May 22, 2024

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Interview with Alma Naidu: Being an elite patriarchal bubble that doesn’t let anyone in …

Interview with singer Alma Naidu. An interview by email in writing.

Dear readers, get to know more about our US/EU Jazz – Blues Festivals and the activities of our US/EU Jazz – Blues Association in the capitals of Europe, we will soon publish program for 2024, enjoy in the July – August – Brussels, Berlin, Prague, Warsaw, Sofia, new addreses this year, also in Amsterdam, Budapest and Liverpool. – First, where you grew up, and what got you interested in music. How exactly did your adventure take off? When did you realize that this was a passion you could make a living out of?

Alma Naidu: – I grew up in a musical household in Munich, my mother is an opera and concert singer, my father a conductor. I was surrounded by music and we have always been singing. When going to bed, when waking up, on every car journey. Of course we had a piano at home and with already two years old I sat down at it, imitating my parents. With five years old I started taking classical piano lessons, from age 7 to 13 I played the violin, in my youth I took a couple of guitar lessons to learn to play the riffs of my back then favorite band Metallica.

OUR US/EU Jazz and Blues Festivals 2024

OUR US/EU Jazz and Blues Festivals 2023

With my mother and in various children choirs I learnt the classical singing basics. I had my first more modern singing lessons when I was about 15 years old. I had a lot of different interests growing up, so when I graduated and did my ‚Abitur’ I started studying communication science with psychology. Quite early though I realized I needed to do something with music and was planning to go in the direction of film music composing and production. I attended a guest study program at the music university in my hometown and had insights into different classes, including the jazz program. This showed me how in the jazz course you not only learn about playing or singing, you also have classes such as composition, arrangement and theory (which I love). At this point I didn’t really have a clue what jazz was though but was intrigued by the the course! So I applied, got in, experienced „the Jazz“ and quite quickly got into the local scene. Sang as a sidewoman in various bands and projects, was hired to a lot of different stuff – including musical theatre productions – and as of the last year or so, focused on my own music and recorded my debut album. I am very grateful I get to do play my own original music full time.

JBN: – How has your sound evolved over time? What have you been doing to find and develop your own sound?

AN: – I have always loved many different genres and listened to a lot of music throughout my life – from Disney to Metallica. My voice as well as the music I am writing is a product of all those different influences. Coming from a classical voice background, then learning musical theatre technique really helped me shaped my voice and be flexible.

As for my instrument, my voice, I noticed a huge difference and much more ease ever since I focused on the relaxation and untightening of my body. Yoga has helped me a lot with this, especially focusing on relaxing the neck, upper back and jaw. Ever since, my sound is much more free and has more space.

As for my original music: as I said, it’s a product and mix of all my different influences and it continuously changes. What I learned in university taught me the crafts I need for composition. Especially at my study abroad year at the Royal Academy of Music in London, learning different composition techniques from Pete Churchill, I learned so much that I can still draw.

In my opinion, what I very important in finding one’s own style is actually writing the music that I would want to listen to myself. That sounds obvious but in reality, self-profiling and writing to prove yourself to other colleagues is fairly common. I try to not be afraid to really write the music that I like, even though others might not. This might sometimes mean speaking in an easier language harmonic wise. But as long as this is what the music wants and what speaks to me, that would be my choice. I am not above being cheesy. As long as it feels authentic, as long as I don’t feel like I am trying to prove anything with my music, but actually writing from the soul, I believe this is when you can speak about one’s ‚own‘ sound that might touch other people.

JBN: – What routine practices or exercises have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical proficiency, in terms of both rhythm and harmony?

AN: – Whenever I’m listening to music I am analyzing. Sometimes I actively have to tell myself to just listen. Also when I’m thinking about a melody or just humming something I’m always thinking in relative pitches. I guess this is all the regular practice I do next to practicing singing and piano and dancing as a rhythm exercise 🙂

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JBN: – In your opinion, what’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

AN: – There definitely needs to be a balance. It’s important to know the crafts, but it’s not all. You can hear when music is only based on proving your writing skill and intellect. This doesn’t mean music can’t be complex, but the complexity needs to have a musical reasoning. Good music isn’t defined on the amount of chords or the complexity of the rhythm. It can be two chords only and still touch you. Also, no matter which genre – good music is good music when it touches you. And mostly, this can’t be intellectually explained.

JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; are you okay with delivering people the emotion they long for?

AN: – Many of my songs and lyrics are held open so that people may project their own emotions and experiences in them. Some of my newer songs that aren’t recorded yet have a clear rather political statement about topics such as equality. With these songs I really want to address important matters and make people think or let them relate.

JBN: – Can you share any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions over the years?

JBN: – No biography, speeches and so on.

JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of standard tunes are half a century old?

AN: – By not being an elite patriarchal bubble that doesn’t let anyone in. And by coming back to how Jazz once was played – as a form of revolution and for people to dance! There are many bands who cross genres, mix Jazz with other styles, whatever you want to call it. In the end it’s just music! At these kind of concerts you often see people through the ages dancing.

JBN: – John Coltrane once said that music was his spirit. How do you perceive the spirit and the meaning of life?

JBN: – She doesn’t even have a life?

JBN: – If you could change one single thing in the musical world and that would become reality, what would that be?

AN: – Equality. And get music and dance to be connected (again), even in the western world.

OUR US/EU Jazz and Blues Association 2023

JBN: – Whom do you find yourself listening to these days?

AN: – Sting (always), more currently: Snowpoet, Michelle Willis, Pat Matheny.

JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine: where and why would you really want to go?

AN: – 50 years into the future, to see if the battles that are fought in the present will be won.

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Interview by Simon Sarg

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