Working through Trauma


Okovi, the new album from the singer-songwriter and producer Nika Roza Danilova, better known as Zola Jesus, is said to have come from a period of intense turmoil. One of the artist’s friends tried to end her life multiple times, another was diagnosed with cancer, and she herself was suffering through depression.

While the word “okovi” means “shackles” in Slavic, Danilova says the act of making the album helped her to work through this shared existential trauma. The sadness on the recording is palpable, particularly on the midpoint tracks,  “Witness” and “Siphon,” but so is the serenity. Rather than landing on a false note, that journeying through the darkness always leads one into the light, Okovi is more a recognition that life is forged from both elements. That strikes me not only as a very life-affirming idea, but also a potentially life-saving one.

If you are someone you know is suffering from depression or is having thoughts of suicide, please reach out for help. Here are two places to begin:

Allyson McCabe writes and produces stories about music for NPR, and her own subscription-based channel, Vanishing Ink. More from this author →