We spoke to Indian indie artist and music producer, Alisha Batth about her journey as a queer artist and musician!
The indie music industry in India was never scarce of talent. We always had music apart form the ones created for Bollywood movies that we enjoy and hold a place for in our playlists. Alisha Batth belongs to this amazing list of Indian indie musicians who has given music a fresh new outlook. She also happens to be one of those gems who enjoys her own niche. A pop-folk artist, Alisha has been creating and playing music across India while representing queer artists in India.
When asked how her journey with music began, she cannot point to the right time. "Technically, I'd say early on in my teens when I picked up the violin but I'd been singing along to Punjabi music ever since I was very little so it's hard to recall a time that I wasn't on this journey." Alisha started performing on stage at the age of 16 - 17 with her high school band during her final years of schooling when she moved to Delhi. "But it wasn't until I moved to Bombay for college that I began performing solo and decided to pursue music full time." Alisha started playing for live gigs and show during her stay in Mumbai which then encouraged her to move to Boston to pursue this further.
She decided to try and explore the world of art as she moved to Boston to get formal training in music and explore a new world and joined Berklee College Of Music. Meanwhile she also went to Paris to study photography in 2016. After spending her time exploring as an artist, Alisha released her debut EP called 'Prologue.' When asked what was the one thing she wanted listeners to feel when they heard her first EP 'Prologue' she said, "One can hope that the listeners would feel the effort and honesty that goes into putting your work out there into the world but the most any artist can hope for is for them to feel something and I think that's good enough because once it's out there, people find or attach their own meanings which can sometimes be separate from your intent." The EP had a total of 5 songs titled Confession, Why Don't You, Feed Your Fears, Uneasy and Follow.
While she has been finding ways to evolve as an artist, she was also been contributing to the Indian music industry in her own way. From identifying her sexuality at the age of sixteen, finding queer role models in artists like Ani DiFranco, K.D. Lang and Melissa Etheridge and eventually coming out to her mother over the phone, Alisha found the strength and the power to live as her true self. Among all of it, one thing that remained constant in her life was music. It has helped Alisha in more ways than she can count. "As a source of inspiration and of joy and of comfort, both as a person and a musician."
Art has always been genderless. But as a queer artist herself, one thing that Alisha understands about the world of Indian music is that "it's the society that enforces gender roles, not art." According to her pride events are fantastic to highlight queer artists while providing a safe space for queer audiences as well. "But I think it'd be nice if organisers and venues realise that we are queer for the other eleven months as well."
Even as queer artists continue to find the right platform to perform and to be seen beyond their sexuality, Pride Month manages to strike a conversation. The month sees brands and organisers running after queer talents to keep up with the trend that is Pride.
Talking about Pride and the ways people can be better allies, here's what Alisha had to say:
What is that thing about Pride month that people misunderstand?
I don't know, are they really misunderstanding? Because for me it's pretty clear cut, it's about taking pride in and celebrating something that people have wanted you to keep in the closet or feel some unreasonable and unfounded shame about. It's about showing solidarity with the community, letting folks that are either struggling or unsure about their place in the world know that not only can we survive but also thrive.
What are the ways allies can be more thoughtful and mindful of the LGBTQIA+ community?
There are plenty of great sources of information out there for folks that want to be better allies, so reading up and actually listening to queer voices/experiences are always good ways to learn.
Where do you find your inspiration for your songs?
From volcanoes, rivers, people, basically everything from nature to memories and everything in between.
How would you describe your music genre?
Alternative rock inspired by the 90's folk/punk rock era.
If you could collaborate with any artist, Indian and international, who would that be?
If your life was a song, which song would it be?
Swan Dive by Ani DiFranco
Follow this link to check out some of Alisha's work.