new single DROPZ. Inspired by the sounds of water dragons communication over a river in the Blue Mountains, Senivoda channel truth, magic and nature on a vibration high and clear. With so much to discover and discuss, Ola was kind enough to answer some questions, decamped to New Zealand visiting family, letting her answers flow effortless and unencumbered straight to the sympathetic, and afterwards wholly nourished, heart of WildnFree. Read on!
WF: DROPZ was inspired by water dragons communicating by a river?! This is such an evocative image, what did you hear? How did this moment turn into a song?
OM: I spent last New Year in the Blue Mountains. In nature. Tracking, hanging out by a beautiful river. The whole trip was filled with lizards. Lizards on the path. Lizards on the rocks, in the sun. Simply existing with no agenda. On the 31 December, NYE, me and my travelling buddy stayed up by the fire, underneath the stars, immersed in the sounds of the forest.
At some point of the night, a new sound emerged from the space around us. It sounded kind of like frogs but not quite the same. It was very rhythmic and the repetition was continuous. It went for hours in segments. The sound was coming from the riverbank. We could hear that the creatures were sitting on the opposite sides of the bank, talking to each other. We had seen water dragons that day and, in fact, one came up to us very close as we were building the fire. We knew it was them. I was so taken by their conversation that I took out my recorder to capture the sound.
The next day it was stuck in my head. The groove sat in 7/8, which is one of my favourite time signatures. After the Blue Mountains, I travelled up to the Northern Rivers to hang out with with Raphael Bowen, who plays bass in Senivoda. I sung him the Water Dragon groove and he played it on his bass. We wrote the verse and chorus to DROPZ that day and night. The verse – in the Sun. The chorus – under a glorious starry sky.
WF: Your lyrics reflect on the nature of consciousness, inspired by a zen master who compares consciousness to the motions of a waterfall. Tell me about your interest in this!
OM: The idea for the verse is derived from the teachings of Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki, who compares human consciousness to a river that breaks into countless drops on the tip of a waterfall. Just like the water breaking into drops, we break into life at our birth. Like the drops, we fall through space separately, each on it’s own journey, to then meet again at the bottom of the waterfall, when we leave our human life, back into the collective consciousness, just like the separated drops become the river once again. In a way they become a new river, holding the energy and knowledge gathered during the flight, fall, drop.
The idea for me is that we are all one. Before we come to life. And during, we are all made of the same substance even though we may be separated by bodies. Especially with our thoughts. We are all connected. Continuously. No matter how much society attempts to show us that we are individual and separated. Telepathy. Energy. The power of collective thought, collective intention. It is all a thing. And after we die, we must again go back to this same space that we were originally derived from, where there is no boundary, no separation. Where we ‘meet again’.
WF: I love the description of your music as ‘psychedelic desert soul’. I also especially love the bass driving DROPZ throughout. Can you tell me a little about your band, how you came together and why psychedelic desert soul is your chosen vibe?
OM: Senivoda originated in my head, with a bunch of melodies and lyrics. That was all. I wanted to birth them into life so I begun to work with a jazz double bass player Tom Flenady in 2013, with whom I competed the first Senivoda tunes – 2 of which are on our debut EP No Parrots In Poland. Then it became a duo between me and a jazz guitarist Aleister James, whom I worked with until the end of 2015. We built the band with Raphael Bowen on bass and Marley Berry-Pierce on drums. The four of us were the original band. Aleister and Marley moved on and James Jablonka (his last name literally means ‘little apple tree’ in Polish – absolute winner) and Dylan Crawford came on board at the beginning of 2016 and the recordings that DROPZ is a part of were created with them. Anita Chorowicz (also of a Polish background) AKA Neeko has been singing backing vocals since 2015 and Paddy Fitzgerald jumped on the double bass and keys for the recording session. We all met through the Melbourne music scene, in that beautiful ‘right place, right time, right vibe’ kind of way 🙂
Senivoda is often changing, depending on the vibrations. We added a saxophone half way through the year, beautiful Madeleine Novarina, and we work with a number of backing vocalists depending on the show.
Senivoda’s music is very eclectic. It’s hard to pin it into a genre. I am inspired by soooo much music. I originally studied opera singing at the New Zealand School of Music and I’m classically trained in violin, so I grew up listening to a lot of classical music but also heaps of jazz and Polish music, which has a very specific flavour. I love soul and hip hop. I write and perform poetry. Lyrics and rhyme are a huge thing for me.
I love traveling and have lived in 3 different countries pretty much for equal amounts of time so far, so traditional culture is also a huge influence. I love traditional music. I always search for it wherever I go. I think that’s where the desert thing comes from. The music of the desert. The music of the Earth. The music of the people. For the people. Senivoda has always had a psychedelic flare. I want to create a world of sound. A universe for the listeners to bathe in and forget their everyday thoughts. And soul… well it’s got soul right? Psychedelic desert soul. 🙂
WF: You recorded DROPZ straight to tape in a Belgrave forest. Sounds like magic. Tell me about it!
