Wonderland.

RACHEL CHINOURIRI

Immersive and ethereal, the singer-songwriter talks us through her meticulously crafted soundscapes.

Rachel Chinouriri wearing multi-coloured jacket

Coat by ERDEM and jewellery by CARTIER.

Rachel Chinouriri wearing multi-coloured jacket
Coat by ERDEM and jewellery by CARTIER.

Taken from our Spring 21 issue. Order the new issue now.

“My earliest memory of music was probably South African a cappella,” Rachel Chinouriri says, recalling the family car journey singalongs to choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo that still inspire her melodies today. “I remember we would all be singing, and I would try to harmonise.” While her Zimbabwean heritage carries into her music, her gossamer delivery is a deviation from the African styles she grew up listening to. “My mum didn’t get it at the time — the gentle vocals. She’d be like ‘But you’re not even belting!’ She gets it now, though.”

Chinouriri’s music career took off from her bedroom in south London, where she would self-record and upload to SoundCloud. And as it happened, the pandemic has brought her back to writing at home. Her January single, “Darker Place”, is a mesmerising track inspired by the crime documentaries she watched over lockdown, and it takes on the perspective of the kind of person capable of outrageous crimes. She lets me into a little known fact: “Before I realised my dream was music, I wanted to be a criminal psychologist.” Aesthetically, the music video is FKA Twigs meets Björk meets Janelle Monáe, an ethereal brew of otherworldliness. Musically, like many of her tracks, it’s what I would call a sound bath — textural and immersive in a way that shifts the senses, and perfect for a zen playlist. In 2020, you might have heard this distinctive sound on the Subculture single “The River Bend”, which featured on the soundtrack of the hit series I May Destroy You.

Rachel Chinouriri sitting down
Rachel Chinouriri fur jacket

(RIGHT) Coat by ART SCHOOL, trousers by MILÓ MARIA, shoes by JIMMY CHOO and jewellery by CARTIER.

Rachel Chinouriri sitting down
Coat by ART SCHOOL, trousers by MILÓ MARIA, shoes by JIMMY CHOO and jewellery by CARTIER.
Rachel Chinouriri fur jacket

Reflecting on her creative process, Chinouriri tells me that letting go is the hardest part. “I don’t think any of my songs have ever felt finished. Any musician could tell you the same. I have to tell myself it’s enough at some point, because I’m always like ‘We can add a sub-bass here, or an echo there…’ But I know when it gets to a place when I’m very happy with what I hear.” If there’s one thing that she wants her fans to experience, it’s the emotive detail that goes into this process. “Music [is] something to escape in and lose yourself in,” she insists. “In production, we’ll mute everything and isolate every layer, and edit every tiny detail. We sit in that room until we’re sure that it makes us feel a certain way, and I hope that translates when people listen to it.”

Rachel Chinouriri Magazine lying down
Rachel Chinouriri Magazine lying down
Coat by ART SCHOOL, trousers by MILÓ MARIA, shoes by JIMMY CHOO and jewellery by CARTIER.

With London beyond recognition right now, Chinouriri admits that inspiration is harder to spot, but that activism has been a breath of fresh air. Last year she worked closely with The Hygiene Bank, a charity that works to tackle hygiene poverty, and on Twitter she has been vocal about politics too. “I’m generally inspired by the generation I’m in — seeing them fight for justice, whether it is LGBTQ+ rights or BLM,” she explains. “I’m an older Gen Z and I can see how our voices are getting louder and louder. Last year was the first time I went to a protest. It’s hopeful.”

When the finished results are so rich and abstract, it’s easy to forget that her calibre is as much a learned skill as it is a natural talent. “Before music was my job, studying it was very organic. It was scrolling through SoundCloud, finding indie music and alternative artists,” Chinouriri says, in recollection of her long-running dedication to the craft. At just 21, three years as a recording artist have granted her an impressive degree of hindsight. “There is so much out there and you’re never going to run out of music to discover. Once you’re in the job, there’s obviously more purpose behind things. The studio environment will inevitably bring something out of you, but you have to keep learning and innovating and practising your instrument outside of that. It’s easy to do when there’s passion behind you.”

Chinouriri’s new EP “Four in Winter” is available to stream now.

Photography
Evanne Alarnah Asiedu.
Fashion
Toni-Blaze Ibekwe
Words
Chioma Ezeh
Hair
Evanne Alarnah Asiedu.
Makeup
Amrita Mudan using Kevyn Aucoin Glass Glow.
Fashion assistant
Anastasia Busch.
Fashion Intern
Olivia Catchpole.
Special Thanks
THRDS Studio.
RACHEL CHINOURIRI
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