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Photo by Kofi Edzie

Black Roots: Brit Tsewole of Senseless Optimism

Photo by Kofi Edzie

The Pandemic has left me feeling stale; days are melding into a waxy conglomerate; my eyelids are heavier than ever. I’m not sure I can trust my sight anymore, and I need beacons to light my way: I need music which rings true. 

I sat down with Brit Tsewole, the creative force behind Senseless Optimism, to see if she could lend me some of the truth in her voice. We met in the early evening, at a local bar and cultural landmark, The Worthen House. I got there before Brit, and I was hungry, so I ordered some food. The fries slapped. 

Brit, as Senseless Optimism, released Sunlit Sadness on July 25th. The record is a soulful documentation of Tswole’s accomplished songwriting, performance, and engineering. The record adeptly, and earnestly, makes use of classic rock motifs, shoe-gazy voicings, and punk aesthetics. The power in Britney’s voice drives her compositions with force and precision. Warm moldies perfume the air with genuine, lyrical poetry; the atmosphere is intoxicating. As I listen I can’t help give into the record’s longing and melancholy. So moved, I’m happy to be sad.

Twenty-two years old, Brit Tsewole is of West-African decent, and has spent time living throughout world, including West Africa and South-East Asia. None the less a Lowellian, Brit was born at Lowell General Hospital, and spent most of her formative years in Lowell– including the time spent to earn a degree from Umass Lowell.   

I first noticed Brit at the former UnchArted brick and mortar, on Market Street. I worked at UnchArted in the kitchen, and behind the bar, so I had a near perfect vantage of the many cultural happenings, which occurred at our sorely-missed venue. Real recognizes real, and Tsewole was looking familiar. From my vantage, she was, at first, a concert-goer. I was glad to learn she is also a very talented musician, performer, and creator. I was more than happy when she joined me at The Worthen for a conversation. She was wearing a vintage, gunmetal grey Led Zeppelin t-shirt. As if by divine orchestration, “StairWay to Heaven,” played through the bar/restaurant speakers when Brit arrived.    

We sat outside, talked, and walked for an hour. Our discussion roamed casually between musical influences, process, and locality. Brit listed West-African folk songs, blues, and classic rock among her formative favorites– like the aforementioned Led Zeppelin. 

We laughed as we discussed writing methods, but Sunlit Sadness is far from a joke.The young songwriter scores with the command of a mature composer, and she brims with fervent, youthful energy. She often begins songs with scratch, phone recordings– to capture the idea. Ideas she’s particularly fond of, she takes it into Logic, to finish producing and engineering. 

Throughout our conversation, Tsewole was playful and inquisitive, and composed and thoughtful. She was kind enough to pose for a photograph, and her skill as a model immediately became self-evident. 

Tsewole navigates the social dynamics of our local scene with grace; she is without-a-doubt, a standout talent, ready for bigger audiences. With this debut, I can’t wait to see where she goes next. (Her next collection is slated for release september 4th; its on the theme of escapism.) 

Back at home, writing this iteration of Black Roots, I struggle to remember what day it is. But when I listen to Sunlit Sadness, I don’t care. I could be anywhere, at any time. This record transports me to a time and space, all its own. Sunlit Sadness is available via Bandcamp and all major streaming platforms.

-Kofi Edzie