Radiant Star Sahida Apsara Drops in for a Chat
The hugely talented Sahida Apsara has just released the first single from her forthcoming début album. Locked in a recording studio in her homelands of Australia, Sahida teamed up with fellow Aussie DubFX to produce her self-titled album. Radiant Star is the first release from this eagerly awaited collection of recordings. The poet, songwriter, rapper, dancer and arts educator has received many accolades and awards for her work both on and off the stage.
Thanks for chatting with us Sahida. Can we start with you telling us a little bit about yourself?
For starters, I’ve just became a new mum 5 and half months ago and that’s at the forefront of everything. It’s a tough gig, but I love being a mum! But aside from that I’m a poet, a dancer, a community facilitator and a curator of a poetry nights that champions the voices of women in my home town of Melbourne. I was born in Singapore, with Indian/Malay ancestry and as a kid, I’ve always felt restricted by the boundaries of cultural and religious expectations on a girl and always struggled with fitting it. I always dreamt of running away and travelling the world. As a young adult, I left home and backpacked to many parts of the world. I pursued my studies in Australia and eventually based myself there. Since 2009, I’ve been running dance programs in schools all over Victoria. I facilitate creative arts and presentation skills programs to youths and adults from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and even tiny ones from kindergarten. I love global adventures, but love the simple things just as much – like playing with my puppy, good gelatos, sipping teas and long extended cuddles on the couch watching a good movie.
I am also passionate about narrative medicine – using the art of story telling to transmute painful experiences into poetry and art.
Do you come from a creative background?
I was trained in classical Malay dance since I was seven and have also been to India to train in classical dance. I was also part of the main cast in a children’s television show for many years when I was little till my teenage years, so yes, the arts have always been a big part of my life.
Arts is clearly your passion, winning the Victorian Government Multicultural Award and a recipient of the UNESCO grant to learn poetry in New York, what is it that attracts you to music and songwriting?
Music is so many things! It’s a teacher, a friend, a psychologist. It helps you to feel not so alone. It’s medicine that can heal, an aphrodisiac that can create a mood or make you feel sexy. It archives history and powerful lyrics have been able to chronicle the struggles and the movement of an era and document the times. (think John Lennon’s ‘Give Peace a Chance’ that became an anthem during anti-war movement in the 70’s and Nina Simone’s “Missisippi Goddam’ during the civil-rights movement.) Good songwriting can motivate, inspire and even soothe one’s soul. I’ve always felt drawn to using music and songwriting to capture a feeling or an experience.
The first single from your forthcoming album is Radiant Star. Can you talk us through this?
Sometimes when trying to process conflicts with people or within myself, I write. Sometimes I journal, sometimes I write poetry and sometimes I write letters that I don’t even need to send. The process of writing itself helps me to clear my mind, to come back to calmness. Sometimes I’m able to resolve issues within myself without ever needing a confrontation.
In the case of Radiant Star, I was hurt by the actions of someone whom I considered a really close friend. I penned my feelings down and it turned into a ‘NOTE TO SELF’ style of writing. To remind myself that even though there may be people in your life that judge you behind your back, make you feel like you are too much or not enough, there are so many others that celebrate you and love you just as you are… and to focus on those people, stay true to who you are… accept who you are. A melody then came later to my head with those lyrics. I shared it with Ben (DubFx) and he loved it… next thing i know, we were in the studio!
The album is 8 tracks, showcasing your poetry and original music. How does if feel to be putting this out?
You’ve also teamed up with the legendary record producer, Dub FX. How has it been working with him?
He is such a passionate and creative human being and it’s so great working with someone that I respect, not only for his mad productions skills, but for his musical sensibilities, his attention to details and his ability of drawing the best out of me. It was a very empowering process of growth and learning. I feel safe to suggest different things or ideas of harmonies or melodies and he’s open to hearing them, taking on the ones that work and explaining clearly why some won’t.
He’s also very direct and doesn’t often sugar-coat things, which can be challenging at times, but ultimately has helped me grow as a singer and songwriter. I don’t know if people know this but he is extremely funny, super goofy generally as a person, which helps keep the energy up, even while working with our timelines and goals.
Who have been your biggest influences in music over the years?
Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, Sade, of course the legend Bob Marley, Damian Marley, Massive Attack, Cinematic Orchestra, Bjork, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Miss Dynamite, Bahamadia, Akua Naru, Buena Vista Social Club, Meshell Ndegeocello, K&D, Oumore Sangare, Zap Mama, Tribe Called Quest, Fiona Apple, D’Angelo, Common, Goapele, Jamiroquai, Nina Simone
You’ve settled in Australia. Do you feel that Australia and the Australian culture allows you to express yourself differently through your music?
It’s really hard to define ‘Australian culture’. There’s mainstream Australian culture with I don’t identify with. Within that society though, I’ve connected deeply with the artistic communities from Aussie, indigenous and other migrant backgrounds – singers, poets, free-spirited creatives who have inspired me with their stories and their art. I’ve also spend loads of time on the land – from the heart of the Australian desert, to beautiful remote bush lands. There’s real creative power that gets generated when you travel and connect with the land. So in that regard, yes, it has definitely helped expand my creative expression and music.
What does the rest of 2017 have in store for you?
My main focus is being a mum to my daughter… to savour every look, every phase, every cuddle. I’m nursing her at the moment, so she requires a lot of attention. But I’m learning to find my flow with juggling motherhood and creative life. I will also be launching my website and facilitation business to assist women who are wanting to tap into their creative energy and to express themselves through music, poetry or performance. I’ve been on a hiatus since then but I plan to resume curating my poetry event called ‘We Run With Wolves’ and to keep new songs and poems and sharing them!
Any final words / shouts?
My single ‘Radiant Star’ is out now on http://radi.al/RadiantStar
It’s a track about embracing and celebrating that ‘Radiant Star’ inside all of us. Check it out and share the love!
RADIANT STAR BY SAHIDA APSARA OUT NOW