Curator Story

Pasha Orleans-Foli

Specialist in: Pop, indie, R&B, modern soul and classics.

Pasha joined Open Ear in 2021 as an in-house music curator working with a selection of our hospitality clients that have music in their DNA and require in-depth knowledge of contemporary music.

A classically trained musician, Pasha has recently graduated from the University of Birmingham studying Music & Modern Languages, alongside which she has been curating playlists and content for a number of businesses.

Case Study

“We’ve loved working with the Open Ear team, who have brought an amazing vibe to our restaurants with music choices that help us bring to life the inspiration we’ve found in the Markets of Mexico, in a way that works perfectly for a contemporary British brand.”

Oli InghamMarketing, Wahaca

"Music is a language and a powerful tool that can harness people’s moods and habits, so I like to discover what a brand is really about, what it wants to say, and then find the sweet spot between what a brand already is and what it strives to be."

An interview with Pasha

Let’s start from the beginning - please introduce yourself and give us a background of your life in music!

I have always had a love for all things language, culture and music. I suppose it all began with my Dad building his music room haven at home, filled wall to wall with vinyl and CDs of almost every genre and a hi-fi system he’d invested in since he was a teenager. I used to often try and listen in at the door or catch him grooving to the likes of Tears For Fears, Sade, Prefab Sprout, or Womack & Womack from a very young age. Studying Modern Languages and Music at university also allowed me to really dig deeper into the links between both subjects, particularly understanding music as a language and its powerful impact on different people and different cultures.

On another level, I was able to experience this impact directly from a performer’s perspective through my studies at Junior Guildhall School of Music & Drama. I also had fantastic leaders and mentors throughout my teenage years while I was involved with musical organisations such as the National Youth Wind Orchestra, London Philharmonic, BBC Proms Youth Ensemble, the WOW (Women of the World) Orchestra, and making real change as a member of the Chineke! Orchestra working to inspire young people, shift the narrative and champion diversity in the classical world.

Do you remember what music inspired you at an early age? And perhaps a few tracks that inspired you to start a career in music?

On the one hand, I had my Dad playing everything from Amerie to the Pet Shop Boys, and on the other hand my Mum loved her cheesy stuff, blasting Ronan Keating, Tina Turner, Whitney Houston and Simply Red in the car whenever she could! I’m not sure I’m proud to admit that Take That ‘Greatest Hits’ and the Scissor Sisters’ ‘Ta-Dah’ were my first 2 CDs I owned at the age of 7, but there we are.

I think I started to take my personal music discovery seriously when I was about 13 and my Dad showed me a 1972 live performance of the Mahavishnu Orchestra playing their track ‘Dawn’.I remember being completely blown away by the pure virtuosity of John McLaughlin and Jerry Goodman’s playing. Soon enough I took up the alto sax the same year and enjoyed uncovering the world of Jazz and Jazz Fusion, marvelling at the likes of Robert Glasper, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald…all the greats both old and new. I just became obsessed with discovering great music and that obsession has continued to grow ever since!

Is there one area of music you specialise in i.e. genre or scene that you are particularly close to?

Despite my predominantly classical background, my musical tastes span all the way from Disco, R&B and Neosoul, to Funky House, Amapiano and Alternative Indie Rock. I think Soul music and everything that comes from, is inspired by or fuses Soul always grabs my attention. It has such a feel-good factor that I think is hard for anyone to resist.

What are your favourite places, sources, sites, radio shows or people to discover new music?

I routinely check my Discover Weekly and Release Radar on Spotify, but I’ve also always got my Shazam at the ready every time I hear an interesting track in ads, TV, Film, or just while I’m out and about. I have a process when I discover a new artist or band where once I’m hooked in, I’ll then go and explore their full discography from their earliest single to their most recent work. There’s something special about hearing how an artist’s sound develops and evolves over time and how they grow as musicians with the influence of culture and imminent fame. Gigging and jam sessions have also become a big part of my weekly routine since moving to London from Birmingham. London has talent practically coming out its ears these days! Particularly over in East London, there’s a great jazz scene and music community over there which is really exciting to be part of.

Talk to us about your approach to music playlist curation for brands, do you have some key do’s and don’ts?

I’ve found that it’s super important to see music as a complement or even an embodiment of a brand, as opposed to being a background ‘add-on’. Music is a language and a powerful tool that can harness people’s moods and habits, so I like to discover what a brand is really about, what it wants to say, and then find the sweet spot between what a brand already is and what it strives to be. Once you have that, you can get creative building a music profile that satisfies but also challenges its listeners in a unique and fun way. I definitely like to tap into my music theory and understanding of how tempo, keys, harmonies etc can shape how a song is received in certain settings as well.

How is playlisting for brands different than playlisting at home or for personal listening on-the-go?

Like most people, my personal listening is mostly driven by mood or genre depending on where I am or how I’m feeling. When curating for brands I leave my personal taste at the door and enjoy using a blend of genres & styles in a playlist to create a specific feel or image that has to be reflective of the brand at all times. The best part is you get to be as granular as you like with it! Another plus is that it opens up your ear to music you wouldn’t necessarily find or listen to elsewhere which I think is important.

What are your thoughts on computer algorithms shaping the future of music curation?

Computers can always ‘get the job done’, but music is such a personal thing therefore music curation has to follow suit. Emotional intelligence, understanding how humans work & what makes them tick, not to mention cultural conditions and context - it takes one human to know one! It’s not an exact science and flexibility is key in the music curation process, particularly in an industry that’s constantly evolving.

Tell us more about the client(s) you’ve worked with using the Open Ear platform. How did you meet the client’s expectations?

It’s great to work with a variety of brands, both big and small, because they all have such different needs. From the retail spaces of Selfridges, Flannels Jr and Me + Em, to unique and quirky restaurants such as Tonkotsu, Yard Sale Pizza and Wahaca - they each have such clear visions of who they are and are all super engaged and understanding of the fact that music is instrumental in defining their brand identities. It’s a privilege to go on that journey with them, particularly as they grow and shift over time. On top of the main curation work, it is always a treat curating for special projects, pop ups and campaigns. I thoroughly enjoyed creating a 70/80s soundscape of love songs for the ‘Resellfridges: Wedding Edit’ in the Selfridges Corner Shop pop up space. I also loved designing the musical identity for the new Signet Jewellers (H Samuel, Ernest Jones & Bremont) concept stores. Every day is so different, full of exciting and eclectic briefs and I’m always eager to see how I can make my clients’ ideas come to life, expanding my musical knowledge in the process.