The singer-composer chats about her latest single, ‘Flames’, and the growing number of indie artists
Anna Katharina Valayil is on fire. The indie singer-lyricist-composer has defied all stereotypes in her new single, ‘Flames’.
“It is about a woman who knows what she wants and is unabashed about her physicality. She is on the dance floor, burning with passion, asking her man to join her. She doesn’t want him to feel embarrassed about people’s reactions. They are in love and she is calling out to him to give into the moment they will cherish and experience for a long time,” says Anna.
The song, an electro/retro pop number, in Anna’s voice has a groovy feel to it with her “uber glamorous” look adding to the flavour of the song. The musician, who got the big break in the music industry with the number ‘Appangal embadum’ from Ustad Hotel, showcases her “ethnicity, mood and style” in three get-ups, one of which reminds you of the slinky, shimmering, cabaret costumes of yesteryear heroines. “These women were ahead of their time with their beauty and attitude. I am a body positive person. I pay a lot of attention to style, I love fashion and enjoy dressing up for myself. It is my sister, Becky Valayil, who takes care of the styling,” she says.
Anna admits that she was a bundle of nerves prior to the release of the video. “I was like ‘Have I gone too far?’ All it took to allay my fears was my husband who told me that was a lovely video. Sometimes, it needs just that one person to believe in you. He has always pushed the artiste in me. In fact, there is a small reflection of how he sees me in the song!” she adds.
It is the second song from her album, Tribemama Marykali, which is also the moniker for her artistic side. “I read a quote that said: ‘Your vibe attracts your tribe’. Most musicians on the streets see God as a vibe. I am a spiritual person and I know that music brings people together. So I decided to be a Tribemama, a mama who brings people together with her music. I am also a mother [to two girls],” she explains.
‘Marykali’, meanwhile, reflects on two aspects of her personality. “Being a Gemini, I have two sides. On one hand, I am like Mary, the sweet, quiet and complaint woman. But I am also like Kali, who has a fearsome side to her. While the Mary part of me shows how much I love the world I live in, the Kali believes that something got to change and that happens only if you change yourself.”
The first track from the album, ‘Freakay’, was a groovy number, which talked about loving and embracing oneself. “When we raise children we always tell them to listen to elders, love others and take care of everyone. But they are never told to love themselves,” she explains.
Both videos were directed by her manager, Nikhil Vijayan, and shot at her apartment in Kottayam during the lockdown. “Although I discussed the concept with several people, no one could relate with my idea when it came to the video. They didn’t know how to handle the theme, the lyrics, the vibe…. Finally, I convinced Nikhil to do it even though he had declined initially. It is more like a home production with my husband, mother, mother-in-law, sister, cousins… around me,” she says.
And she is “humbled” by the response from within and outside the music fraternity. “My peers have enjoyed it. What makes me most happy is that there are no abusive comments. It hasn’t gone viral, but I am happy with the number of views. I’ve given it my best and I felt liberated after I did it. Through this video I wanted to show that Kerala can also produce such music,” she says.
- Brought up in Nigeria till her fifth grade, Anna was exposed to different genres of music from childhood, thanks to her father. She loved listening to Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Fela Kuti and the like. Madonna and Beyonce have also influenced her.
- After finishing her schooling and graduation in Kerala, she did her post graduation in media studies from Australia where she also trained to be a private pilot.
- She sang jingles before getting the break in movies. She has sung in Ee Adutha Kalathu, Ustad Hotel, ABCD, 5 Sundarikal, Laila O Laila and Charlie. She has also written the lyrics for films such as ABCD (‘Johny mone’), Bangalore Days ( ‘Ente kannil’ and ‘I want to fly’) and Laila O Laila.
- Anna also ran a band The Tribe for two years.
Indie music scene is on a revival mode and Anna adds that she has always rooted for the original, irrespective of language. She has been writing and composing songs in Malayalam and English. “When you do covers, you are putting so much effort and time into something that has already been done. The excuse being, ‘that’s what the people want’. But that is a safe game. Instead, if all of us create something new and give that piece of ourselves to people they will definitely take it. I grew up on the golden era of Indian indie music of 90s, listening to the likes of Alisha Chinai, Falguni Pathak, Lucky Ali, Shaan…I want that time to come back.”
Anna is enthused about how many musicians from Kerala are coming forward with original productions. “The day after I released ‘Flames’, Sooraj Santosh came out with ‘Banarasiya’, which had a totally different flavour. Then, we had a Hip Hop Festival recently. It’s all happening in Kerala and I feel proud of that,” she adds.
She plans to bring out other songs from the album soon.