30 Under 30: Beldina Odenyo

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Beldina Odenyo, 27, born in Kenya, lives in Glasgow

Beldina is an amazing singer songwriter based in Glasgow. Originally from Kisumu, Kenya she moved to a small village near Dumfriesshire as a young girl, and this influence is reflected heavily in her work.

Having previously performed under the name Genesee, she now performs as Heir of the Cursed – the name came to her in a dream, and as she later found out, is the English translation of the surname of Congo’s first democratically elected prime minister (how amazingly poetic is that!). As Heir of the Cursed she writes hauntingly beautiful music about the African diaspora, her experiences of living in Scotland as a young black woman, and mental health.

In addition to this, she has also recently been on tour with the feminist-guerilla theatre show Blow Off, which has been called ‘a dynamite hour of sexual politics’, ‘an aching depiction of mental health’, and ‘one of the most memorable shows of the year, passionately written, and magnificently performed’ (yes, we desperately want to see it too!).

Beldina then took up a Musical Director role for the play Lone Wolves at the Edinburgh Fringe – ‘an inter-generational performance exploring themes of belonging, connection and disconnection, subverting the traditionally male symbol of the lone wolf’. She has also won the Danny Kyle award at Celtic Connections, and has been a regular performer at Celtic Connections Festival since.

But don’t just read about her and her amazing achievements – find her on YouTube, or try to catch one of her live performances, and I guarantee you, you will be as much in love with her as we are! Just remember you heard about her here first when she is world famous. Because I have no doubt she will be soon.

IN HER OWN WORDS…

What’s your proudest achievement?

This is an inherently tricky question for me to answer… I, like so many others no doubt, find it hard to measure my own personal success coupled with crippling imposter syndrome and the inability to be kind enough to myself to recognise when I’ve done anything good. Anxiety plays a huge part in my life so I’m always striving for perfection which I know is a deeply problematic way to live your life but I have a sense of humour about it.

Having said that, this year has been particularly broadening for me as a musician or creative practitioner. Fortuitously I was asked to be in an amazing piece of incendiary theatre, Blow Off, by Julia Taudevin and then took up a Musical Director role for a piece at the Edinburgh Fringe. Up until then I didn’t think I had a place in theatre. I’d always wanted to bridge theatre and gigs but just scoffed at the idea of me being able to do it so being involved in these pieces and working with such a high caliber of artists and women was humbling and so enriching.

What women inspire you?

The women who inspired me musically at an early age were my sisters Leah and Cathy; I’d raid their music collections and they really supported me singing at a young age and are beautiful singers too. Then Nina Simone and Ella Fitzgerald. However, I’ve been incredibly lucky to have met some insanely talented, kind women in the arts in Scotland who make amazing, provoking work in all its forms. Women like Susan Bear, Kim Moore, Julia Taudevin, Maella Wallace and Jenny Lindsay who are inherently generous with their time, honed in their craft and just wonderful people to know.

What change would you like to see for girls and young women in Scotland in next 10 years?

In an ideal world, I’d like to see women and men on an equal footing in the next ten years. Not just regarding the really tangible things like pay but on a more intangible, emotional level. I really feel that we need to support young men more so they don’t do horrendous things to women or each other. The things that drive young men to feel isolated and marginalised need to be addressed and the socialisation of boys and girls needs to change.

So, for girls and young women in ten years I’d like them to feel safe and open around men who feel safe and open around women.

What can we do to shatter the glass ceiling once and for all?

I think as with all deep-set issues, this will take a lot of time to solve. We’re heading in the right direction as I see more and more women owning spaces that are traditionally male dominated and calling out problematic systems and behaviors as well as allies being more forthcoming. The ceiling is cracking. I think it ultimately leads back to my previous point about the socialization of girls and boys, women and men and the power systems therein.

What 3 women (past or present, real or fictional) would you invite to your dream dinner party/picnic?

Nina Simone. Grace Jones. Moor Mother.

What would your message be for girls and young women in Scotland?

There is a place for you in the world. If you can’t find it, make it. Work hard, be kind to yourself and others and remember to look up sometimes.

Follow Heir of the Cursed on Twitter @heirofthecursed and Facebook @heirofthecursed.

Pictures courtesy of Heir of the Cursed


You can see the full list of our amazing 30 Under 30 2017 finalists here, and keep a look out on the blog as we feature  a different finalist every day throughout November.

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