When you leave an Alysha Brilla performance, you don’t feel angry or sad at the way the world is, you feel uplifted and hopeful. She’ll also get you dancing.
I first heard Alysha Brilla’s music when she performed at a fundraiser for Syrian refugees. It was love at first note. She is a combination of my two favorite artists, Amy Winehouse and MIA. Jazz vocals layered with world music beats and socially conscious lyrics. Her band plays horns, djembe, tabla, keyboard, and bass. You never know what to expect at a gig. She heads with her acoustic guitar and strong, raw, intoxicating voice. I knew of Alysha as an activist before I knew her as a musician so it’s no surprise that her message is peppered with politically inspiring words. When you leave her show, you don’t feel angry or sad at the way the world is, you feel uplifted and hopeful. She’ll also get you dancing.
Your lyrics touch on important topics such as violence, multi-culturalism, and feminism. What do you want to express to the world through your songs?
Music brings people from different walks of life together. I hope that by talking about my diverse religious and cultural background (Tanzanian/Canadian) that people realize that it’s ok for things to be more ofa kaleidoscope where we can have our own cultures working together. There is peace in that. My music is about non-violence, thoughtfulness, esoteric thinking, and critical thinking. On the fun side, it’s about upbeat rhythms that make people dance and think at the same time.
Your song "No More Violence" made it to CBC’s Top 20 Chart last year. It resonated with a lot of people and the lyrics could be applied to so many issues including environmental.
I totally feel that. When I sing "No More Violence", I’m thinking about the Earth because there’s such a strong relationship between patriarchy and the violence against it. When you have a dominant gender, it’s unbalanced and that makes the Earth unbalanced. When you balance one thing out, naturally the other becomes balanced too.
Which other of your songs have an environmental theme?
In "Changing the World", I sing about our bodies and how they’re connected to the Earth. I think that humans forget that we are one and the same with nature, not separate. In the song, I look inwards at my own body. The cells and their biological functions can be reflected in every other organism. This reminds us of our connection to nature and the world.
Newest release by Singer/Songwriter/Producer Alysha Brilla. Ten songs inspired by India, Tanzania, Humanity and hope.
What role do you think music has in activism?
A huge role. Historically, every movement has had music to not only amp people up and get them excited in moments of activism but also for when they’re depressed from fighting so hard and maybe feel like they don’t want to be alive anymore. Music can at least bring them back to the surface like a buoy in the water. It can sustain them and keep them afloat. I think that when you have music that focuses on the issues you care about, you feel like someone else is listening and it’s almost a conversation. You could have no one to talk to at that moment but you can put a song on and connect through that.
Do you think there’s going to be an increase in political music over the next few years?
Oh yes definitely. I hope so! Sometimes people are afraid to be political and even I feel nervous about saying things in certain rooms but when I do, I go to bed that night feeling that at least I said it and I’m not withholding it.
Note: Jessica Burman met up with Alysha Brilla at The Painted Lady in Toronto during a showcase of songs from Brilla's new album Human. Stay up to date with Brilla by visiting her website and by following her on Instagram and Twitter.
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