Berklee student artist honors Biafran heritage through music, poetry and dance


Sundararaman Rengarajan

Orji holds a fan and a microphone while performing “Eberechukwu’s Biafra” at Berklee Performance Center Jan. 31. The “Visionaries Collective” was formed organically while Orji worked on the project.

Ogbonné Mary Orji fulfilled her childhood dreams the night of Jan. 31 after several intense months of preparation and rehearsal for her passion project, “Conception: The Awakening of Ogbonné.” An eighth-semester student at Berklee College of Music, Orji performed her debut visual album for a live audience of over 100 people at Berklee Performance Center.

Orji has been captivated by music since childhood, practicing tenor saxophone and cello from a young age. Citing influences such as Grover Washington, Alice Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders, Orji’s passion for spiritual jazz and soul shone through effortlessly in “Conception.” The first single of the album was initially released on Spotify in August 2022, with the entire album released a month later.

Combining poetry, dance, artistry and music, Orji was backed by a group she called the Mary Orji Visionaries Collective. Each member was noted as being the “Visionary” of a certain trait, such as peace, awakening, strength or power. Fitting in the themes of “Conception,” this created a sense of individuality while still uniting the Visionaries Collective.

An ode to her ancestors, “Conception” honors Orji’s Biafran lineage both musically and visually. This was evident by the instrumentation throughout the performance, the display of the flag of Biafra and the appearance of Orji’s parents at the closing of the performance. A handful of tracks from Orji’s sophomore effort “Perception,” which is currently in production, were also performed.

More information on “Conception” and Orji’s other projects can be found on her website, Spotify and YouTube channel.

Editor’s note: This story was updated Feb. 10 at 7:35 p.m. to reflect more accurate descriptions of this performance.