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Witch Prophet’s real magic

Architect of heartbreak Ayo Leilani makes her Halifax debut with ethereal beats and shimmering R&B.

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Witch Prophet
w/Reeny Smith, The State of Alaska, Nick Ferrio
Friday, January 19, 9:30pm
The Seahorse Tavern, 2037 Gottingen Street
$15 adv/$20 door

At the end of 2015, a song called "Architect of Heartbreak" began circulating online among underground hip-hop and R&B fans. The song, by an artist called Witch Prophet and featuring Seattle hip-hop artist Stas THEE Boss, feels almost like a dream—at only two minutes long, it's the sonic equivalent of a brief, thick fog. The song centres on sumptuous, overlapping vocal lines: They're swirling and cascading, like something imminent but just out of reach.

That voice belongs to Ayo Leilani, who makes music as Witch Prophet that explores the big questions about life's many intangibilities.

Leilani, who is also a member of hip-hop band Above Top Secret and the arts collective 88 Days of Fortune, has been making music and building community in Toronto for years. She exudes a deep interest in bringing people together, but with Witch Prophet she turns inward and taps into her interest in magic—she's making her Halifax debut at IDOW this Friday.

"I wanted to focus in on aspects of myself outside of music, like the magical aspect and the spiritual aspect of myself," says Leilani, of her decision to begin adopting Witch Prophet as her musical moniker. She says that she already had an interest in astral projections and doing psychic readings for her friends, and explains that the name originates from a friend who would affectionately call her "witch prophet lady." Soon enough, she had dropped the final word in that phrase and began exploring the connections between her interest in magic and her musical practice.

Since "Architect of HeartBreak" began getting press in 2015, Leilani has maintained a steady stream of releases with a variety of collaborators. She's released some singles and an EP and has another record on the way, exploring different corners of her sound through collaborations with a handful of producers and vocalists.

"My whole musical career started with collaborations, it blossomed out of 88 Days of Fortune," she explains. "I really gained my base from community and collaborating. And I recognize that inviting people into your projects and inviting people into creation allows them to connect with what you're doing and allows for a wider range to connect with what you're doing."

Still, Leilani maintains that her own individuality rests at the heart of her project. She's adamant that she only ever seeks good in magic—"no hexes!" she says, laughing—and hopes that her music carves space for her listeners to experience a similar self-exploration.

"I'm going to make me fall in love with myself, and find aspects of myself to love," she says. "In a way, my music is magical for me as well, so the combination of the two is just a natural direction.

"That's what I'm trying to portray, that ethereal, magical feeling on hip-hop beats," she says. "Something that makes you feel like you're somewhere else but still keeps you grounded.


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