OM: The recording session was super cool. We did it at my friend Joseph Fairburn’s home studio out in Belgrave, called Zuvuya Recording Studio. The house is completely surrounded by forest. It’s magnificent. We were there for 3 days. Eating together, sleeping together and creating. We had heaps of fun.
Jo has a vintage tape machine and we love the sound of the 60s and 70s – The Doors, Pink Floyd, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, so we thought it would be a great thing to record to tape. The sound is very special, it has a certain colour, a warmth which you can’t really get any other way. It meant we had to record all together, at the same time, so all the tunes on the record are live takes where we’re all connecting in one room.
Nature is big inspiration for the music and the lyrics, so being in the forest was perfect. When we needed a break, we would just go for a beautiful walk in the most stunning Australian landscape.
WF: I love the origin of the name Senivoda, drawing on your Polish heritage, sen meaning ‘dream, voda meaning ‘water’. Why was it important to put ‘dream’ and ‘water’ together like that? What do your Polish roots mean to you?
OM: I was at a friend’s soundcheck at Bennetts Lane Jazz Club in 2013 when I had to come up with a name for what was happening in my head, and also by this point, out of my head, musically. Aleister and I had our first gig booked which was a residency at Ferdydurke in September 2013. I tapped into the feeling of my music. Into the colour. Into the landscape. And I thought, it’s so dreamy, it’s so magical and a little unreal and it flows like the river, it’s always changing, my melodies, they twist and turn, it never really stay the same. So I drew stars and the moon and water waves. And I tapped into Polish and ‘Dream & Water’ came out. Sen i Woda’.
But, that made no sense in English, because it read funny, so I changed the W to V so it would read right…’Sen i Voda’. I joined them together and wrote it on a piece of paper. I love the S, it embodies the flow. It looked right and felt right and so that was that. I texted Aleister – he dug it, and sent it through to Ferdydurke for their promo.
I was born in Poland. I lived there until I was 14. Polish is my mother tongue. Polish has a different vibration to English. I love both languages and I make sure I write in both. I always strive to have half of the Senivoda set in Polish and half in English. Polish is very poetic, it really makes me settle into a really beautiful space when I sing in it. It feels as though it flows straight from my heart still now, even though I hardly speak it with the people I surround myself with.
WF: Magic is a part of your live show! Tell me about the sensory and multidisciplinary elements you use.
OM: Magic is a huge part of my existence. I think magic is in everything. From the birth of a flower to the birth of a new song. I grew up in a family of women who told the future by their dreams and feelings, always tapped into the present and what seemed to be other worldly. Spirits were never anything weird. They just sometimes showed up in the middle of the night 😉
I practice energy work, AKA ‘magic’ through crystals, tarot, breath work, intention and of course spells and magic potions, but only ones that do good for everyone involved 😉 When it comes to the Senivoda shows – they are always charged with positive intention, vibration, crystal power, ancient smoke of sage, palo santo or frankincense and myrrh. We love costumes, in our most recent show for example, the release party for DROPZ, all the girls in the band were dressed in ocean inspired garments by Melbourne fashion designer Penny Drop. We looked like modern mermaids.
For our launches, we often collaborate with design artists to dress the stage and recently we had a whole group of fire dancers performing as a part of our show. I love the idea of collaborating with different mediums to create a space, a world for the audience to bathe in.
The ideas are only getting more wild. Who knows what the next Senivoda experience might bring out…
WF: Can you tell me why your mission to ’speak the truth through your music, exploring the connection between the mind, body and soul’ is important to you?
OM: There is so much power in music. Being on stage gives one the space to share and be listened to and therefore I think there is a certain responsibility that comes with that. If you are given that space, what are you going to talk about? There is so much disorder in the world. So much negativity and violence. I think my responsibility is to share my truth and learn and grow for myself so my truth can be worthy of that space that I have been given the privilege to occupy. So I can spread good, and inspire others to grow or help them with their troubles, through overcoming my own experiences and being brave enough to share them.
WF: When’s your next big thing happening?
OM: Our next big thing will be the release of our beautiful video made by Rhys Newling for DROPZ, shot at Turpins Falls in Victoria. We haven’t got a date for this one yet. We will definitely do a launch for the video and the live album soon. Keep an eye on our Facebook page or website for all the info.
The conversation didn’t end there. Emails were sent about energy and vibrations, co-creation vs divine will and the challenge of letting go, a mutual love of Poland, WildnFree only as a Tyskie-loving backpacker exploring the darkside, the divine feminine, communication and flow, music as vibrational healing, wearing crystals tucked into bras. Magic!
Can you hear the water dragon? Enjoy: