How did an enigmatic pop star who never shows her face, become the new face of electronic music in our little red dot? It’s obvious: she lets her music do the talking.
Take one glance at our mysterious cover girl and you might wonder: “What’s up with the visor?” Aside from her haunting vocals and futuristic styling, rising EDM singer-producer Jasmine Sokko is borderline anonymous. For one, you’ll never catch her without her signature visor – “the girl with the mask”, is what most people call her. We gotta admit, we couldn’t help but feel intimidated when we first got to know her. But as soon as she entered the room with her mask off, what we see is the elusive girl-next- door who simply enjoys reading and watching documentaries. “I’m actually a very boring person!” as the self-proclaimed “full-time nerd” nonchalantly puts it, but we certainly didn’t mind seeing this side of her.
Contrary to popular belief, her decision to stay hidden wasn’t a calculated one. “It all started with the music video for ‘1057’,” the songstress tells us, where she recalls donning a mask in order to tie in with the narrative. “I was supposed to take off the mask at the end, but we decided to cut out the last scene. We just did it for fun and ultimately, I realised that this whole mask identity is very close to me as a person because I’ve always been an introvert. I prefer being lowkey. If people get to experience me, I’d like the first touch point to be my music instead of my appearance.”
Her dedication to anonymity worked wonderfully in her favour. Not only was she able to successfully craft an artistic persona that is distinctly her own, the 23-year-old has also built a burgeoning solo career thanks to her sheer vocal talent. And as much as we’re curious about the face behind the mask, her achievements are just as worthy of recognition.
In addition to penning chart-topping hits like ‘HURT’, ‘600D’ and her latest tour de force ‘TIRED’ – which solidified her status as one of the most-streamed local female musicians on Spotify – she has also been making major waves across Asia. Earlier this year, she concluded a successful stint on China’s hottest electronic music reality programme Rave Now, where she came in fourth place and made history as the only Singaporean contestant to compete at the finale. And it’s safe to say her popularity in China isn’t slowing down anytime soon, having gained over 65,000 followers on Weibo in just six weeks following her debut on the show.
With a new Mandarin single making its rounds on the airwaves and tons of gigs lined up for her, it’s only a matter of time before Jasmine Sokko blows up the pop world. Read on for the rest of our interview.
Hi Jasmine! So tell us – what first got you hooked on music?
“I’ve always liked music since young. I started playing in rock bands when I was 13 when punk rock was all the rage. Then, I realised I was bad at instruments but I still wanted to make music. Around the age of 18, I discovered electronic music. During that period of time, I guess it was a form of escapism because it was everything the society told me not to do. The kind of environment I grew up in was very pragmatic – my folks expected me to study hard and get a corporate job. Ideally, they wanted me to become a doctor or a lawyer, but #Nope.”
So what were your parents’ reactions when you decided to become a musician?
“To them, it was just a hobby – but it was something I wanted to do seriously. I’m the kind of person who likes doing things that people don’t want me to, so I found my parents’ resistance as one of my biggest motivations. I wanted to be bad. (Laughs). Because at the end of the day, I want to look back at my life and not regret anything.”
When it comes to EDM, there’s a lack of female representation. What inspired you to take the plunge?
“I think that in the electronic music industry, it’s mostly the males who are doing most of the producing job. However, I once read a book by Michelle Obama titled Becoming, where she had a quote that said something along the lines of, ‘Don’t let where you come from or what you are, define where you will be going.’ And I feel like just because there aren’t many females doing it, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t pursue it.”
And now, you’re one of the most streamed Singaporean artistes on Spotify! How did you feel when you first heard the news?
“It felt so surreal. The fact that I have a digital existence, just seems so cool to me ’cause we used to listen to music through CDs back in the days. But fast forward to present day, everything can be found online and you can even have people halfway across the globe listening to your music, even if they don’t know you.”
Is there anyone you’d like to thank for supporting you thus far?
“I have a friend who’s been supporting me since the very beginning. She once wrote a letter to me and there was a part where she said, ‘I like it that your eyes sparkle when you talk about music’. But the ironic thing is that I wear a visor now, so you can’t really see my eyes. (Laughs)”
Speaking of the visor, we’re curious: will you ever take it off in the future?
“I will if there’s a good enough reason to do so! Something like… you know, there’s this Instagram account that created the fictional character Lil Miquela? Yeah, that.”
How different is your visor-wearing persona from your actual personality?
“People tend to think that I’m cool if they don’t know me, but once they meet me in person, they’re like… ‘Oh.’ I have a rather high-pitched voice and I actually smile a lot in real life, which doesn’t really go well with the colours I’m currently portraying as an artiste.”
Outside of music, what do you enjoy doing?
“I’m actually a very boring person. When I’m not making music, I can probably be found watching documentaries about music or reading up on all the boring things – technology, business or more music stuff. I’m a full-time nerd! Once, I was filming a show in Shanghai for three months straight and apart from the commute to and fro the set, I didn’t go out at all and I was fine.”
For someone who’s so secretive about your personal life, was it hard to open up emotionally in your music?
“In the past, yes. However, I’ve come to realise how counter-productive it was. Instead of having to consciously choose which part of myself I wanna show the world, I find that it’s more important to just be myself when it comes to music. The more personal I get, the more people can somehow relate to it.”
Among all the songs you’ve released, which is the closest to your heart?
“My songs were all written at different points of my life. I kind of view them as diary entries so when something happens and I get upset about it, I jot my feelings down and move on. I think they’re all equally important to me, but the one that really stuck with me was ‘600D’.
It was when I had a gathering with my friends years after we graduated, and we barely had any common topics with one another. So they started gossiping about our ex schoolmates and I was like, ‘Wait, where is this going?’ I felt like I didn’t fit in so I got up and left, even though they might be displeased. The moment I reached home, I wrote ‘600D’. The lyrics go, ‘I don’t care if they didn’t like me, I’m free and I’m feeling so good.’”
Let’s talk about your latest single ‘TIRED’. What is it about?
“When I was in China, I couldn’t help but realise how westernised we are as a country. It was a time when I questioned a lot about my identity as a Singaporean and what really represented us, so that took us a lot of hours and effort put into it.”
What do you hope your listeners can take away from it?
“I hope they’d feel uncomfortable. Sometimes, there are movies that you don’t feel good about after watching, but it’s not because they were badly done or anything – instead, it makes you ponder. To me, art should entertain people, but at the same time, provoke them to think about their surroundings. And if my art can do that, it would mean the world to me.”
Share with us more on your experience in China!
“When I first joined Rave Now, my Chinese skills were really bad. It was a whole new cultural ballgame and it was a point where I was pushed to go out of my comfort zone. Because I didn’t understand what was going on, I had to figure it out on my own. On the overall, it was a very eye- opening experience. It made me realise that there are people from different parts of the world who are just as passionate about music as I am. Having the opportunity to learn about their processes also gave me a broader perspective – both as a musician and as a person.”
Would you ever consider advancing your career to China?
“I think about it every day! But I feel like as long as my music can reach out and connect to people, regardless of the country, that’s all that matters.”
Can fans expect a Chinese album anytime soon?
“Yes! I’m currently working on setting the direction for the upcoming record and it will be a mix of both English and Chinese songs.”
What’s on your musical bucket list?
“I’ve always loved technology a lot and it never fails to amaze me what technology can do, so one of my goals is to open an experiential exhibition that can bring a music video to reality.”
Lastly, describe Jasmine Sokko in one sentence:
“A girl who wants to be a humanoid.”
Read more about Jasmine Sokko in our latest issue of Teenage Chapters, out on all newsstands now!