BerlinRussian-born musician Mary Ocher remains one of the city's most original singer-songwriter voices. We checked in to find out how she's been dealing with the pandemic and associated restrictions.

How are you coping with not being able to perform?

Well, while people are dying out there it doesn't seem right to mourn not being able to work, it is somewhat challenging mentally to lose your place in the world. But then again, it's important to remind yourself how fortunate you are - having been able to do this your entire adult life.

What do you miss during the corona pandemic?

We probably all miss the same things - being around people, our friends, meeting new people. Feeling safe in a crowd. Now, the idea of being around people, whether they are close to you or complete strangers, is accompanied by a sense of fear and it's very odd to fear other people. It's not something I'd like to get used to - if it hadn't already caused long term consequences. It changes the way we interact with one another. We are now alien to one another. We are living in a sci-fi dystopia.  

Photo: Sergio Frutos and Paco Vallejo

Mary Ocher was born in Moscow in 1986, grew up in Tel Aviv and currently divides her time between Berlin and Hamburg. Her musical work ranges from traditional folk to raw '60s garage, ambient with ethereal vocals and abstract synths, to experimental pop with African and South American rhythms. She has released four studio albums on five labels as well as an anthology of home recordings, two EPs and two collections of remixes. Most recently, The West Against The People is out on Klangbad.

What have you been working on creatively during lockdown?

Actually, creatively, not much. It made everything stop. I've been trying to finalise an enormous amount of new recordings for the past one and a half years. It may be closer to two and half years by the time parts of it might be released, and four since the release of my last album... or who knows, it might be even longer. In spring there was interest from so many labels and I was going to sign a great contract, perhaps too good to be true - but shorty after I got it, the label realised they had enormous losses this year and retracted the offer. It just doesn't seem right to be making plans.

Shortly before all hell broke loose, I started developing The Underground Institute, a music entity whose main focus was meant to be booking shows and we had just put together a great team and artists I love (Limpe Fuchs, M Lamar, Martin Rev of Suicide) - but it was impossible timing for touring, so we switched to curating programmes and press and only a small number of shows were able to happen in 2020. Despite everything, The Underground Institute's launch will finally happen on 19 November at 7pm live from Kesselhaus - with performances by Audrey Chen, Gloria de Oliveira and Ya Tosiba, and I'll be hosting. In December I'll hopefully have a surprise available to order via Bandcamp!

Any recommendations on what to do in Berlin during lockdown to fight boredom and stay sane?

I'd recommend to stay in touch with a small group of people to see regularly. Go out for walks. Go to the doggie park and watch the dogs.

What are you looking forward to most when the pandemic is over?

Just being around friends, being allowed to see people again and not worrying you might make one another sick or make someone else sick later.

The Underground Insitute launches at 7pm on Thursday, 19 November. Get all the info at the Facebook event. Find the YouTube stream here.