Interviews

Music can be an amazing source of relief and a perfect means of escape: Ananya Birla

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Covid 19 has forced us to re-think, reboot and realign. While this pandemic has cast it’s spell of gloom and doom across sectors, however the art world has handled it differently.
Artists have become our ray our hope in these times, they are the ones feeding our belief in the new tomorrow.

In a recent interview with Loudest.in Ananya Birla spoke to our reporter Vandana Bansal about creating art amid this lockdown and more.

Excerpts from the interview:

1. How has the lockdown experience been so far? How are you coping up with this?

It has been a very strange few weeks. I can’t remember the last time I spent this much time away from home, and it is tough being away from my family, friends and dogs!

I’m in LA at the moment, I had come to work on some music with my new management, Maverick. We have a lot planned for this year.

I have been using this time to write and record a bunch of songs, without the pressure of a deadline. I have put together a studio at home, and I have been experimenting with some new sounds. I have been trying to keep to a routine; meditate regularly, and make sure I get some exercise in every day, otherwise it can be easy for anxiety to get the better of one during this kind of a situation.

This crisis is unprecedented. With so much suffering and uncertainty, it can be hard to stay positive – particularly for those with pre-existing mental health conditions, who are struggling with the isolation and heightened anxiety. We all need to make an effort to look out for one another and appreciate that we are not alone in this.

It has been so heartwarming to see how people have come together, whether it’s people singing to each other from balconies in Italy, to Captain Tom Moore, the amazing 100-year-old man who has raised tens of millions for health workers in the UK, to gestures of gratitude from the Indian Armed Forces to our coronavirus warriors back home.

2. We see a lot of artists using this hometime to release new albums, are you treading a similar path? What are you working on currently?

I think it is great that people are still able to put out their work, music can be an amazing source of relief for people and a perfect means of escape. I’ve also been loving the ad hoc at-home performances from artists.

I have been working on a bunch of new tracks, and I cannot wait to release them. But I’m going to wait before putting anything new out, but hopefully you will be hearing it soon.

3. With digital content consumption going up, how are you planning to leverage this trend as an artist?

This shift has been such a good thing for the industry. Listeners are finding and loving artists that they wouldn’t have heard before, discovering new sounds from all over the world. In India, it’s clearly reflected in the sheer variety of genres we’re producing at the moment – film music used to dominate, but we’re seeing rap, pop and electro scenes popping up all over the place. There are such talented independent artists coming from really remote parts of the country who can now find an audience for their work.

Over the past few weeks, I have really appreciated having more time to engage with my fans on Instagram Live. It is really tough to get that kind of connection unless you are doing live shows which is not an option right now. I have been doing a few covers and stripped-back songs on social too, which I’ve really enjoyed.

4. What is your message for your community?

It is OK to be anxious, scared, angry or sad during this time. Go easy on yourself, ask for help if you need it, and try to be there as much as you can for other people. You are not alone.

5. You are also part of the philanthropic work which your family is actively doing, tell us how is the MPower foundation playing it’s role in these pandemic times?

Having fought my own battles with mental health a few years ago, I wanted to set something up that would give people access to the kind of care and support that really got me through, so I set up Mpower with my mom. It is something incredibly close to my heart and I am so proud of the work that we do.

We launched the helpline about a month ago to help people who are struggling during the pandemic. It is a joint collaboration with the BMC and the state government, and it is available in three languages.

One of the main intentions when we set up Mpower was to ensure that no one felt alone. People need to understand that it is OK not to be OK, and be confident that there is help available. There is still such a terrible stigma in India, and around the world, that prevents people from reaching out. We need to give mental illness more respect, and understand it is just like a physical illness. It is something that can happen to anyone of us, no matter who we are, or where we come from.

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