Feature: Olana – Skillful Man

Skillful Man marks the first musical outing for creative multidisciplinary Olana, who in just a few short years has established an instantly recognisable presence locally and internationally for 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. His voyage 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 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. 

‘Skillful Man’ travels through Olana’s richly nuanced worldview with a distinctive offbeat reggae sound that captures his fearless creative approach, of which 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.” 

Having met Swick in Melbourne’s northern suburbs in late 2023, the pair instantly connected and organically forged a creative partnership. Of the collaboration, Olana explains “When I linked up with Swick over ice cream last year we quickly bonded over a shared passion for music, art, Africa and soccer. 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.

Olana’s musical debut Skillful Man is available to stream now via NLV Records

< Back to news