Rhythm, Roots & Research - Part VII
upcoming & remarkable - a special series by talents on the rise
Giovanca Desire Ostiana is one of the biggest musical talents in the Netherlands. She was born on March 22, 1977, and was raised in Alkmaar. The roots of the singer, author and model, lie in Curaҫao. After successfully completing her studies at the University of Amsterdam in orthopedagogiek, she decided to take a different route and pursued a musical career as a singer. In 2008 the singer made her debut in the music industry with the successful album “Subway Silence”. Both the audience and the critics were incredibly impressed by the singer’s charismatic soulful voice. After the success of “Subway Silence”, Giovanca recorded and released her second album “While I’m Awake”. With this album the singer wanted to broaden her audience internationally. The singer’s third, and most recent album “Satellite Love” was released in September 2013.
Giovanca is an ambassadors of “Plan: Girls First”, an initiative by charity organisation Plan Nederland. PGF strives to ensure that girls around the world receive equal opportunities and are able to pursue these opportunities. This way, PGF helps girls in a variety of countries around the globe, to reach their potential. Giovanca’s work as an ambassador for Plan Nederland is thoroughly impactful. She has been involved with several projects, including an activist commercial on female circumcision (2011), International Women’s Day (2014) and the “Loud About Girls” campaign (2016). The position of girls globally, is of high importance to Giovanca. In an interview for Plan Nederland she shared the following:
“Meisjes krijgen op nog te veel plekken in de wereld niet of nauwelijks de kans om zich te ontwikkelen. Ze worden niet opgeleid, klein gehouden, misbruikt, geschaad en de straat op gestuurd. Alleen omdat ze meisje zijn. Ik heb het voorrecht gehad een paar jaar geleden de Ghanese Bernice te ontmoeten, die ik sinds haar vierde heb gesponsord. Het was zo fijn om te zien dat zij kansen heeft gekregen en benut en dat ze uitgroeit tot een krachtige vrouw. En dat is waar het bij Plan Nederland om gaat.” (2017).
point of view
Giovanca’s music is mostly upbeat, positive and could be labelled as a part of the neo-soul movement. When analyzing the singer’s public appearances and her interviews, you will notice her carefulness in presenting her political point of views. In interviews she mainly focuses on discussing her music. However she doesn’t reveal a lot about her political views on gender or race. The same is true for her music. In her songs Giovanca expresses only a little bit of her social and political views.
One of the few articles in which Giovanca opens up about her background is in an interview with the Volkskrant Magazine with Robert Vuijsje (2015). In the interview Giovanca shares with Vuijsje how her parents moved to the Netherlands to study, but brought their Carribean roots with them. Their home in Amstelveen looked like the other houses in the neighborhood from the outside, but on the inside looked like a yard from Curaçao. This resembles the way the Ostiana family adjusted to Dutch society. They conformed to Dutch culture from the outside, without forgetting or neglecting their roots. In the interview Giovanca shares how she developed “strange compensatory behavior” during her puberty. She felt like she didn’t belong anywhere.
“You’re very pretty, for a black woman” – is what Giovanca got told when arrived in the Netherlands (Vuijsje 2015). Giovanca and her little sister were the only people of color in both primary school and high school. Giovanca didn’t notice these differences when she was a little girl. She didn’t define herself based on her ethnicity back in those days. When she grew up, she started to discover the importance of ethnicity in our modern-day society, and the challenges they bring along. When people started to make subtle distinctions – often without bad intentions – the singer/songwriter eyes opened to the divisions in our society.
the rhythm in her roots
In high school she developed the urge to compensate for her ethnicity, and to fit in with the mostly white students. Her roots from the Netherlands Antilles became an “unknown” part of herself, because she was born in the Netherlands. With the realization of the “us” and “them” division in the Dutch society, she started to realize she didn’t belong to the people she thought she belonged to. At this particular point, Giovanca started the search for her identity by diving into the music scene: soul music in particular. She aimed at being the colored female European role model she never knew when she grew up. This vision was translated throughout all of her albums. Interestingly enough, the lyrics of the music on these albums, convey this message in an extremely subtle and almost cryptic way.
In conclusion one can state that singer/songwriter Giovanca has a clear point of view on issues related to gender. Her involvement in the Plan Nederland undeniably shows this. Along with gender she also has clear opinions related to race, which she revealed in the statements she’s made in the media. One can therefore qualify Giovanca’s statements on topics related to gender and race as a part of the “revolutionary” attitude which we previously discussed. Despite its subtility.