“Yoniro is not a form, but a concept. It is neither a thing nor a person. I can’t really define myself as a songwriter or singer, although that is what I do”.
This is how Laura introduces her artistic persona Yoniro.
“My goal is to create in multiple dimensions and not just the sound”, she adds. She makes sure we get it: Yoniro doesn’t like labels or definitions. Being an independent artist fuels her awareness; it becomes so much easier to express your truest artistic vision across different media with no kind of restrictions or obligations.
In Yoniro’s case this is probably crucial, as her universe, although still small, already appears fully formed, coming with its own set of symbolisms and mythology.
Starting with her name, which borrows its origins from cultures of the distant past.
“My name is the union of two words: YONI, the Sanskrit word for the feminine element and ONIRO, the Greek god of dreams”, she explains. “It is a name that contains a thank you and a promise: a thank you to the dream world, which has given me the clarity necessary for a change and which gives me continuous inspiration in writing, and my promise to defend the female element, in a world that ‘has been deprived of dignity’”.
To understand how Yoniro is able to blend her music production with esoteric imagery and abstract references we can take as example her 2020 debut album, aptly titled La Ragazza della Luna (The Girl from the Moon), with its collection of analogies extracted from alchemy and astrology. Moon phases create the structure for the collection, with alchemic theory further expanding the songs’ themes and giving them brand new interpretations.
Her latest release, “Bambina Bambolina”, is no exception when it comes to multiple layers of meanings and references. Behind the dynamic sound of the song there is a world of inspirations, ultimately blending together in support of one clear mission: to end patriarchy once and for all.
“We have to do everything possible to break down the patriarchal attitude of this society that penalizes people beyond gender. We can do this starting first of all from the incineration of the idea that the patriarchy has of women.”
A pretty straight-forward point, that Yoniro expands with the help of two idealised figures:
“The Baby (Bambina) is the essence of women, but it is also the feminine element present in men, never sufficiently valued. The Doll (Bambolina) is the new idea of the perfect woman. Our idea, individual, not typified in stereotypes. A female element free to be what it wants and proudly self-represented.”
Bambina and Bambolina, two parts of the same core, thus represent the past and the future.
Mentioned in the chorus of the song, the decade of the 20s plays a significant role in understanding Yoniro’s statement. The 20s, remembered for their golden coating, Art Deco and The Great Gatsby, eventually collapsed on themselves resulting in the Great Depression in 1929, just before the turn of the decade. But there’s more than just a plain reference:
“In the song I talk about our 20s, which have just begun, and the situation we are experiencing on a global level: the pandemic, the generalized economic crisis and the consequences we are having on a social level. The comparison with the Great Depression came spontaneously. Furthermore, there is this parallelism between the glitz of the 20s that is resolved in ruin and the showcase of glitz and enthusiasm that is mainly spread by social media, a very fragile image ready to break that hides the decadent and depressing scenery in which we are”.
Self-produced by Yoniro and her trusted collaborator Carlo De Nuzzo with the view to create “not a ‘product’ but a work with great energy and intensity”, “Bambina Bambolina” is a frenetic electropop song, with hyperpop elements.
“We wanted to create a dream experience. Those who listen to it must daydream, a frenetic Imaginarium, a castle full of rooms, in one of which there is a huge carousel with our Doll on top. Can you see it now?”
Obviously Yoniro won’t change the world with just a song, but the “Bambina Bambolina” microcosmo is already brimming with life of its own, as demonstrated by the many Yonirical accounts created by fans to scatter her message throughout Instagram. Pictures and videos are the main form of expression in the social era and it’s natural for Yoniro to further delineate her aesthetic and imagery through them.
The visuals accompanying the song’s release depict a daring photoshoot, that sees the 26 years old artist naked in front of the camera. Artistic nudes are nothing new or original, frequently female pop stars rely on them, but Yoniro adds her own twist by using her naked body as a weapon for her protest. Infamously known for its double standards when it comes to nipples, Instagram hastily removes female nipples from the platform, even when they appear in painted/digital form or in non-sexual settings. Male nipples, on the other hand, are completely ignored by the patrolling algorithms. Seen in this light, her act of protest actually separates Yoniro from the context traditionally associated with naked female singers, and pushes her into a tier of her own.
The difference is even more remarkable if you consider that the published pictures are uncensored; you can clearly see her nipples – you may have seen your favourite pop star ‘naked’ many times, but how often did you actually get to see her nipples? This is perhaps yet another luxury of being an independent artist, free from the shackles of public expectations Yoniro can express her artistry in a direct and unfiltered way.
Elsewhere she may be seen wearing futuristic body suits, glamorous and cybernetic, embracing her body.
