SHE'S JUST RELEASED HER FIRST MANDOPOP SINGLE. SOMETHING SHE NEVER THOUGHT SHE'D DO. THE SINGER-PRODUCER SHARES THAT A GOOD PERFORMANCE IS NEVER JUST ABOUT THE SINGER BUT THE AUDIENCE TOO.
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Enters the studio, and it’s impossible to recognise her – until she greets the crew in her silvery voice.
“Good morning guys! I’m Jasmine,” she chirps, bowing her head.
The electropop songstress who’s known for the sleek black outﬁts and bejewelled masks she dons onstage is barefaced and mask-free. She sports a casual look – a chic sheer top, basic black bermudas, black socks and a pair of slides. Her stage name, Sokko, means “blind” in Finnish, beﬁ tting her mysterious look.
At 23, the Singapore singerproducer’s achievements in her music career are spectacular. And she won’t trade her success for anything – not even school.
It’s understandable, as she has worked her way up to become one of Singapore’s most streamed artists on Spotify. Jasmine’s debut independent single, 1057, topped Spotify’s Singapore Viral 50 chart in 2016.
Her two latest singles, Hurt (2018) and Tired (2019), have a total of six million plays on Spotify. The music video for Tired, released in May this year on Youtube, has more than 600,000 views.
And that’s not all.
The rising star gained international fans after securing fourth place on Rave Now (20182019), an international electronic music competition held in China.
A few months on, she’s riding the Mandopop wave with her ﬁrst Mandarin single, SHH, which was co produced with American producer Felix Snow. The track was released with Warner Music China in September.
She says of her foray into the Chinese market: “I don’t know how the track will fare. People told me that electropop may not do so well with the Mandopop audience because soulful ballads are more popular.
“But I didn’t want to change my style of music, and I’m keeping my ﬁngers crossed.”
The track and video are a hallmark of Jasmine’s music: The song has a catchy vocal hook, and Jasmine dances around a dystopian nuclear plant in the video.
Jasmine admits that prepping for the Mandopop single wasn’t easy.
She was never ﬂuent in her mother tongue, and went on an intensive revision of the language upon making the decision to produce the Mandarin song.
Jasmine shares: “I was really upset with myself for not paying attention during Chinese classes in school when I was younger. I’ve missed out on the whole process of loving the wonderful language. Right now, I have to say that I’ve fallen in love with the whole culture for the ﬁrst time in my life.” Of her preparation, she recalls: “I sat myself down at the library for a few days and read a lot of Chinese characters. I pored over children’s books, some teenage novels and even a few academic titles. I also binge-watched Mandarin movies and dramas to regain what I’d lost from years of neglecting the language.” Her efforts paid off.
The slender artiste articulated the concept she had in mind to the team at Warner Music China, and after a few months in the studio, everything came together.
Jasmine elaborates: “It was really eye-opening. When I create songs in English, I already have a concept in mind, and I’ll build my lyrics around it. It’s more straight forward. In Chinese, especially for this song, I realised that everything is interlinked.”
She explains: “Certain things in the song were added after the music video was conceptualised. I was mind-blown because I never knew it could be done in reverse!”
Jasmine is happiest when she’s producing music on her laptop with a MIDI keyboard controller.
“My parents put me in piano classes when I was a child, and I fared badly. I quit and took up the guitar just to make a point that I was intent on doing something different,” she says.
When she got serious with her music, her parents were initially not supportive of her career choice.
“They’re traditional folks. When I signed with Warner Music Singapore and came up with an Excel sheet of my costs and revenue, they realised I was really serious about it,” she says with a laugh.
Her older brother and secondary school friends are her biggest supporters.
“The ﬁrst time I performed as Jasmine Sokko in 2016, it was at a bar in town,” Jasmine says. “I cried before the performance, because I had forgotten to bring my laptop charger. My brother was a hero – he rushed to get everything for me. I remember that only two of my closest secondary schoolmates turned up to support me, and I am still very thankful for them.”
The singer has since performed an average of two shows a month.
Currently a business major at a local university, the musician confesses: “I wouldn’t mind not graduating right now. I think that for what it’s worth, I’ve done my best to connect school and music.
“My presentations would be about the music industry and I’ve even sung songs to enhance my presentations. There’s just a huge gap between these two things and I know I have to choose one,” she states calmly.
Jasmine, who is inspired by singer-songwriter Julia Michaels and producer-singer Grimes, wants to keep writing and producing her own music.
“It’s insane how great songs connect millions of people all over the world. And that’s what I want to do with my music,” she says. “I used to just stand on the stage and sing. But I realised that I feed off the energy of my crowd. Something I’m trying to do more is to hype them up and get them to sing along.”
Of her onstage and artiste persona, Jasmine sums up: “My mask doesn’t make me a different person onstage. I’m a better version of myself, and I get a rush that’s unexplainable.”
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"I WAS REALLY UPSET WITH MYSELF FOR NOT PAYING ATTENTION DURING CHINESE CLASSES IN SCHOOL WHEN I WAS YOUNGER. I’VE MISSED OUT ON THE WHOLE PROCESS OF LOVING THE WONDERFUL LANGUAGE."
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"I WOULDN’T MIND NOT GRADUATING RIGHT NOW. I THINK THAT FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH, I’VE DONE MY BEST TO CONNECT SCHOOL AND MUSIC."
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