From her bold work being listed as a favourite top 10 in The Guardian alongside Drake to composing original music for fashion shows and popular brands, British singer/songwriter, musician and actress Ebony Bones is in a class of her own. We caught up with Ebony to learn more about her inimitable career, inspirations, hopes and dreams in instances where she is often the exception to the rule.
An alum of the famous Sylvia Young Theatre School (Amy Winehouse was a classmate), Ebony went on to star in classic British soap, Family Affairs on Channel 5, a show that included Idris Elba as a cast member back in 2002!
More recently, she has worked with the legendary Yoko Ono on an album and in December 2018 / January 2019 took a starring role and composed the music in a potent production called Hole at the Royal Court Theatre.
Hole is a riot of music, monologues and mythology on womanhood by Game of Thrones actor turned writer, Ellie Kendrick. From questioning patriarchy and saluting the #MeToo movement, the diverse and aptly cast ensemble and all female crew (from lighting, direction to costume) the work shouts of talent and power.
Kendrick enlisted a ‘dubious’ Ebony to compose the music and perform some of the numbers in the production, as she explains: “Feminism can sometimes be a particular type and exclusive but when Ellie explained who her inspirations were, including Beyoncé, and her vision. I felt it could be an interesting project […] she wrote the lyrics to the songs and I composed around those.”
Ebony, in her own words…
As a teenager you appeared in more than 200 episodes of Family Affairs as Yasmin Green…what a beginning!
Wow I didn’t even know that! Yes, it was over a period of 10 years, but my first acting experience was at 12 in Macbeth at Shakespeare’s Globe with actor and artistic director, Mark Rylance [Steven Spielberg’s The BFG and Ready Player One]. That’s where it all started and then as I grew older, I began to wonder why I wasn’t seeing people that represented me on television, so I thought why can’t I be that person?
You appear to be extremely determined, who have been your role models or helped bring that out in you?
I’ve just never accepted the roles that society placed on me as a woman or a woman of colour. Less than 5% percent of composers are female, so I feel incredibly blessed to be collaborating with The Royal Court Theatre for Hole. I’m here to push the boundaries of a woman’s place in music. My hope is to inspire others to seek out and identify structures of authority, hierarchy, and domination in every aspect of life and challenge them. My biggest inspiration has been my mother and the incredible women in my family.
What did you learn from working with Yoko Ono?
It was wonderful being enlisted to produce a track on Yoko Ono’s last album. She had heard my work with the Mumbai Symphony Orchestra recorded in India, and then I got a call asking if I’d be interested in a collaboration. She is the god-mother of contemporary art so it was a real honour, I learned so much. She always says, “you can change the world, just by being yourself.”
Your style is so unique, both within the production and as an artist, if we had a rummage in your wardrobe and makeup bag, what would we find?
Clothes by Ninie Lagos [also a fav of Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozie Adiche], The Ladymaker and Wenjun Zhu. MAC Retro Liquid Lip Color in Caviar Black…I also love anything by Pat McGrath.
Who comes to mind when you hear style icons?
Grace Jones for her style and music. Naomi Campbell, not just for her style but the way she has navigated her career is interesting. And my Mum, she’s always been so well put together and she was one of the first Black women to work at fashion house Yves Saint Laurent.
Music wise we know you are a fan of Fela Kuti, Annie Lennox to Public Enemy and Missy Elliott to name a few, but if you had to take just one album on a desert island, what would it be?
Yes, I have broad musical tastes but if I had to choose just one, it would be The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. It was such a definitive album, it really inspired a future generation of artists.
What are your plans for the future?
I have really big dreams for myself, but ultimately, I want to create a platform for musicians and composers around the world that will allow others to shine regardless of race, gender or background.
And if anyone can do it, we know Ebony Bones can.
To keep up with her, visit her website: www.iamebonybones.com
Watch Ebony perform in Hole at The Royal Court until 12 January 2019 (book here).