“The bodice designed by Nusi Quero is a reference to Art Nouveau; we are talking about the early 1900s: a new steam-punk nuance”. When asked about the visual contrast of the cold metallic 3D rendering on her fair skin, Yoniro explains that her “real body represents the decadent part (what’s more decadent than the flesh?), the past”.
3D digital renditions of the human body represent the future (and sometimes the present, as this fashion show during the pandemic era illustrates) in their perfectly proportioned canons of beauty.
“These bodies are always stereotyped, built according to the usual canons we are used to. My body is real, I have refused any kind of editing on the shapes”.
It’s inspiring to detect so much confidence in an emerging artist. One would expect Yoniro to be strong and fearless (and we are sure she is), but when asked about how it feels to expose your own body for the world to see her response is surprisingly vulnerable in its honesty:
“unlike what you might think, exposing yourself in this way makes things much more difficult and not easier”.
It’s common for such courageous moves to attract mixed reception and generate criticism in our society, especially if you are a young female artist. It’s almost like just being a woman makes you a target for outdated criticism from some people. They will always attempt to rectify you, seen as the ‘unconventional one’, by trying to forcibly put you back into more tame and normalised territories.
Thankfully Yoniro is in full control of her body and conscious of how her choice may be criticised by some people with an archaic mentality:
“the patriarchal mentality is very widespread, especially in a country like Italy. However, I notice that day after day, many more people are becoming passionate about the subject and the way I am treating it and I receive many messages of encouragement, both from men and women”.
Italy is a beautiful land, but it comes with its own share of contradictions: the world-famous landscapes attract millions of tourists every year, of all nationalities, ethnicities and sexualities; yet the country still struggles with a fair amount of discrimination and hate crimes. To clarify, I am Italian, just like Yoniro. And just like her I live in a different country at the moment. By observing Italy from England I can relate when she says the song is also a metaphor for our home country.
“In the lyrics the woman is used as a metaphor to describe my country in this present moment. Observing Italy from far away, witnessing the big and small misadventures and miseries of the recent months – from COVID to racism, from hatred spread in a systematic way to transphobia, homophobia and the dominant narrative that wants women to be more and more object and property – stabbed me and made me dream of a different and better world. Unfortunately many men – or rather, the still dominant macho mentality – raged instead of supporting”.
“Living in Australia is helping me look at the project from a more international perspective, not only from the point of view of sound, but also for concepts. If I hadn’t been here, I probably wouldn’t have felt so free to express myself – Australia is a very open minded country, unlike Italy – and I wouldn’t have had the same drive to work with overseas artists”
says the singer when asked how the two countries inspire her project in different, yet connected, ways. Her Italian upbringing emerges when she mentions musician Francesco Bianconi, “my reference singer-songwriter, who accompanied me with Baustelle from childhood to adulthood”.
Yoniro likes to mix her Italian lyrics with international ambitions. It may seem like the next logical step for her career would be to record in English, a language better suited to spread her message further. Yet her response on the topic may sound surprising:
“I have already written some songs in English and I am working on the translation of some of my old songs but for now I don’t think I will record in English. I am a perfectionist and I realize that my Italian accent is still strong. Not only that, I have always dreamed of being able to spread our language on the international scene, because it has a unique and beautiful sound”.
This is more evidence that Yoniro loves to celebrate her country through her art, even though she does not rule out any surprises in the coming months.
Next to Bianconi, Yoniro names Lady Gaga, Marina Abramovich and Sevdaliza as some of the artists that helped shape her path. But she is determined in pointing out that,
“there is no one I admire or try to become. Perhaps my greatest inspiration is my mother and it is to her that I dedicate ‘Bambina Bambolina’”.
We don’t know what Yoniro will become, but we are sure that there is a lot to come and her fascinating, mysterious world will continue to expand. Her energy and creativity are unyielding, especially when ignited bya greater good, like the eradication of patriarchy. “Bambina Bambolina” is just the beginning of a long mythical journey.
“I’m starting to work on the video clip and thinking about the next song to produce”, she reveals, teasing with a typical Yoniro twist: “another world, another dream to give to those who follow me”.
Yoniro would like to thank:
“the professionals I have worked with. First of all Nusi Quero, who was a profound inspiration for the Bambolina concept and who lent himself to the project without hesitation, a great artist whom I respect infinitely. Then Luana d’Amico, my image consultant, Carlo De Nuzzo, my producer, and Elisabetta Panese, Elisa Grasso, Carol Cirignaco. I am long-winded but I think having a team that believes in you is the most important thing for an artist. I also thank those who are supporting me in this little battle, creating their Yonirical accounts and spreading this important message.”
I would like to thank Pedro for helping me writing this piece.