Jolanda Moletta Interview: Nine Spells is Inspired by Female Ancestors (Music Video Premiere)

On her latest EP, Nine Spells, Berlin-based Italian artist Jolanda Moletta has crafted invocations which are dedicated to nine of her female ancestors, as well as herself as a child. The vocal-only record is devoid of specific words — yet it draws plenty of inspiration from spellcasting, where voice is the primary tool used. Moletta also bolsters the spells using small spell bottles through the album’s artwork, which features numerous pages of hand-crafted collages alongside narrative storytelling.

Jolanda Moletta

“I consider music to be one of the most beautiful, ancient forms of magic. Sound creates organized patterns at a physical level, and these can shape our daily lives and our reality. Music influences our inner world through emotion. These emotions can inspire us to act and create new worlds…” shares Moletta. “These spells have a double meaning and are both personal and universal. I offer them to inspire people to go and find their place in the world and to have the courage to be creative in anything that they do.”

Read on for the music video premiere of the track, “Spell V: Like Honey Hidden in a Hidden Cave,” which was directed by Moletta and filmed in Italy; she also answers questions about the album’s creative process and interdisciplinary approach.

“Spell V: Like Honey in a Hidden Cave” Music Video Premiere

Why was it important to do vocal-only tracks for this album?

The voice is the primal instrument to cast spells, so it felt clear to me that I should use my voice primarily on this record. At first, I was tempted to include other instruments, but I enjoyed the challenge of using only vocals. I think that my voice is the most direct instrument I have to channel my ancestors’ stories. In fact, my voice is also their voice, somehow.

It was not easy to create a consistent album with just vocals alone, but thankfully my three octave range allows me to explore lots of different ranges and tones. I learnt more about how my body truly is an instrument. I understand now how my voice changes throughout the day and over the weeks. My voice is affected by many things: my emotions, the environment, the temperature and also by how tired or energetic I feel.

Whenever I would record at the studio room in my house, I would leave any stress outside. I did this by having a little meditation practice before, so that I could really connect with my inner world. Working with the voice can be a healing process and so it was very important for me to treat that time as sacred and to create this ritual before each session.

Also, it felt important to me that I avoided singing in any specific language, because I want the listener to feel welcomed and included. My vision for this album is that it will be a haven for people where to stop for half an hour, and feel safe and loved.

This album is inspired by your female ancestors. What led you down this journey to begin with, and has it always been a curiosity?

I was born in Northern Italy, in a small town that is very close to forests and mountains. I remember visiting my grandparents every Sunday. I would spend hours listening to the family stories about war, resistance, and survival. I heard so many incredible adventures about how my ancestors survived in those extreme circumstances. These stories somehow taught me to appreciate life and to find beauty in the smallest things. As a child, it seemed unbelievable that they were talking about hard times with such a smile on their faces. They shared how important their community was. People knew each other. People helped each other. People would meet and celebrate together. People would dance – no matter what. I feel like these stories inspired me to look for light – especially in dark times.

I was living in Berlin when the first lockdown happened in 2020.  At that exact time, I was visiting Italy, and so, I had to go into lockdown at my family’s house. In that house I was surrounded by old photos, letters, and so many memories. I had always wanted to go deeper into those stories, and now I had the perfect moment to finally do it.

I chose to pay homage to my female ancestors because they were the ones who were forced to sacrifice so much. The girl on the album cover is my grandmother. I discovered that she played the violin, but her life circumstances lead her to marry and take care of her family – instead of pursuing her musical dreams. Her name was Jolanda – the same as mine. Our shared name and her image on the album cover is my gift to her. It is a spell within a spell.

Jolanda Moletta Interview
Jolanda Moletta Interview

What were some key takeaways you learned from understanding your ancestors better?

Through learning about my ancestors’ lives and digging more into their stories and their past, I realized things about myself, and where I am now. Why do I always feel the urge to travel? Why do I enjoy the mountains so much? Why do I dream of living in a house in the forest, surrounded by trees and wolves? Why do I always see an alternative way when others don’t? Where do these needs, dreams, and convictions come from? Are we individuals who are completely alone and separated one from another? Or is there a story that is weaving our past and our future together?

I feel as though I finally have my own personal answer to all of these questions. Understanding my ancestors allows me to understand myself.

What was it about their strength that most resonated with you? How does that influence you?

My great-great-grandmother traveled around Europe in the nineteenth century when she moved from the Balkans to Italy with her family. My aunt received two university degrees, but left her career as a teacher and went to live in the most remote village in the Italian Alps. My grandmother told me that life is beautiful and precious, even in the most tragic circumstances.

I realized that I have always been influenced by these amazing women in my family. I have been guided by ancestors I never met, because there is an invisible thread that connects us. Even if we don’t know who our ancestors were and those stories are lost, their strength and their dreams are somewhere inside of us, and we can connect with that anytime.

Was there healing found in the process? For you or for them?

