Multifaceted artist and auteur Gabriella Kaysø, better known as Di Garbi, is the definition of precision. By the touch of her hands, the purest of melodies are brought to life, birthed on a grand piano, her partner in crime since the age of six, then warped and experimented on in a marriage to electronica. Di Garbi’s unquenchable passion and creative sensibility is present in every tone, taking the listener to places unimagined.
Di Garbi is one of Denmark's most original artists; one that takes pride in staying true to her own nature and listening to her intuition. She is currently on a personal journey: “On a Quest // Through a picture // In a sound”, exploring five states of being through music and sound, all culminating in an album, The Monologue Part of the Program. Each track is accompanied by cinematic art films conceptualised and directed by Di Garbi herself.
When you meet Di Garbi, you instantly know you’re faced with a person who breathes self expression. She looks like she was plucked from a distant time where everything was more grandiose, more sensual, more dramatic, and transported to our sterile present to amaze us all with her creative gift. She is a walking fashion extravaganza, and every detail is thoroughly thought over. It is all a part of a bigger story, Di Garbi’s story.
This sensibility permeates her work. Everything she does is part of a bigger whole, as she transcends through music, composing, art direction, fashion styling, concept development, film directing, and sound mixing. The Di Garbi universe is at once a dark and mystical place where you can lose yourself, but also a place of all encompassing light, lifting you up reaching for nirvana and peace. This ebb and flow is like a pulse that drives her creative process.
She mostly finds her creativity peaking in the dark hours from dusk to dawn. She finds the peace and quiet that comes with the arrival of night opens her mind up to a flow of inspiration. Working during the late hours creates a sense of drama, a solitary approach that seems limitless and daring. This is when Di Garbi unfolds her talents.
She works in a way where her output is intertwined with experience. She sees or feels something and intuitively her mind rewrites it as music. She takes her experience home and experiments with it on both the grand piano and the synthesiser. The music always comes to her in both sound and visuals. As melodies form in her head, a story unfolds itself before her eyes, and Di Garbi is driven to visualise it.
“(When) driving down the allé, I could just see it. This is the synthesiser. Right when I drive here, I can hear it pulsating. And just looking up at the trees, I could almost touch it with my fingers and feel it,” she said.
The first track and film from The Monologue Part of the Program, "This Eternal Night", is a manifestation of this process where sound and visuals intertwine. The idea came to Di Garbi in her sleep, and when she woke she knew exactly how everything would come together.
“This is how you are gonna develop the track, and you are gonna make it in the process of filming. It was clear to me, I was gonna elaborate the track while I was shooting,” she said.
The process itself is like a pulse. With "This Eternal Night", Di Garbi started in the dark, coming from a dark place, and once she works down that path, the intrinsic need for light manifests itself. So through an organic process the dynamics of the track come to Di Garbi as a pulsating vibe, unfolding along the way. Pieces of melody and bits of lyric are birthed from this pulse and slowly grow into a full track. Intuition seems to be Di Garbi’s compass.
“Being in the process at that point, it was looking up. Everything was coming together, so naturally there was also coming a new lyric to it. So it just said ‘here I am’ and I wrote it down,” she explained.
Di Garbi works very untraditionally, exploring different sides of her universe simultaneously. Instead of composing a track to completion, and afterwards beginning to plan for a visual side, she lets the two processes inform one another.
“I really like that I am filming, that I am composing - that I can go back and forth. That I can go over to the editor and see what they are making, and they can hear ‘oh now I have a little bit more music, and what do you think of this?’, and everything is just cooking at the same time. It gives you more energy, it’s more fun, and so I came to the conclusion that I just really love it - working in that way.”
In this process Di Garbi also learned that one cannot do everything alone. She works on all aspects of her universe, and explores personal inner states in the process. Through composing to finished track and film, Di Garbi is her own pilot, and while that is a very unique approach as a musician, it can also be quite isolating. Feedback and constructive criticism are integral to pulling Di Garbi out of periods of creative loneliness, and gives her work an injection of fresh objectivity - another pulse in the process.
As a child, when returning from her piano lessons with Thorbjørn Lund from the Danish Conservatory, Di Garbi would play with her mother’s dictaphone in the space she found most inspiring--the bathroom, where the acoustics transported her to a different world in which sounds grew enormous, and almost spoke in a deep heavy beat. She would record her voice in the dictaphone and listen back to it, entranced with the otherworldly sound her voice produced through the electronics. These early childhood memories may have comprised the groundwork for Di Garbi’s love of electronic music.
She encountered her first synthesiser in the fifth grade, presented to her by her music teacher.
“One day when I came over there early, he said to me: ‘Gabriella. We have gotten something special in the music room. I can’t wait to show you.’ I was like: ‘Ooh, what is it?’ Then it was a synthesiser, and it looked like a fucking spaceship. It was big, and grey, and ugly, on this really weird rack, but hitting that note - it was like a whole new world developed to me.”
Over the years Di Garbi has collected quite a few of her own synthesisers and along with her grand piano, the classical and electronic worlds collide in her little studio, making the nest from where she creates. The classical piano is like soulfood to Di Garbi, and her love for classical music pulsates in and out of her electronic universe where sounds are bent and shaped to fit her vision perfectly. Rules are there to be broken, and Di Garbi works best in limitless spheres of experimentation where she can create soundscapes that are like separate little grandiose worlds of their own.
As an artist she values reflection and taking the time to look inward.
“You need to have peace in yourself, and also take time out to be with yourself, so you can feel yourself, and you have a connection. And that is not something that’s given. You have to take it,” she said.
Her reflective nature gives her an inner patience to listen for signals within herself. “Meditation is really a big part of creating a good day for myself. Both in my work flow, my mental state, and my relation to others. It’s really important to me to be centered and grounded.”
When meditating, Di Garbi opens up her mind, and it is as if creativity flows through her in a heightened and acute sense when in this state of being. She becomes more receptive to input from the universe, and can channel her experiences into her craft.
“I got some really really good advice from a good friend many years ago who said: ‘It’s about keeping the noise out.’ When you keep the noise out, and you feel yourself, and you connect with yourself. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, or how they want it to be. It’s about how you want it to be, because you’re the one who’s gonna get it out there,” she explained.
If there ever were a “one-woman-band” Di Garbi might qualify as the master puppeteer, pulling all the strings in her own universe. She has a clear aesthetic and a clear vision of her story that is unmistakably Di Garbi-esque.
Take a dive into her personal, evocative landscapes of music and film, a holistic union of classical themes and electronic tension, and sit down for a soulful ride that is bound to remind you just how alive you are.
”From my darkest moments, to the finest lights, deepest desires and everything in between, all my work are life testimonials, about my journey and quest,” she said. And she invites us along for the ride.
Cecilia Black and Sara Bøgh