It’s been four years since Jasmine Sokko pulled a black harness-like mask across her face for the video of her debut single 1057, and made keeping her girlish good looks a mystery, a signature part of her stage persona.
Word has it that the guise has been so effective that some of her classmates at university here are oblivious to the fact that there’s a Spotify chart-topper amid them.
“During the video editing process, my friends and I joked about how masked artistes tend to see their careers end the moment they reveal themselves, so we removed the last part of the MV in which I was supposed to have taken my mask off,” she says.
“Following that, (wearing a mask) became more of a statement. I do so because I want people to focus on my music first before anything else.” Indeed, this 25-year-old Singapore pop star is just seeing her career take off and go where she least expected.
Sokko wears Issey Miyake mesh pinafore, and her own dress and accessories
In February 2019, she made history as the only Singaporean and female to make it to the finals of China’s largest electronic music talent competition Rave Now, eventually placing fourth.
Admitting that her grasp of Chinese could be better (“it’s definitely not proficient enough to write good lyrics”), she decided to take part in the reality programme not only to discover the country’s culture but also because it allowed her to show off her full range as a musician.
“I like that Rave Now focuses on producers, and was the perfect avenue for me to show that I’m one,” she says. “People always somehow casually dismiss the fact that I produce my own music. That means I create everything in a song, including the drum beats, guitar and synthesisers… I get it that it’s (a male-dominated industry), but I’m the one sitting behind the laptop for 12 hours straight for days to record every single thing. If it was any other singing competition, I would have passed on it.”
Sokko’s debut Mandarin EP 新乐园 Made In Future showcases her futuristic vision and aesthetic.
That steely cool – coupled with her penchant for wearing head-to-toe black – might seem incongruous to her sweet vocals and infuriatingly catchy sound that she describes as “sad songs for people to dance to”. (Try Hurt – as of press time, it has racked up nearly three million streams on Spotify since debuting in August 2018.)
The contrast only adds to her enigmatic charm. Within six weeks of the release of Rave Now in December 2018, her following on Weibo grew by more than 65K.
Sokko teamed up with Chinese rapper Vava for the rousing empowerment anthem Girls.
The six months that she spent in the world’s most populous country has left a lasting influence. Rave Now has taught her that music is as much about performance as it is about good tunes (“details like costumes, set design, lighting, choreography and props make a whole lot of difference”), while the republic’s Internet network has made her more dedicated to her craft.
“Patchy connection was the best thing ever,” she explains. “I realised I did not miss out much on social media, and that if I were to call myself a musician, how could I be spending five hours on my phone and just two hours on my music in a day? Now, I push myself to wake up to make a song before I head out of my house or use my phone.”
Next up: more time in Beijing to expand her presence, and her first Chinese EP 新乐园 Made In Future which dropped worldwide on all digital platforms on November 18 this year. The first single from the release is Girls – a female empowerment anthem featuring the spitfire rhymes of popular Chinese rapper Vava. Sokko roped in Singapore style star Mae Tan to style the music video.
And if you’ve some cool tech gear, she’s all game for another type of collab. “I’ve been really into Roli Seaboards (a synthesiser that bridges electronic and acoustic sound), Tap (a wearable keyboard) and Mixed Reality. I’m a sucker for technology, and I want to be a part of the future.”
Photography Tan Wei Te Styling Jonathan Chia Hair & Makeup Benedict Choo, using Kevin.Murphy & YSL Beaute
This article first appeared in the May 2019 Faceless Edition of FEMALE and has been updated to reflect Sokko’s new EP release