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BuzzMusic Exclusive: An In-Depth Look Into Priya's New EP "Beyond Borders"

How did you originally get started making music and decide it was something you wanted to pursue? 

I have been making music for as long as I can remember. My mom put me in piano lessons at 4, but I never really fully learned to read music for piano- at least not very well. I would just listen to the notes my teacher would play and copy her as best I can and *pretend* I had learned the pieces, when really I was playing from memory. I grew up loving poetry and writing poems in my spare time, so naturally when I hit high school my two loves of music and poetry combined to make one emo kid playing songs about love and heartbreak from the piano in my dining room. But even in moments without a piano, making my bed in the mornings I would hum and make up melodies on the spot to see what little snippets I could come up with to make the time pass. I went to a performing arts high school in Oshawa, Ontario, called O.C.V.I and that is where I trained my ear and expanded my understanding of music through jazz and chamber choir, and jazz and wind ensembles. I was exposed to the greats like Ella Fitzgerald, Herbie Hancock, and Miles Davis, but also Eric Whitacre and Bobby McFerrin all the while still consuming pop/rock music of the early 2000’s, and my mother’s music like Eva Cassidy, the Beatles. This exposure to quality music and the thrill of improvisation, and gorgeous complex harmonies really shaped and influenced me as a songwriter.  I wanted to go to college or university to pursue music when graduating high school, but instead my parents encouraged me to go into science in the hopes I would one day become a doctor. After my first year of university, I switched majors into the acting program (I had missed the audition date for the jazz program). While at Dalhousie I picked up guitar and learned the craft of performance. I have since become a professional actor, but music has always been my first love. After graduating from the National Theatre School in Montreal years later, I moved to Toronto to pursue acting, but found myself writing music late into the night after my shifts working as a host in downtown bars. I sat on these songs for years until last year I booked a major theatre gig and decided to invest in myself. I took a small amount of money saved and recorded my EP at a small indie recording studio in Toronto, Lincoln County Social Club, and decided to put myself out there, first through open mics at the Supermarket in Kensington Market, and then from there began booking small gigs throughout the city.

We love your EP "Beyond Borders"! What does this release represent for you?

Aw, thank you so much! The songs on this EP were written at a very transitional time for me as an artist. The release of this EP represents an act of courage and radical self love, and offering the message of love as a gift to others. It is an expression of my struggle with finding power and strength within myself, it is a love letter to those who may be struggling with the same thing, and it holds my hopes for a brighter future for humanity - one in which we rise above our differences, our borders and our personal struggles to find the beauty in human connection.

What emotions did you have to channel when writing this EP? Is there a song that evokes more emotion than the others?

I would say all of the songs in this EP tend to be quite emotional, because I am an emotional person. I love performing Little Girl, especially with a full band behind me. I feel so empowered singing that song and I hope it does the same thing for others who hear it. However I think the most emotional song for me to perform, is Beyond Borders. I have finished that song in tears before, in a room full of people sniffling and somehow, in a weird, maybe slightly sadistic way, I LOVE IT! Haha Because it means I moved people, and when you move people it means you’ve hit on something authentic and truthful and I did my job as an artist. I channelled something that made people FEEL, and experience connection. 

Can you dive into the lyrics of the title track "Beyond Borders”?

I wrote this song originally as a poem in Indira Gandhi airport on my way back to Canada from a trip to India to visit family I hadn’t seen in over 13 years. It was a very special and profound experience for me that opened my eyes, and changed my perception of the world, my relationship to my family, and relationship to myself.  “What is Love in the eyes of the broken, could it come by the face of a queen? What is freedom in the eyes of the rich, have we forgotten how to see?”  —There is so much poverty in India, it is difficult to ignore. This was a question about the value of money and how we often use it to show our love, but is that really true? Are we really making an impact by just giving money to the those that suffer, or is there a more honest and truer display of affection that has nothing to do with money, but instead with giving someone the dignity and respect of being seen, being heard and offering real love.  But mores  having the queen’s face on our money... it is a question about British colonization and the irony of how in the past the narrative has been “it is for the benefit of this new world to colonize, to make this new land and it’s people *civilized*” but it’s effect is actually the opposite— colonization is largely responsible for large scale poverty, exploitation of people and goods, and a loss of culture and identity, not just in India but also on our own doorsteps in Canada with Indigenous reserves where our own people do not have access to clean drinking water. It is ironic… throwing money at a problem. But the money is the problem. And the people who hold power and privilege and do not acknowledge or share that power, giving voice to others or respecting others rights or access to common necessities of life is the problem. I think people are more open to change when things are phrased as questions and I don’t have the answers, which is why I formed the first line as a question- to challenge the listener to think. "A woman’s worth isn’t woven into cloth or reflected in a ring Strength is sometimes hidden in the silence, The bruise beneath the surface of what’s seen" —I am outspoken about domestic violence, because I am a survivor of domestic violence, and many strong women I know also are. When I was in India I learned of some horrifying stories shared by some incredibly strong women, stories that they had not even shared with their own families. It is a completely different way of life, run by patriarchal systems that are going strong and difficult to challenge, even in this modern age. I don’t want to paint only a negative image of India, there were many beautiful elements of my experience, but developing a deeper cultural understanding of the rampant violence against women which is frowned upon in public but behind closed doors is a part of every day life for many women…. I could not simply ignore it. Cloth weaving is a traditional cultural activity for women of Manipur (where my father is from), and certain patterns of cloth are given as wedding presents. But the expectations of women who enter into marriage are, to my western upbringing, relentlessly demanding and unequal, even for women who have very successful professional careers (of course this is a generalization, but I feel confident in saying this is true for many people). It really put things into perspective for me, the life I might have had if I was brought up in Manipur and what might have been expected of me had my father not immigrated to Canada. Would I have survived? I don’t know. But I do know I have a privilege of speaking out against domestic violence, when many women do not, because to do so would put them in more danger. So I will use my privilege to raise awareness, give someone hope, challenge patriarchal ideas and I refuse to remain silent. Silence is what aids in the continuation of domestic violence. We will never end it if we continue to to deny it’s existence.  “Oh we danced to music in the silence And we found god in a stranger’s face And we’ll never be alone again as long as hearts are home Beyond words, beyond borders, beyond race” — I met some incredible people in India that I connected with on such a deep level, even though there was a language barrier. While I was in Manipur I took lessons from a spiritual elder who taught me traditional songs and dances in Manipuri. And though we never shared a common tongue, we communicated universes to each other in the silence. It was a very healing experience for me. Not just spending time with her, but with the many new friends who showed me such generosity while there. Witnessing their grace and resilience and being welcomed into their world as a member of their community, even though I felt I would be an outsider being only half a Manipuri (I was nervous that I would not be accepted). But truthfully, I only ever felt a beautiful and pure love that transcended barriers like language, or race, or distance. To know that you are never alone if you have an open heart, if you listen and find joy in connecting with others, regardless of your differences, it is such a powerful lesson I wanted to share in this song.

How have you honed your vocal style over time, and did it take a while to find your vibe, or did it come naturally?

I think I will forever be honing my vocal style and finding my vibe. I listen to music across genres: r&b, hip hop, folk music, jazz, rock. But I suppose it is both naturally and over time through my musical influences and trying to emulate artists who I love and admire.

What are the main values you want to bring to the music world?

I want the world to feel connected and moved when they listen to my music, whether its through feeling empowered by a song, feeling they are not alone, or feeling like there is still hope. Mostly, I want my music to inspire love: love of others and love of ones self. 

Listen to Priya here!


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