A Chat with Antonia Vai (11.08.2020)

Following her last release, Antonia Vai is back with ‘Kali’s Song’, the empowering track you need to listen to. The song is told from Kali’s point of view and touches on a range of subjects. We sat down with Vai to talk about the new single, her creative process, music and much more!

OSR: Was there a person or experience that drew you to music?

Vai: My earliest memory of music is the piano we had at home, I started playing it from the point where I was big enough to reach the keys. To be allowed to discover music and explore ways to express myself were things that got encouraged since I was little, so in this sense, this was my first experience towards music. I am very thankful for that.

OSR: What about your music is rebellious, unique or uncommon?

Vai: Wow. It’s a good question but I think it’s not one an artist should answer about their own music. I wonder what someone else, who has listened to my songs, would say about this.

OSR: Is there a backstory to your single ‘Kali’s Song’?

Vai: The old tale of Kali, the one told in Hinduism, is the one that woke the inspiration for this song. You know, Kali is the ferocious blue goddess of death and birth. She is destruction but also the mother of the universe. There is a story of how she is summoned to earth to stop a war between tribes by dancing her wild, unapologetic dance. In her movement, she kills evil structures through her transformative rage for total renewal and peace to happen.

I’ve loved Kali’s story for many years and it is one I keep returning to. She carries a strong feminist statement. She embodies the limitless right to be, to feel as a woman, without seeking permission. What I think is interesting, is that Kali is seen as terrifying but we need to remember; she appears as a reaction, to things that have long been terrifying before her arrival.

OSR: What was the creative process for this track?

Vai: I wrote and produced the song in my home studio, it was a process stretching over a few months, as I actively wanted to explore an electronic sound and produce it myself. My last album Ritual was an acoustic album, which was my deliberate concept from the start, I wanted Ritual to be both written and released in pure acoustic form, almost like songs played around a bonfire.

For ‘Kali’s Song’, I had something very different in mind. I was curious to discover new soundscapes and I got really interested in how I could tell this big story with minimal elements. When I had the track ready I returned to Budapest, where my band is based, and we rehearsed the song, their playing took this track to the next level and it finally found its final form. The same week we shot the live music video together with Nano Film in an underground club in Budapest.

OSR: You released ‘Kali’s Song’ together with ‘Exile’, why?

Vai: The music to ‘Exile’ was written by Swedish producer Somensumo, an instrumental song which he showed to me one afternoon in Stockholm. It just grabbed my heart the minute I heard it and out of curiosity, he gave the song to me to see what happens if I try and write lyrics and vocals for it. As I sat down with the music, the words and melody came really intuitively, from a deep place of rootlessness and yearning for change.

As I showed my version to Somensumo, he immediately wanted this version of the song to be released. This was at the same time as I worked on ‘Kali’s Song’ and it all happened very organically. I felt like the two songs go hand in hand. Their messages are similar in the sense that they are both deeply personal and spiritual to me even, but there is also a political and rebellious layer in the meaning of the song.

OSR: What is your favourite song of all time and why?

Vai: Wow, it’s impossible to choose one favourite of all time. It totally depends on what mood and minute you catch me in. At this moment, the first song that came to mind was Nina Simone’s ‘Sinnerman’. It’s a masterpiece, I just can’t get over how perfect it is. ‘Sinnerman’ is originally an African American traditional spiritual song but I heard Nina’s version first. It’s all there. In the lyrics, the dramatic piano, the pulsating rhythm and that raw power that hits just as hard no matter how many times I hear it.

Antonia Vai

OSR: If you could have listeners take one thing with them from your music, what would it be?

Vai: Oh. Well, anything. (laughs) I mean, really. If people listen and take any kind of emotion, memory, thought, reaction, feeling with them after that I am happy.

OSR: On a scale of 9 to 5683, how much does your environment affect your music making?

Vai: I think environment affects it in the sense that everything I experience eventually gets turned into songs, so even in many unaware ways, the people and the surrounding I am in shape the music I write and the stories I end up telling.

OSR: After the pandemic, are you planning a tour or gigs?

Vai: I am actually planning a gig at this moment as we speak! It’s the release gig for ‘Kali’s Song’, which is taking place on August 12 in Budapest. There are plans to play more this autumn but these dates are still to be announced and, of course, times are uncertain, so we take it bit by bit and await what the future holds with patience.

OSR: What can we expect from you in the next 12 months?

Vai: Well, regardless of how the world is changing or looking this next year, I guarantee I will keep producing and releasing new music, you can expect to hear more from me!

Thanks to Antonia Vai for chatting with us! You can find more about her on her Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Spotify.

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