With his friends Arthur Doran ’15 and Noah Hornik ’15 playing the keyboard and drums, Michael Ohakam ’15 grabbed the microphone and stepped to center stage at last winter’s Abbot Cabaret to sing Frank Ocean’s “Forrest Gump,” his first performance on campus.
While he has only recently begun singing publicly, Ohakam has maintained a love for music since the age of six, singing along to the radio and trying to match the pitch of the artists.
“I wasn’t taking lessons or anything. It was just me. I had really bad stage fright when I was around that age. I didn’t really let anyone hear me until I got into high school.… I feel like [Abbot Cabaret] opened up a new chapter in my enjoyment of singing here,” said Ohakam.
Coming to Andover was a turning point for Ohakam. He found friends who were also interested in performing music and who could support him in his endeavors.
“I work really well whenever I’m performing with my friends, so singing with [Doran] and [Hornik] last year was a huge joy because I got to work off of their talents. I was definitely nervous during the first performance of [Abbot Cabaret], but whenever I looked over to [Doran and Hornik], I felt better because I knew we sounded pretty good as a group. That made the second show a lot more enjoyable for me,” said Ohakam.
Though he is a talented artist, Ohakam’s musical involvement at Andover lies outside of traditional music ensembles on campus.
“Not being a part of [school-organized music groups] gives me a little bit more fluidity and freedom when it comes to what I can perform or sing. I can sing songs by artists that are a little more risqué or have more complexity in their lyrics, which I wouldn’t be able to perform if I were in a singing group,” said Ohakam.
Ohakam often improvises with friends during his free time. In this setting, he has the freedom to sing the songs he loves and pursue music on his own terms.
“[Doran] is a great guy to work with for many reasons,” continued Ohakam. “He is so musically gifted, and we share very similar music tastes. A lot of the times when we practice, he’ll change the arrangement of the song or add something to it that I had never thought of that really tightens up the entire piece. I go to him whenever I feel like we can work on something, either for an event or just for fun.”
R&B singers Frank Ocean and Miguel are two artists to whom Ohakam is particularly drawn.
“I love a lot of songs by these artists, but a song like ‘Thinkin’ Bout You’ really showcases Frank Ocean’s versatility with its lush production and powerfully soulful vocals. The lyrics in ‘Forrest Gump,’ which come into play during the chorus, are especially vivid, so that is a standout for me,” said Ohakam. “Miguel’s lyrics tend to be very sensual and risqué, but songs like ‘Adorn’ and ‘Sure Thing’ really work with most crowds, so I enjoy those ones a lot.”
Ohakam says that he may release a surprise collaboration with Doran in the near future, but in the long term, he hopes to continue singing “in a way that makes people happy.” While he does not intend to pursue singing as a career, Ohakam wants to experiment with writing his own music.
“I’ve always wanted to write songs and that’s why I’ve continued to sing whenever I can, rehearse with my friends and never give up,” said Ohakam.