Joy Ike, Musician, Community Activist

This post is part of our portrait/interview series with Emily "Birdie" Busch. Birdie's challenge is to tease out candid responses from fellow artistic, industrious women. Painters, mothers, musicians, brewers, bakers, and more. What muses!


Joy Ike is my next door neighbor.  I planned on featuring the Nigerian-American musician regardless of this fact but it sure made it easy in these times to go one block down and catch some much needed camaraderie from a healthy distance. I was able to meet her at our community garden and snap some shots with my zoom as the sun shone down for the first time in a few days and the flowering trees swayed in the spring breeze. The cherry trees, forsythia, and peppered daffodils in the background were the perfect compliment to Joy’s radiating spirit. 

Joy is someone you want to talk to now and always because there really is never a time she doesn’t desire to connect deeply and truly. It’s evident in her music and her day to day life. Performing has been her full time gig for the past 12 years, sharing stages with the likes of Cody Chestnut and the late great Allen Toussaint. When she is not performing she is active in local organizations like G.R.E.A.T. (Germantown Residents for Economic Alternatives) a grassroots group that values shared resources and skills. Her 2018 album “Bigger than Your Box” was informed by a trip she took to visit family in Nigeria. First and foremost a piano player, she packed along a more travel friendly ukulele and spent the trip listening to a ton of artists from a broad sonic and geographical spectrum that inspired her journey. She describes the record as “an open-armed invitation to dive head first into the unseen”.  Even with such an adventure into uncertain places her songs and ponderings carry a grounded peace, and her voice even when unfettered holds steady. A perfect soundtrack for these times! 


Recommended Joy Ike rabbit-holes: 

She has a great website that’s the perfect place to get to know more about her and her music:

She recently worked on a tribute for Mr. Rogers and this lovely video: 

NPR Affiliate WITF in Pittsburgh did a great live performance/article/interview with Joy:

What is a career/creative moment you are proud of? 

Making and releasing my last album, Bigger Than Your Box has been a huge mile-marker in my life. I had just crossed the 10-yr mark of living as an artists and this album was really the journey of all those years interpreted in song. Coincidentally the album didn't do as well as I had hoped and 2018 ended up being a rough year where I questioned everything about myself and my purpose. I had to let go of a lot of quantitative expectations and relearn to see music and art as a gift instead of a commodity. That project has left its imprint on me in so many different ways.

What are you listening to now? What are you looking at? What recipe you feeling? 

Steffany Gretzinger. I've been waking up in the morning to stretch to her music. It gives me so much peace. It's pretty often that her Pandora channel stays on all day as I do different tasks around the house. I am watching The Chosen. It's a thoughtful interpretation of the Biblical character of Jesus, his disciples and the religious/political tensions of the time. It gives me perspective in the here and now and I'm appreciating the creative liberties the director and writer have taken to create a comprehensive picture of what it might have been to live, love, and lead during those times. Gosh, my absolute favorite thing to make right now are pupusas! It's an El Savadorian cornmeal dish. I haven't mastered the papusa itself, but making and eating the salsa and curtido (pickled cabbage) is my absolute favorite thing. They also go very well with other dishes.

How do you define your own personal style or approach to clothes? 

Comfort! I like things that are flattering and flowy. I love wearing clothes that blow in the wind, have soft patterns, and have somewhat of a bohemian look. You'll see me doing a lot of flowy bottoms in the summer and patterned dresses. I also especially love the empire waist look - whether it's with jeans, dresses, or tshirts.

What would be your advice to a teenage girl clothing and style wise that you wish you had received? 

Wear what makes you feel happy. Don't wear what other people say you should.

About the interviewer:
Emily "Birdie" Busch is one of National Picnic's social content contributors. Living in Germantown, Philadelphia, she has been songwriting and recording independent music for a solid decade. She has created a constellation of connect-the-dots that has people listening to her music all over the world. Read Birdie's extended bio here.

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