introduction and interview by Tamara Renée
photos by Adrian Octavius Walker
In the Yoruba-derived religion, Santería, Olokun is the orisha (god) that rules the depths of the sea, the darkest point where the light does not touch. He is a mysterious soul that embodies both feminine and masculine energies. He gathers the sunken treasures and souls of the drowned, that rule from the depths. Olokun’s colors are dark green and blue. His mystery, depth, and darkness remind me of the prolific musician and vocalist Iman Omari. Iman has blessed us with his primordial sounds from the depths of his soul, excavating his own darkness, alchemizing into light.
Tamara: So where are you in the world?
Iman Omari: I’m in New Orleans right now. I love it. I’ve been living here for about a year now. The people here are just a lot more friendly than a lot of the people around the United States. The jazz culture and all of that is so fulfilling. People here walking down the street playing the trumpet on the regular. You don’t see that in too many other places.
T: What are some of your daily rituals?
IO: I smoke weed every day. I just smoked right before you called me, and earlier this morning. What else do I do? I make music every day. That’s definitely a ritual for me, almost like a meditation if you will. That’s about it. I don’t have anything else. I don’t say any Hail-Marys or go outside and sit on the lawn or no shit like that.
T: Music is the ultimate meditation. Frequency and sound is the common denominator for every religion, every culture. A lot of your music and the titles of your projects - “Energy” & “Samadhi” - allude to these things. Can you talk about the importance of sound and frequency?
IO: Because music is my first love, it was really easy for me to dive into sound and frequency. In high school I had an electronic music class where they taught us about how A is at 440 hertz. Later on in life I found out that 432 hertz is supposed to have healing capabilities.
Sound can actually physically heal you. I went to the Indio desert, not far from this place called Little Rock that’s supposed to have mystical powers. There’s this place called the Integratron (image above), a circular building that was built by this white man in the 1950’s who was said to have been abducted by the Venusian aliens and they transmitted this blueprint in his brain to make this building. So I’m at this building and they gave me a sound bath. It was weird because it felt like fifteen minutes, but we were lying there for an hour.
Everything that I’m speaking on [in the music] is fully having to do with sound and frequency and what it does for us and how we’re connected to that. The reason why when you hear a song, you get the goosebumps.
T: Do you tune to 432 hertz?
IO: I’ve been experimenting with it. I try to create everything first then tune it afterwards. I’m definitely going to drop some projects, and I’m gonna drop them at 432 and see how people feel about it.
T: I remember Prince co-signed the 432 as well. That was interesting to me because 432 adds up to 9, and 360 adds up to 9. This idea of cycles, cosmograms and the divine circle. Your symbol for “Love Over Everything” looks like a cosmogram of sorts. Can you speak about cycles? I don’t know if numerology is something that you resonate with but, 9 is a number of completion, cycles, femininity, womanhood, the womb, the earth...
IO: I have a song on my album “Vibrations” that’s called “333.” That also adds up to 9. I say “all that starts to be a mystery, won’t you just let it be.” I was talking about how we all feel like we have such a hold on things, [our] possessions. But at the end of the day you don’t own any of this because we’re already in the cycle. Who knows how many times I’ve been here before. The reason why I can play the piano by ear, you know what I’m saying? I’ve always been able to do that, but I can’t read music. That has to do with cycles. My spirit has been here before. I’m right there with you with cycles.
T: Absolutely! This time, our generation, we’re indigo children, right? We’ve been here before and a now we’ve returned, completing cycles. We’re bringing in this whole new cycle, this whole new realm, some people call it “The Aquarian Age.”
You talked about your journey, and I feel like the journey of a musician is similar to the journey of a shaman or hero. In a lot of mythology and spirituality, the journey of the shaman or the hero being acquainted with the darkness and the lower realms is really important. Can you speak about your relationship with the darkness or lower realms of life? Going through a darkness to alchemize it into light?
IO: That’s kind of what artists do. A lot of artists are really dark people but they make beautiful stuff. The reason being is that they take all of these negative experiences and transmit them into something different, something beautiful. I really haven’t quite put my finger on why that is, because I also believe that we don’t have to pull from that space, but it seems like that’s the space that we all pull from as artists.
Its almost like we kind of search for that sometimes, its like we don’t wanna be sad but you search for it because it’s inspiration. It’s difficult for me to speak on it sometimes, because I’m experiencing it right now. But I can say this, that again, so many artists that I know and even artists that I’ve studied like Miles Davis or Donny Hathaway, who have a very traumatic story, you just have to put that in comparison to how beautiful their music is.
T: I feel you on the fact that we don’t want to revel in the darkness. We don’t always want to have to be depressed to create, especially as black artists, right? There are so many stories of people passing, of people killing themselves, of people literally destroying themselves. I’ve been reading this book on shamanism and it talks about the journey of the shaman, and how you have to enter the darkness of the 9 lower realms, like a graduation period, and after you complete the cycle of the 9 dark realms then you have begin to ascend to the 13 realms. So this journey of darkness isn’t forever, but an initiation to then ascend to the 13 realms which is another sacred, feminine number.
You have a song called “The Void” can you talk about what “The Void” means to you?
IO: There’s this movie called “Enter The Void” the movie was basically about what happens after you die from someone’s perspective. I really resonated with that because I mean some of the parts of the movie were pretty ridiculous but I got the point. It really resonated with me because I always have déjà vu. I feel like I’ve been here before so to see that type of perspective on death, you know I really wanted to create something about that.
T: That’s awesome. I’ve also been researching and finding different things about “The Void” and the Native American medicine wheel, its basically another kind of cosmogram that follows the four directions and the center of the medicine wheel is the void, the black hole, the sacred zero. Its the chaos center, and the driving force of all sacred sexuality. Through “The Void,” through this darkness is where everything is created. Obviously sex is important, sex is sacred and music is extremely connected to sex. Can you talk about the importance of sexuality through your music?
IO: You’re not the first person that has said there is a strong sexuality and sensual type of thing going on with my music. Let me be the first to tell you that this is not done on purpose, its just what is happening. The thing is that maybe because of how comfortable I am with myself, maybe that transmits into the music. I’m not out there like, ‘I’m a sex symbol.’
T: Do you feel like when you’re creating and you’re making music that you’re communicating with the invisible realm or higher realm? Do you feel like you actively are communicating with the divine?
IO: I feel like the studio is the sanctuary and when I’m making music it can be really emotional for me. I try to not let it get the best of me because its really me pouring out everything that’s in me, every bad feeling, anything I’ve ever bottled up, all of that is coming out of me and being washed away. It can be very moving sometimes. That’s the reason why I’m such a stickler about being real about the music or being real about the arts. The arts is the weapon, this is one weapon that we have, our line of defense.