A bright new talent from Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music, Anju Brahmasmi is starting to go places with her unique style infusing elements of Carnatic and Western music. Here’s a small conversation we got to have with her:
From gospel music to rocking it on stage, how has the journey been, Anju?
The journey has been on a road less travelled I guess – full of surprises, danger, thrill, excitement, fun, risks, sacrifices, and most importantly love and freedom. It was never an easy task to break free from the very orthodox beliefs, environment, religion and family. Being a worship leader had its advantages. Gospel music being one of the most evolved, helped me with a strong foundation.
You had said that growing up, you had to listen to other forms of music discreetly. What did you listen to and what were your favourite bands?
I was restricted from listening to and singing any music other than Gospel. I used to dig the store room for old cassettes piled up along with the junk, tangled in cobwebs. I took them, cleaned them and voila! They were none other than Phil Collins, Bee Gees, The Beatles, The Carpenters and so on. They were my dad’s old collection I guess. Later I discovered a lot of good music along the way: Bach, Beethoven, Debussy, Itzhak Perlman, Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Marley, Michael Jackson, Nina Simone, Aretha, Billie Holiday, Elvis, Prince, Stevie, Janis Joplin, Led Zepplin, Pink Floyd, Jamiroquai, Incubus, Bjork, Kitaro, Weather Report, Lamb, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix and the list is never-ending…
You had mentioned you received exposure to world music in Chennai. Tell us about your experiences there.
I got my musical training in one of the best music schools in India – Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music, Chennai where I got to learn from and play with faculties and musicians from various parts of the world.It was quite an astounding learning experience. First hand knowledge of different cultures and music from the best sources changed my entire perspective about music.
You have gone from being Anju Joseph to Anju Brahmasmi. Has Aham Brahmasmi influenced your music in any way?
The concept of Aham Brahmasmi and Advaitham has long been an inspiration for me. I truly believe that everything is one and the same. I want my music to convey the same. I am Brahma. Music is Brahma. I am Music. And hence, Anju Brahmasmi.
‘Gone’ must have been a breakthrough for you in all terms. Do you have any special memories connected with it?
I lost myself in the song while recording it.. in all those little details. I enjoyed myself thoroughly. The shoot was done at one of my favourite locations of all, Kodaikanal – a place close to my heart where I would love to spend the rest of my life. I’m a nature person. I live, breathe and belong to nature and music. The most memorable one was the waterfall shot inside a forest on top of a huge mountain. I had to climb the mountain and be at the edge of the cliff while it was constantly raining. I enjoyed the danger and risk that came along with the shoot.
Congratulations on being part of the label aum-i. Looking back, is there any single song that you believe made you stand out and become known?
I’ve sung in more than ten languages including Russian, Spanish, Greek, Portugese, and I was nominated for International Portugese Music Awards – in fact, the first and only Indian to be nominated so far. But ‘Endaro Mahanu Bhavalu’ was the one song that made me stand out and got me appreciation, especially from the western world. I brought together elements of Jazz and Carnatic and sang in a way even a layman could enjoy.
You have talked about your love for composing. Does the future involve you composing and singing your own songs?
Nothing makes me happy and content like composing, arranging and singing my own songs. I love experimenting and bringing together all my musical influences and creating a unique and new sound. Currently I’m working on my first album, which will be a new genre, new sound and traces of who I am. My first composition will be released this week for an English movie named ‘Humans of Someone’. This one’s a Latin Jazz song titled ‘One Life Stand’.
Favourite hobby: Tripping on nature and music, travelling, reading, movies
Favourite artists: Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, Bjork, Air, Incubus, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Rage Against the Machine, Rachelle Ferrel, Lamb, Amalin Rodriguez, Jamiroquai, Radiohead, Def Leppard, Janis Joplin, Miles Davis, Morcheeba, The Animals, Deep Purple, Porcupine Tree, The Doors, Queen
Favourite songs: Enjoy the Ride – Morcheeba, Mykonos – Fleet Foxes, The Reaper – Blue Oyster Cult, Omerta – Katatonia, Imagine – The Beatles, Scarborough Fair – Simon and Garfunkel, Gloomy Sunday – Rezso Seress, Ave Maria, Wonderwall – Oasis, House of the Rising Sun – The Animals
Favourite books: 100 years of solitude, Sidhartha, The last temptation of Christ, Lorba the Greek, Alice In Wonderland
Favourite movies: The Legend of 1900, Into The Wild, The Skin I Live In, Mr. Nobody, Shutter Island, A Dangerous Method