Name: Anita Aysola. Anita means one who takes pleasure in new joys; grace, simple, leader.
Currently: I am a high school teacher, professional musician, singer, songwriter, and a mother and wife.
Favourite colour: I love all colours and I love prints! favourite outfit: Anything that makes me feel effortless and feminine. favourite bollywood star: Aamir Khan.
Favourite hollywood star: Kate Winslet.
Favourite movie: This is tough! In recent years, Julie and Julia and Arrival. In older years, Empire Strikes Back and Office Space.
Favourite singers: Norah Jones and Rachel Price from Lake Street Dive. My favourite songwriter is Randy Newman.
Favourite song: I think it's going to rain today by Randy Newman.
Favourite tv show: Friday Night Lights.
Favourite ice cream flavour: Chocolate Chip. favourite cuisine: Ethiopian and Indian.
Favourite restaurants: Ras Dashen in Chicago, Oyamel in dc, Chai Pani in Atlanta. favourite sportsperson: Serena Williams.
Favourite book: The Harry Potter series. favourite activities: Being immersed in playing music, travelling, hanging out with my family. i hang out: With my husband and two kids! i’m freaked out by: The current state of the US government.
I need: More hours in a day.
I want to be: Surrounded by brilliant musicians and playing and writing all the time. my role models: Malala Yousafzai, Mindy Kaling, Padma Lakshmi – women who live with passion and purpose. They are true to themselves, and they all work incredibly hard to be where they are.
Tips to save the planet: Stay informed. Acknowledge the problem, do whatever you can in your household, and stay on your representatives about stopping the horrific rollbacks on environmental regulations taking place in the US.
In a perfect world: Everyone would be kind to one another and to themselves.
The India-born, Michigan-bred and Atlanta-based pianist and Hindustani vocalist Anita Aysola explores intimately American subjects: dual heritage, mutliple interests, musical and cultural cross-pollination – think Anoushka Shankar meets Randy Newman.
Though she took both Indian and Western classical music seriously from an early age, like many daughters of immigrant families, she resolved to find a more predictable professional career, and her formal education spans everything from engineering to international education policy. Her musical journey began when she played a piece for her sister’s music professor. The professor listened carefully and asked one unforgettable question: “What if you brought your Indian classical training into this?” pointing at the piano. In 2008, she dived into a favourite raga (raag Desh), and wrote Long Way Home, uncovering how beautifully they could blossom together.
On her latest album, Beyond Our Dreams, she cross-pollinates and cultivates personal hybrids.
Produced by a polymath actor and composer of Indian heritage, Samrat Chakrabarti, in collaboration with musical polyglots from the Brooklyn Raga Massive circle, Beyond Our Dreams folds radiant flights of Indian-style improvisation and rhythm into solid storytelling and piano chops.
“For a long time, I felt I had to be one or the other, Indian or American, in both my music and my life,” reflects Aysola. “Once I broke through that assumption, I realized the power of being both, of creating my own personal hybrid. I felt this real need to bring all my passions into my music. To make it a home for both cultures. I’m one person in all these things, and my music could speak to all these things.”
How this would work became a matter of experimentation. “I thought it would be the goofiest thing, sargam improvisation over piano. I thought people would laugh,” she recalls. “People loved it. They wanted more.”
Beyond Our Dreams, written for her youngest child, “toggles between Raag Jog and jazz and the blues,” she says.
The lyrics in Aysola’s songs have a similar – and similarly complementary – dual nature, dwelling in two realities at once, be it as a person of two cultures, or of several callings, as a musician and a mother and wife as Aysola sings to her newborn son and reminds herself that her journey continues, even though her life has been joyfully upended by her children’s arrival.
One thread runs through all her reflections, however: “You have to blend it and unify it. It’s hard to bring things together, but it’s essential.”
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