There was lots of healing involved as I made this album. I was always quite alone as a child and so I did many things by myself. I would daydream, write poems and short stories and listen to music that nobody knew. I would pretend that I was a witch creating little potions and spells. I would dream that I was a siren living underwater…

Later in life, I chose to be a full-time artist. Many struggles come with this, like financial instability and insecurity [or] being unable to take a holiday with family or travel to visit friends. You don’t have a place to call home, your work is constantly being judged by strangers, and you can feel exhausted from months spent on the road touring. I often found myself thinking, “If grandma survived the airstrikes, and she found the energy to dance and laugh, then I will find a way to survive this month on this low income. I will smile in spite of rejection from an art gallery or a music festival. I can keep things in perspective and look at the bigger picture.”

Discovering all the dark (and light) times that my ancestors experienced reminds me that there are seasons and cycles in life. Things can change, and this doesn’t always have to be for the worse. I am not alone in this world. There are deep roots that I have re-connected with, and I know that these will hold me strongly throughout life’s challenges.

How do you work with your ancestors on an album like this? Is it more with their spirits or presences, in a physical or spiritual sense — or is it more conceptual,  in terms of their stories, histories, etc.? Or all of the above?

I feel my ancestors’ presence in many ways. I started making this album by working with physical items from my ancestors: photos, letters and keepsakes. Connecting with these gave me an invisible thread. There is so much information about my ancestors that is contained within me: the stories, the memories, the physical resemblances, the dreams and the outlook on life. I didn’t realize how much of it was already inside me until I was halfway through writing the album.

Jolanda Moletta Interview

Can you describe the interdisciplinary components of the album release and how you conceptualized them?

I did everything for this album. I recorded and mixed it in my home studio. I created a collage artwork for each song that was inspired by a female ancestor. I also made videos and an animated collage for each song. The song titles can be read all together, and they actually form a story. I wrote the words on each collage artwork, and included the ingredients for each spell. The music and the artworks are meant to be experienced together. I wanted to have a holistic approach that integrated sight and sound.

A very important part of the timing of the presentation of these songs was to release each one during the Full Moon. There is a deep connection with water and emotions that amplifies the feminine within anyone during a Full Moon.

I want to inspire people to create a sacred moment when they listen to these songs. Look for at least one of the ingredients listed on the spell that you want to enjoy on that day. Leave all your troubles outside for five minutes so you can just sit down and listen. This is how I think most music, films, or books should be enjoyed. We are constantly multi-tasking as we quickly jump from content to content without continuity. This is proven to create addiction and to trigger anxiety. I am gently inviting myself and others to re-learn how to enjoy art in this slower and more meaningful way.

Another physical component of this album is a “spell bottle” that I created. It contains a wooden dice, with six symbols that are linked to six inspirations for anyone’s creative process. The topics are creative blocks, inspiration, finding your why, and more. Don’t expect prompts. The format is perhaps similar to an oracle deck that shares symbolic, open questions and suggestions. My inspiration for this comes directly from my daily practice as a full-time creator for over ten years now.

Jolanda Moletta Interview

“I would love to share a map with you that I created while working on Nine Spells. The map depicts the inner journey that I embarked on while working on this project. It started as a set of personal notes, but it can work for anyone who wants to embrace a journey like this. The map shows how we can transform our emotions into creativity, instead of being crushed by them. By acknowledging our emotions and grounding ourselves, we can turn them into creative ideas to help us find solutions to our problems or ways around our challenges. These creative ideas might turn into something more universal and something that might inspire, help or support another person. The final place on the map is where we reconnect with our everyday life through nature. We find our place in the world. We connect with the creative fire that lives within us all.” – Jolanda Moletta

Jolanda Moletta – Nine Spells Full Album Stream

Nine Spells is out now on Netherlands-based label Ambientologist. Follow her on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.

Written by
Vee Hua 華婷婷

Vee Hua 華婷婷 (they/them) is a writer, filmmaker, and organizer with semi-nomadic tendencies. Much of their work unifies their metaphysical interests with their belief that art can positively transform the self and society. They are the Editor-in-Chief of REDEFINE, Interim Managing Editor of South Seattle Emerald, and Co-Chair of the Seattle Arts Commission. They also previously served as the Executive Director of the interdisciplinary community hub, Northwest Film Forum, where they played a key role in making the space more welcoming and accessible for diverse audiences.

Vee has two narrative short films. Searching Skies (2017) touches on Syrian refugee resettlement in the United States; with it, they helped co-organize The Seventh Art Stand, a national film and civil rights discussion series against Islamophobia. Reckless Spirits (2022) is a metaphysical, multi-lingual POC buddy comedy for a bleak new era, in anticipation of a feature-length project.

Vee is passionate about cultural space, the environment, and finding ways to covertly and overtly disrupt oppressive structures. They also regularly share observational human stories through their storytelling newsletter, RAMBLIN’ WITH VEE!, and are pursuing a Master’s in Tribal Resource and Environmental Stewardship under the Native American Studies Department at the University of Minnesota.

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