Imagine you are introducing yourself to a room full of children. How would you explain who you are and what you do?
Children are naturally intuitive, so I think they would see who I am as a person straight up which is essentially reflected through my career. I would tell them that through hard work and effort dreams do come true; but most importantly, to trust in what they love to do. I tell them that I can fly around the world dressed as a princess or a super hero or a fairy, just to spread happiness through my music.
Tell us what influence do you have over your audience as a band and individuals?
With every passing day, I’ve been realising even more the importance of music as a healing therapy and the social and emotional responsibility that comes with its amazing power. What is more compelling is the fact that your audience also has a tremendous power to make it BIG. The only thing is we’ve to give our love in a sincere way. Only that way one can make music a sanctuary for people who’re looking for a cure for their weary souls.
Your song “Nakamarra” from your self produced debut album Tawk Tomahawk was nominated for a Grammy for Best R&B Performance, making your band to be nominated for any R&B category for the first time in the Australian history. How did it feel to be getting such recognition right off the bat?
Well at first, it was a shock, but I have always known what I’m supposed to do with my life. The accolades we received early on were just a confirmation and impetus that I am living the right path.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often,emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
It’s about listening and letting it stimulate your own imagination. No one is you, and that is your power. I try to combine all my favorite things and put together what I want to hear. It’s a very visual and spiritual experience for me.
In general, where do you draw inspiration from? Is it based on your personal experiences or influences of other artists?
When it comes to inspiration, I try not to limit myself and stay open to stimulus all the time. Music is like making an ornament with all the trinkets and junkets we’ve in our head. These come from the moments we experience, sometimes from observing a beautiful piece of art or a scene from a film or a contemporary dance.
With each musical genre having such a rich history and diverse background, do you feel that music means something different to performers of different styles? How does this affect your work with different artists?
I listen to a lot of music, that has a deeper purpose than just entertainment. For example, Toumani Diabate is a Kora player from Mali who succeeds 70 generations of Kora players, playing traditional music handed down for thousands of years. That concept of musical identity is something I will never be able to explain completely. However, it doesn’t keep me away from its beauty because there is creativity and depth in how each of us individually experiences the world around us. It’s subjective, and I do feel that cultural identity plays a massive role in it.
As a musician, how important do you think it is to give a voice to social issues? Tell us about the change you are trying to bring through your music.
Art is the voice of truth, beauty, love, imagination. It is an activism in itself because of the oppression of our natural human experience. Art is the rebellion against control. When I say that, I also realise that instead of hating the fame that comes with my job title, I can use that to educate and shed light on the issues which I’m deeply moved by. For example, I am passionate about sharing the art and knowledge of traditional healing. Indigenous cultures are wiser and more in tune with the spirit of nature, in my opinion. I recently saw two Ngangkari (a tribe of aboriginal healers), and I want to work more with organizations like A.N.T.A.C that educate the world about the strong and enriched culture of living wholeheartedly that has long been misunderstood and subjected to deep colonial trauma. Aboriginal Australia is something to be adored and celebrated whereas the reality is just the opposite: indigenous women and ethnic minorities are the most oppressed demographics of the world. I’m trying to be as educated as possible in understanding the ‘why’ and trying to help where I can.
Your newest album, “Choose Your Weapon“, has received quite a bit of attention. What were the inspirations for the album in particular?
Inspiration is an intangible thing to talk about. It can come from anywhere – be it my understanding of the world or be it the realm of dreams and the millions of thoughts and emotions that get aroused within me everyday.
Here is just a random list:
David Attenborough, Atari, Miyazaki films, Tuareg silversmiths, being an orphan, Astrophysics and my animal friends.
Every video that you make is so perfectly crafted to suit the context of the song. How important do you think visual narration is to exactly articulate the meaning / emotion of a song?
To be honest I really want to go deeper down the rabbit hole of visual art in correlation with our music. I don’t feel we have much of a wonder stimulating visual portfolio yet as we are always touring and none of us has the time. There is a certain harmony and alchemy that can be achieved if it’s properly executed. We can be there, slowly and surely.
Usually, it is considered that it is the job of an artist to win over an audience but, listening is also an active, rather than a passive process. How do you see the role of the listener in the musical communication process?
It’s a combination of all of the above. You want to bring your A game and put in effort to create an otherworldly experience, but at the same time, be relatable. Your audience has the power to make it greater and deeper, but you can’t sit idle relying on it.
Music for music’s sake or music for life’s sake?
Music is everything.
What do you want your audience to experience as they listen to you?
All I really strive to achieve is to enhance the emotional state of people and stimulate their imagination.
Any message for your fans in India?
We are deeply moved by the love and support that we receive from our Indian friends and can’t wait to tour and experience the vibrant culture there. Building a ladder of love to all of them!
You can find more information about Nai Palm at the following links: