Though I like to think of myself as not being the sentimental type, the ease with which a song, movie—or even a life insurance commercial—can move me to tears suggests otherwise. And while I try and stay away from the marketing and consumer trappings of Valentine’s Day, I indulged in one special treat this past February 14: the new video for “INtrlD,” the latest single from OK Naledi.
OK Naledi is the work of musician Naledi Sunstrum, a queer Motswana Canadian whose debut album, BONES, drops on March 3. The highly personal “INtrlD” is Sunstrum’s story about falling in love with a woman while homosexuality was illegal in Botswana. Dropping the single and video (created in collaboration with Quest from Dreamland Studios) on Valentine’s Day feels like a no-brainer: “‘INtrlD’ is really a story about experiencing that mysterious love at first sight feeling,” she says of the song and video, remembering the first time she made eye contact with the object of her affection across a dancefloor. “At that moment, I knew the only thing I needed to do was dance wherever she was dancing.” Dancing was all the two could do under the oppressive, homophobic culture of Botswana. OK Naledi explains: “I stayed deeply in the comforts of the closet while I proceeded to pine after Maryanna for two years – meeting at the same club almost every weekend, dancing beside each other with the gayest subtle hand touches never daring to take it further.”
Now based in Ottawa, Sunstrum is using her platform as OK Naledi to bring gender diversity and queer perspective to afro house. “It’s important for diasporic marginalised folks to stay connected to their heritage and roots and to push back from the ongoing pressure to assimilate and fit in,” she says, noting how the experience of the pandemic and the ongoing tragic deaths in the BIPOC community at the hands of white people in authority strengthen her resolve to infuse her identity into her music.