This episode of MUSIC THAT MAKES US features Aniya, a young musician, traveller and Architecture graduate. Read on to hear about her free-spirited lifestyle and the way in which music is integral to her way of life.
Nationality: British – although I like to steal a friend’s phrase and call myself ‘a citizen of the world’.
Occupation: I’m a Musician/Acrobat/Artist/Swordmaker/Bubbleologist Assistant! I also work at The Social, a music venue in Central London and a beautiful cafe called East Central Social. I studied Architecture and worked at a practice for six months last year.
What are your plans for this year?
I’m really excited to start working on a music video with film-maker Siobhán Cox. We’ve had so many ideas but it’s all starting to take shape. The video is for my song ‘Earthquakes’ which was released last month. Further down the line I’d like to make another music video for ‘Painted White’ – another track from the EP – that features an acroyoga sequence, which is another passion of mine.
I want to become an acrobatic performer and so I’m training to improve my strength and flexibility. I’m also trying to create some workshops that I could run at a refugee centre in London, called Akwaaba.
This year I’d love to visit Canada to explore and see an elderly couple who live in Vancouver. I met them on the Ilse of Islay on a cycle tour around Scotland last year. They invited me to stay with them when they lived in Edinburgh and looked after me so well.
All of these different branches of my life have taken me in weird and wonderful directions so really I have no concrete plans in order that the branches continue to grow in whatever direction feels right!
Sounds pretty exciting! Do you think your plans would be any different if money were no object for you?
I think that I basically already do what I would be doing in that situation. I suppose if money were really no object then I’d splash out on more yoga/acrobatic classes, buy a harp and a double bass, build myself a studio, buy more overpriced healthy food, travel more…
How important would you say music is to you in day-to-day life?
It’s important; even when, in the past, I had years of avoiding music because I felt I wasn’t good enough, I would always reach a point where I felt compelled to write, sing, or pick up my guitar again. I’ve also noticed how important music is to me in a crisis; overcoming psychosis and the trauma of a car accident was all largely down to singing.
Can you remember the music that you first properly listened to?
I recall sensing the powerful emotion of music when I heard Bon Iver’s ‘Skinny Love’ on ‘Later… with Jools Holland’, so maybe that was when I first experienced music in a significant way.
How much do you think you were influenced by your parent’s taste in music growing up?
I’m sure I was subliminally influenced by it and I have fond memories of singing along to Dido in the back of the car on family holidays. I started flicking through my dad’s vinyl collection at the age of 17 and I remember cooking and singing along to his UB40 tracks.
On what level to you connect with music? Is there usually a particular element of a song that you appreciate?
It depends on the song but I often get lost in the vocals or sometimes the emotion of a violin part. I find it easier to focus on higher frequencies because I used to sing soprano in the National Children’s Choir of Great Britain. It’s a matter of habit.
Do you tend to prefer female/male vocalists? Is that ever a consideration with regards to the type of music that you seek out?
I don’t think I’ve consciously thought about this! As a teenager I’d say that the majority of the music I listened to had male vocalists. Now it appears to be the other way around. My driving playlist, for example, is packed with Joni Mitchell, Annie Eve, The Staves, Lianne La Havas, London Grammar, Amber Rubarth and Daughter. I’ve sometimes felt inferior as a female musician, so perhaps subconsciously I seek out female musicians when in need of encouragement but I enjoy both female and male vocals.
What instruments do you play? When did you first start learning to play them?
I sing, play the piano, guitar and bass. My whole childhood is filled with memories of singing all the time and anywhere and I began singing in choirs when I was ten.
I played the piano growing up in Paris as a child and got my first guitar at 14. I got a bass around the same time, but didn’t pick it up until a couple of years ago and I’ve recently started writing some really funky bass lines .
I’ve always been fascinated with the harp and borrowed my neighbour’s to play on one of my songs. I found it such a meditative instrument to play!
Name three albums that you feel changed your life significantly.
‘Blue’ by Joni Mitchell – It more or less inspired me to change my song-writing for the better and I began to write songs that challenged me vocally.
‘Ceremonials’ by Florence + the Machine – When I was recovering from psychosis, my mum used to get me to sing songs from that album at the top of my lungs.
‘All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend’ by Aurora – This album helped me transition from living and working in refugee camp back into what initially felt like a very shallow world that, despite being all I had ever known from growing up, now seemed really unfamiliar to me.
I guess the albums themselves weren’t life-changing but it was that they struck a chord with me at particularly significant moments of my life.
These are ever-changing but currently: ‘Alaska’ by Maggie Roggers, ‘Don’t Tell’ by Greta Isaac and ‘Dead Island Trailer Theme’ by Giles Lamb.
Can you describe in a sentence what music means to you?
“Music is my grounding”. It’s a line from Mairi Campbell’s performance at the Fringe that really resonated with me.