Rimon means pomegranate. In many cultures, pomegranates share a relationship with womanhood, often being a symbol for fertility, beauty and eternal life. Its origins are rooted in Hebrew, and it is typically a name given to men. It’s also the name of the Amsterdam-raised, Eritrean/Ethiopian singer disrupting the Dutch music scene with her graceful sound, stunning visuals, and powerful lyrics.
Born in Eritrea, Rimon spent her childhood in Dutch refugee camps before settling in Amsterdam. While these camps often conjure up distressful images, Rimon has nothing but fond memories. Giving a heart-warming insight into her perspective as a child there, she tells us, “I just had fun, to be really honest! I don’t see it as a bad time ‘cause there were so many kids in the camps, so many ethnicities and cultures. It was just one big party. Everyone had different cuisines, so you’d go to the neighbours and eat jollof…I don’t really have bad memories of being in refugee camps, only positive ones.” Reminiscing on some moments she spent as a five or six year old in the room she shared with her mother, Rimon adds, “I remember one thing clearly. There was this little TV in the corner and I was watching Christina Aguilera and Missy Elliott—what’s the song? “Moulin Rouge!” Yo, I was obsessed. I would watch that and be like ‘oh my god, I want to be like that’, so fierce!” Perhaps this was the moment when young Rimon manifested her future as Holland’s rising star and ours to watch.
The name ‘Rimon’ was given by her father, and his small act of rebellion transcended into the young woman’s life. Claiming to have “always been a rebel at heart”, Rimon dropped out of high school at 17. Unsure of her next move, she traveled to Ethiopia for the first time to see her dad, “That really inspired me. I was there for like four weeks, in the fatherland.” Following Ethiopia, she visited close friend and co-collaborator Denzel Curry in Miami, “Seeing him thriving and doing his thing inspired me as well…A few things happened in that year that sparked a certain drive of I can do whatever I wanna do. As a child I would always say ‘ah I wanna be a singer’, but I didn’t really believe it, because there were only a few singers at the top, which was Beyonce, Alicia Keys…and that’s it. There wasn’t space or room for alternative singers or smaller bands.” With the use of streaming platforms like Spotify and Soundcloud, Rimon realised the great potential for her to release music as she chose. She felt comfortable pursuing her journey, “I knew I didn’t have to conform to any label construct or A&R that tells me what to do. I could just do my own thing.”
Teaming up with producer Samuel Kareem, Rimon debuted her first song, “Grace” in 2018, a nostalgic, soulful track showcasing her soothing vocals and passionate lyrics. This was the start of something special for the duo, who have since collaborated on a number of songs together. Navigating the male-dominated industry hasn’t been an easy ride for Rimon, though. “I’m learning at the moment to really stand my ground. I tend to think about other people’s feelings first before I think of my own, so for me it’s really tough, especially when there’s a lot of ego and men around. I’ve gotten to the point of okay, I need to be vocal and stand my ground. Don’t let dominance or ego or men tell me what to do or what is right for me. But I’m still learning, I’m not there yet!”
Rimon is adamant that her voice is heard, especially by those like her, who lacked any female role models. “Coming from an African family, I really had to fight through the beliefs, standards, and expectations of what you should be as a woman. I just wanna inspire young girls, especially those coming from different backgrounds to be like ‘fuck that shit. Fuck that!’ Don’t listen to your parents, like listen to your parents but always do what you wanna do and don’t let their traumas and perceptions influence your life path.”
As a multicultural group of women ourselves, this is a similar frustration we all share with Rimon. Our cultures often hold in high regard the very patriarchal and misogynistic traditions that shrink us as women and creatives. We’re often told what we can and can’t be. We’re told how to dress, speak and act. As a young African woman in today’s music scene, Rimon aims to empower and inspire women to follow their dreams, no matter how big or small.
Rimon is starting to understand how her mixed heritage currently influences her art, the value and the beauty of it. Earlier this year, she released her debut short film, “What They Called Me”, a stunning visual counterpart to the launch of her EP I Shine, U Shine. “I’ve always wanted to make a short film ‘cause I think visuals are very important. I made an EP with 6 songs, and we were trying to figure out which was gonna get a video, but I couldn’t choose! I wanted a video for all of them! A friend of mine was like, ‘so make a short film’ and I was like ‘yes! we’re gonna do that’ and that’s how it kind of started.” The film follows Rimon on a journey of self-love and self-discovery. We witness two contrasting relationships, one that represents a hostile love and the other more freeing. The film was sparked by a conversation between Rimon and the director, who initially suggested they explore the concept of names—a topic she could relate to, “Growing up, everyone used to call me Rimona, because it sounded more feminine. At some point I was like no, it’s not my given name.”
Names hold a significant weight in each person’s life. Why are they so important to us? How do they reflect our true being? Our culture? Our roots? Our ancestors? There’s power in our names. They are a sign of our individuality. When someone spells or pronounces our names correctly, we feel respected, we feel seen. We feel our identity is accepted. Rimon explains how, initially, the film took on a Bonnie and Clyde narrative, yet became a much more personal piece allowing her to honour her identity, roots, and the decision to live her truth through her name. Perhaps the two relationships in the film naturally symbolise the singer’s personal transformation, the hostile relationship representing Rimona and the more freeing relationship being Rimon.
“The concept of name is strange, it’s handed out at birth and you’re supposed to carry it with you for the rest of your life.” With these subtitles in English, “What They Called Me” introduces us to a younger version of Rimon speaking in her native Tigrinya, a Semitic language spoken in Eritrea and Northern Ethiopia. “At the start, the movie was in Tigrinya, which is the language I speak with my mum. I’m thinking of maybe doing songs in Tigrinya as well.” With an Eritrean mother and Ethiopean father, she reflects on how her culture wasn’t always something she embraced. This is a trait often recognised within the diaspora, as we all aimlessly try to fit into a Western world. “As a kid growing up, I don’t know if you guys had it, but everything your parents do, you hated. So all the cultural aspects, all the rituals, I was like ‘ugh, fuck this shit’, I would feel embarrassed. Growing up, I never saw the beauty of our culture and where I came from.” With her feet firmly on the ground as ‘Rimon’, the intertwining of her culture and art allow this rebellious spirit discover a new side to her story. One that is not afraid to break the rules as an East African woman.
Whilst this year has been tough on all creatives, the entertainment industry has been particularly hard-hit. With plans to release her EP and tour, Rimon spent the start of lockdown feeling like most of us—upset and uncertain. What does she do to lift her spirits? “Writing! I write when I feel sad. I feel like that’s the purest emotion and easiest for me to write about. Dancing as well. If I need to lift myself up, I’ll put the speakers on and just dance like I’m in a club by myself, in front of the mirror, to hype myself up a bit.” Like most of us, Rimon has down days where she does absolutely nothing.Her go-to in these times? Pickles. “I really love pickles. I was sad and she [close friend and make up artist, Sophia] came with a jar of pickles. I eat them every time, when I’m really hungover, that’s when I really eat pickles.” Adding to the list of random facts about Rimon, we also learnt that she doesn’t have an uvula—“You know that Cardi B line ‘that little dangly dang that swang in the back of my throat’? I don’t have that. The boxing thing, I don’t have it!”
Looking back on the last few months, Rimon admitted that it didn’t feel right promoting music. With the BLM movement and pandemic putting the world on pause, she took some time off to recharge, “The past two years have been hectic and I just needed that rest. I didn’t do shit, like literally didn’t do shit. I was not writing, not making music, nothing for like three months.” Listing singer Sevdaliza as one of the pioneers forging a new path for alternative Dutch artists, Rimon is determined to break through the cycle of mainstream music being produced in the region. Following the release of her EP and film, she has moved to London and is ready to return to her craft, “Now that I’m here, it’s okay. I’m energised to work again, write again, make music and just hope for the best for 2021.”