Micaela Tobin is an opera singer, experimental musician and teacher based in Los Angeles who has crafted music both solo and in groups.
Her latest album under the White Boy Scream moniker, BAKUNAWA, is an anticolonial missive that was inspired by precolonial Philippine mythology. Joshua Minsoo Kim caught up with Tobin on June 9th to discuss her work, the opera that changed her life, white supremacy, voice healing workshops, and more.
Opera singers are, by definition, conservators of a cultural practice rooted in history and tradition. But Micaela Tobin—a Los Angeles-based vocalist and composer whose résumé extends from the maverick opera troupe the Industry to the experimental hip-hop group Clipping—uses her classically trained voice to slash through the hissing static, clangorous percussion, and punishing noise that she employs in White Boy Scream. Her latest album, “BAKUNAWA,” is also a gesture of preservation: she invokes the pre-colonial mythology of her Philippine ancestry in songs that pivot between sublimity, contemplation, and terror. “They can’t erase me,” Tobin chants in the epic title track and again in the closing “Apolaki,” proclaiming the power of myth even as she demands to be seen and heard for who she is. Opera would do well to pay attention. —Steve Smith, The New Yorker