When we first heard Aruba Red’s effortlessly intelligent brand of reggae, we knew we’d found something special. With a list of musical collaborations that would make most signed acts jealous, it’s obvious that we’re not the only ones to think that for her, anything is possible. Whether in her more upbeat moments or through darker dub sounds Aruba Red brings a social conscience and a real belief that we can all make a difference to a world that can often seem morally void. We caught up with Aruba Red in the middle of her very busy schedule and asked what drives her and what the future holds.
You have a reputation for combining political and ethical messages in your songs. What inspires you to do this?Aruba Red: I am not motivated by fame and I battle against being tempted by materialistic gratification, which in my experience plays a big part in today’s music industry. My reason for singing and writing songs is simply because emotions and frustrations need to get out somehow. Sometimes those emotions can be about personal experiences, heartbreak or loneliness but generally for me the things that make me want to sing or shout out are those that are motivated by injustices around the world and pain caused by the system. I don’t know if my music will
ever change anything for the better in a major way but I do believe that it is a hugely important thing for people to speak out against the wrongs in the world. Just that in itself can motivate other people to make positive changes and I’m a big believer in the ripple effect and in karma. I want to let people know that when they feel angry about wars they are funding through their taxes or disappointed because the demo they marched on didn’t lead to the desired outcome, they are not alone. Music can unite people, vocalize dissent and break down barriers and this is a beautiful thing.
You studied philosophy. Has this influenced the lyrical content of your music?
Aruba Red: My search for the truth and a love of debate influenced my decision to study philosophy and this also influences my lyrics a great deal. I believe that as an individual your passions and the emotions that motivate you can’t always be separated into different areas of your life and that the urge to gain a deeper understanding of things around me is a big factor in everything that I do.
You have had a residency at the South Bank Centre with a number of other emerging artists. How did this opportunity come about?Aruba Red: In the summer of 2007 I was at work at the nursery I was running and I received a phone call from my friend and collaborator Adam Nicholas asking if I wanted to
take part in a three day music workshop run by Nitin Sawhney, I was over the moon. Nitin Sawhney has been a big inspiration to me and many people that I work with. I even have a song that uses a sample from his track “Beyond Skin” on my album so meeting him gave me the opportunity to ask for sample clearance! The project, ‘Aftershock London’ was being run all over the city as a series of workshops. This was an opportunity that helped me grow creatively and artistically in a big way. After three days of creating new music with a group of really talented individuals we put on an intimate performance in the Purcell room at the Southbank Centre, this was special to me in itself but then a few days later I received a call telling me that I had been selected as one of the final 16 artists chosen to participate in a 10 day workshop creatively led by Nitin. We worked together creating new material to be performed at the re-opening of the Southbank Centre. This was a big turning point for me. Up until this, music had been a hobby, things were happening but I didn’t really regard myself as a professional artist and I had a full time job working as a project manager for Westminster Council. Aftershock gave me the creative confidence boost that I
needed and helped me to make the transition from being an aspiring artist to taking the plunge of working on music full time. After performing at the re-opening we were awarded the title ‘Emerging Artists In Residence’. This residency over the last 18 months has involved us putting on a series of events at the Southbank Centre as well as receiving support with our careers.
You played the Royal Festival Hall in February, as a culmination of this residency. What was the experience like?Aruba Red: This was huge. I got to work with all of the Emerging Artists again as well as the amazing composer
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