With jazz, soul, hip hop and non-western forms shaping her music, ALPHAMAMA’s full blown band experience at this year’s Global Rhythms festival will be one of the highlights. The vocalist, poet, mentor, feminist and entrepreneur took time out to answer some questions, telling us about her inimitable style and latest release, as well as revisiting her Indonesian heritage, the way forward for women in music and what we can expect on from her performance on September 24th at Bicentennial Park in Glebe.
“Wow! This year has flow by,” says Alphamama, the woman once described by the Purple Sneakers crew as ‘hip and strong… [with] one hell of a voice’.
Having spent much of 2017 launching her own spiritual clearing/coaching business, writing a book for musicians about income streams and finally clearing “six years worth of taxes,” Alphamama also found time to release a new single and video clip called ‘Stranger In Asia’.
What was the creative spark for the song ‘Stranger In Asia’ did the idea come out of an experience?
There was a very definite purpose and reason to writing that song. I was in Indonesia and experiencing my own spiritual awakening. I felt very unsafe physically over there as a woman and felt the danger around me because I am a woman. It really woke up the sleeping dragon inside me. My father is Indonesian and I have always loved that part of my heritage, my culture. But in that moment, I was walking down a street in shorts and a T-shirt and I could feel the eyes on me and the danger I was in walking alone. It made me feel very foreign and disconnected to the place I love so much. I suddenly felt so strongly the suppression on female sexuality and women’s bodies that religion and culture has afflicted on us. It seemed so wrong to me that the portal through which all human beings come when they are born, are vilified, humiliated, shamed, raped and abused. It dawned on me how much of the feminine aspects of humanity are rejected and denied when it is so divine.
You’ve described the song as “an ode to the uprising of the divine feminine”. Given all the debate around the issue of women being underrepresented on many festival line-ups, what in your opinion is the best way to combat these inequalities?
This is is so deep for me and I could go on all day talking about it. I’m really glad that we’re talking about it here, but also in the media! A lot of great people are doing really great things to change this and I see how the awareness has increased a lot in the last few years. I believe that this change is happening and will continue to shift, but for me personally, what I do is share. I run a music mentoring program for women and work my ass off to make sure that they have access to all the opportunities and facilities that I have. I encourage, I support, I inspire but mostly, I feel it’s about sharing. Sharing spaces, sharing knowledge, sharing resources. You wouldn’t necessarily know this but a lot of women in the music industry won’t share what they have with others because there is a feeling that there’s not enough to go around. Because our industry is small and there are limited spaces available for women, it creates a subconscious fear of missing opportunities or competition or even suspicion amongst women. A lot of it runs so deep we aren’t even aware of it. I myself have felt these feelings but I actively work to reprogram myself and to do what I believe is right. And I believe that my success should benefit others. Sure quotas will help and so will education. But if some of the more successful artists, men and women, were sharing their opportunities and advocating for women artists and encouraging them to go forward, that would really help. We need to apply for the grants, the festivals and pitch ourselves to record companies. Bombard the industry with our presence so that they know we are here and we are ready and we are amazing at what we do.
Which female artist has had the biggest influence on you and why?
Only one? Probably Chaka Khan musically. I love her for the success she’s had while also maintaining her authenticity and she always sounds exactly like herself. So distinct, free and playful with her vocals, but so much raw power. She’s the business!
You always look amazing in videos and promo photos, in terms of styling. Tell us the story behind the photo and video shoot for ‘Stranger In Asia’ and what the inspiration was for some of the headpieces you’re wearing.
Thank you so much!! The concept for the video of ‘Stranger In Asia’ was to really embody two particular expressions of the divine feminine that I was working with at the time. One was Kuan Yin, The Goddess of Compassion and the other was Kali, who brings things to life or death and also liberates. Those two Asian goddesses have been coming through strongly for me and I wanted to embrace the divinity within myself and express that visually.
Best live gig you’ve seen in the last year?
Seeing Hiatus Kaiyote in Alice Springs at Wide Open Spaces was absolutely magical and also watching Ginger and The Ghost at Newkind festival in Tasmania was phenomenal. Both absolutely stunning backdrops of the Australian natural landscape. I was just in a state of awe and bliss.
What can punters expect from your performance at Global Rhythms this year?
I’m really excited to be playing with a band of musicians I love. Lately I’ve been doing a lot of solo shows but having the energy of other amazing musicians on stage is something I wanted to bring for this event. We’re combining all of my favourite grooves and playing the new stuff in different arrangements.. It’s going to be fun!
What’s next for Alphamama – what are you working on?
I’ve got a new record I’ve been working on for a while now, it should be finished in October. In the mean time I’m really focused on my mentoring program and supporting other women in their music careers.