Acclaimed Ethiopian-Norwegian visual artist Olana Janfa today shares his musical debut, ‘Skillful Man’ out via NLV Records.

Skillful Man’ marks the first musical outing for the Naarm/Melbourne-based multidisciplinary artist, who, in just a few short years, has established an instantly recognisable presence locally and internationally with his unique style of self-expression and playful perspective on everything from politics to privilege and pop culture. 

With his artwork deftly positioning sharp cultural commentary and satire alongside his signature bold imagery, Olana has emerged as a unique new voice on the Australian art scene, and his work has appeared across large-scale murals, book illustration, fashion collaborations and creative projects with names including Nike, Nicholas Daley, NGV, SBS and more. Along the way, he’s garnered widespread local and international media recognition with outlets including Vogue UK, Vogue Living, It’s Nice That, Hypebeast, ABC TV, SBS Radio, Broadsheet, The Design Files, The Sydney Morning Herald, Australian Design Review and Fashion Journal, among others.

His maiden journey into songwriting and performance sees Olana dive deep into his passion for Jamaican music to craft a lyrical sound that represents a fitting sonic translation of his distinctive visual aesthetic. Set against a deep, swaggering reggae bassline, melodic flute and bright kineticism, Olana opens with a welcome in his native Amharic tongue before launching into a witty broken-English monologue that shines a light on the working class and the everyday deeds that keep the world turning; offering an upbeat nod to the unheralded ‘skillful people’ who earn their living in factories, kitchens and taxis. 

Produced by Swick (M.I.A, Diplo, Tkay Maidza), the track journeys through Olana’s richly nuanced worldview with a distinctive offbeat reggae sound that captures his fearless creative approach. Olana shares: “Music has always been a big part of the art that I make – reggae, hip hop and afrobeat lyrics have often been a starting place for my works. Sometimes just one line is enough to inspire a new painting.” 

Meeting Swick in Melbourne’s northern suburbs in late 2023, the pair wasted no time connecting and soon forged a fertile creative partnership. “When I linked up with Swick over ice cream last year we quickly bonded over a shared passion for music, art, Africa and soccer,” Olana explains. “Heading into his studio was unintentional, very organic. In his quiet way, Swick got me to put my thoughts down and get on the mic. There’s an easy energy between us that just made everything flow.”

Showcasing Olana’s intuitive dexterity as a self-taught creative, ‘Skillful Man’ is a gently humorous sonic expression from one of Australia’s most original creative voices. Charting previously unexplored territory, this uplifting debut sets a singular tone while playfully probing notions of identity, class and culture at large. 

Album Art By Olana Janfa

Skillful Man’ is out everywhere NOW on NLV Records.