An empowering and passionate interview with Ananya

We interviewed pop star Ananya to ask more about her music and upcoming EP, her thoughts on mental health and the stigma surrounding it, as well as what she’s been up to as of late.

Ahead of her upcoming EP, which is to be released later this year, multi-platinum pop star Ananya recently released her latest single ‘Let There Be Love’, a powerful and upbeat pop anthem, aimed to empower listeners in these uncertain times.

“I wanted to remind people that beautiful things can blossom out of dark moments. All my music is driven by an urge to connect with people, to share with them in the experience of being human – the good, the bad, and the ugly!”

The talented music artist is also a passionate advocate for mental health issues, where she has teamed up with her mother in 2016 to set up MPower, an organization focused on eradicating the stigma around mental illness and supporting those affected by it in India.

She also helms Svantantra, a microfinancing agency which helps females in rural parts of India set up and grow their own businesses to become financially independent.

AL365: Hi Ananya, Vanessa here from AsiaLive365. Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. Big congrats on your new single. We’re loving the catchy vibes and moods that breathe through colours of the song. It’s been playing in lots of radio stations too. It’s really a great hit. What has the response from fans been like so far?

Ananya: Thank you so much, it’s been so amazing to see the response to the song so far – and totally unexpected. It’s kind of crazy when I get told my music is playing on radio stations in countries I’ve never even been to!

‘Let There Be Love’ is a reflection on the collective challenges we have all been facing over the last few months and the sparks of hope and joy that we have seen coming out of this incredibly difficult time. It’s been so inspiring to see the way that people have come together to support each other, and I think we are all making love and connection a priority like never before. I wanted to celebrate that with ‘Let There Be Love’.

AL365: Tell us more about your upcoming sophomore EP! For instance how many songs will it contain and what was the inspiration or musical direction for this new EP?

Ananya: It’s actually my second EP, I released my first one last year back in India. It was called ‘Fingerprint’ because I felt like I was sharing a part of my identity with the world. It was all based on personal experiences, so putting it together was painful at times, but totally cathartic. The tracks were mostly about love – the beautiful bits, but also the darker side too.

My next EP is coming out very soon. I wrote a lot of it during lockdown. I’m a big believer that music is the ultimate global language, and with my upcoming music I’ve explored things we all go through, like love, isolation, heartbreak, friendship. I wanted to make something people could connect with no matter where they were in the world.

AL365: We understand that you are a strong advocate for MPower, an organization focused on eradicating the stigma around mental illness and supporting those affected by it in India. Tell us more about this cause.

Ananya: In India, mental health isn’t really acknowledged and there’s still a terrible stigma which means that people are scared to reach out for the help they need. Even when they do there are not enough trained professionals and sometimes it’s really expensive. As a result, depression and suicide rates are among some of the highest in the world – I recently read that there is a suicide attempt every three seconds.

I started Mpower because I wanted to make sure that people could have the same access to support that I was so fortunate to have during my own struggles. Our goal now is to stamp out the stigma surrounding mental illness, raise awareness and provide world-class care for people who have been ignored or discriminated against.

AL365: Why do you think mental illness is still such a stigma, (perhaps not just in India, but worldwide too)? What sort of advice or what form of support would you give to people who feel stigmatised by it, as well as to folks who do not understand it? 

Ananya: Stigma stems from ignorance, prejudice and discrimination. Many people’s problems are made worse by the stigma and discrimination they experience – from society, but also from families, friends and employers. We know that people with mental health problems often struggle to find work, be in a relationship, live in decent housing and be socially included. This is because society has stereotyped views about mental illness and how it affects people.

We need to start considering mental illness on a par with physical illness and know that it does not determine your ability or right to contribute to society. It is totally ok to not be ok sometimes. It’s been great to see people in the public eye talking about their own challenges with mental health.  This frank, open discussion encourages many to be more comfortable discussing mental illness, and often makes people more comfortable reaching out for help.

AL365: Besides working on your new EP, what other music (or not music-related) projects have you been involved in?

Ananya: As well as Mpower, I also run an organization in the microfinance business in India. There is massive inequality back home that is impossible to ignore. When I was 17, it spurred me to launch Svatantra (which means freedom in Hindi), a microfinance business that helps Indian women deep in the rural areas to grow their businesses and become self-sufficient by giving them access to fair and affordable financial services. Many of us take for granted access to something like a bank account or a loan, or even the internet, but these are tools that can help people to change their lives. Our clients might be farmers, small shop owners, or women who make saris or jewellery. As a female entrepreneur, I wanted to encourage other women into business. When women work, not only do their lives improve, but so do the lives of their families and communities.

AL365: Any future projects in the mix, collaborations with other artists, or a future tour, gig?

Ananya: I planned to head back to India a few months ago for a bit to catch up with family and friends, but got stuck in LA. I know how lucky I am to carry on working throughout the pandemic, and the benefit of being out here was that I got to come up with a really exciting plan for the rest of the year with my new management Maverick. We have a load of exciting new songs in the mix as well as a couple of collabs, that I can’t talk too much about just yet. I’d planned to do a series of live shows too here, in the UK and in India, but I don’t think that will be possible for a while. Being on stage and getting that intense connection with your fans is my favorite thing so hopefully it won’t be long before I’m performing again.

AL365: What sort of artists or music did you grow up listening to? Any favourites?

Ananya: My favorite artists all make music that is raw, authentic and true. Growing up, I really connected with people like Eminem, Kurt Cobain, Beyonce and Amy Winehouse. They’re all very different, but connected because they make music that comes from the heart. Audiences appreciate that, it allows them to connect with a song on a totally different level.

That is my aim with my music too. Nothing makes me happier than when someone reaches out to me and tells me that one of my songs has helped them with something they’re going through. When I’ve had dark periods in my life, I always turned to music to help me feel a little less alone. The fact that my music helps now helps other people like that is a dream come true.

AL365: What has your journey been like pursuing your one true passion in music?

Ananya: It has been a rollercoaster for sure, and if you’d told me a few years back this is where I’d be, I wouldn’t have believed you. Things were really tough at first, some people said there wasn’t an audience in India for the kind of music that I wanted to make because English isn’t the dominant language. But I stayed strong and true to my vision, I refused to change for anyone. As soon as I was confident being unapologetically myself, everything started falling into place.

AL365: You mentioned that “all your music is driven by an urge to connect with people, to share with them in the experience of being human – the good, the bad, and the ugly!” It’s a beautiful sentiment and reminds me of a saying I heard once which explains how “life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t always spoil the good things and make them unimportant.” Given the global pandemic that has changed the world we live in, what are your sort of encouragement or words of love (from one human to another) do you have for our readers?

Ananya: Follow your heart, stay true to yourself and in spite of everything that is going on remember to try and make the most of every single day. This is a difficult time for sure and it’s not getting any easier yet but difficult times shape us into the people we are meant to be.

AL365: Thanks again Ananya. We’re looking forward to listening to your new EP soon!

 

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