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What music means to me: Alexandra Shrinivas

What music means to me: Alexandra Shrinivas

Young people are a key part of our gig-theatre show Lost in Music. We’ve recruited local young musicians for each venue on the tour who will perform with the professional cast. Young people are also involved with the marketing campaign for the show. Here’s the final article from our Young Marketeer Jodie Rae:

In this piece, I interview Alexandra Shrinivas, a musician from Glasgow.  Alexandra is of Scottish/Indian mixed-race descent, and the most recent part of her musical journey has involved exploring her Indian heritage. 

How does music play a part in your life?

“When I was younger, I was very shy and very introverted.  I remember watching the violin being played at school assemblies.  I was so in awe of everyone's confidence when they were up there and the way they would communicate emotions and feelings.

I think that's primarily what music meant to me.  It was a form of communication that went beyond words, where I felt I could really express myself when I couldn’t in any other way.”

What do you use music for?

“I use music as a sort of mind tool.  If I’m thinking of certain emotions, or I've maybe bottled up certain feelings, I think, for me, music is a good outlet for that.  A way to express myself, primarily.  And maybe, even, pull into fruition ideas that I've had in my mind as well that are a little bit harder to explain to an audience.  So there’s a way of expressing things, again, that maybe don’t come as easily through words.”

What is your favourite type of music?

“At the moment, I'm really enjoying classical music.  So, I've been listening a lot to Anoushka Shankar, who’s a sitar player.  And Jyotsna Srikanth, who is a Carnatic violinist as well.  So, they're probably two of my favourite people to listen to at the moment.  I'm learning a lot from that style of music and I feel they always have such a story to tell behind their music as well.”

How do you feel when you listen to the music that you love?

“I feel very liberated, generally speaking.  Another genre I've been listening to a lot is jazz music.  I love Nina Simone.  And I think she always makes me feel really empowered when I listen to her.  So, when I do listen to most music that I enjoy, I feel empowered in the sense of something calling in me like a memory or some kind of emotion, which I can feel during the music.  Like if I played that music myself, I feel I could express that.  Or I feel as though I can resonate with someone else’s story.  If I believe that they are empowered when they’re playing it, I can resonate with that as well.”

What has been your favourite musical experience?

“Most recently, I performed for a friend of mine at a private event.  I was performing Indian classical music for the first time.  So that was a real critical moment for me because it felt like when I first began playing my violin.  Getting up and playing something completely brand new, and something that I'm still really learning about.

So, I had this process of me being prepared and knowing what I had prepared for the audience.  But with Indian classical music, it’s through-composed so you compose as you as you play.  It was sort of like the idea of improvisation, which I've never really explored before.  I could get lost in it because I was playing the bits that I had practiced, but I was also adding all these new layers as I was going through the performance as well.  It was just sort of a reflection of my Indian heritage, through learning the words and the stories behind the words.  It brought back a lot of memories of making music with my grandmother and my family.  So, it stands out as a real pinnacle, for me.”

Is it a recent thing that you've decided to explore your heritage?

“Yeah, it's funny!  When I was younger, I wasn't as connected to my Indian roots.  And because I grew up in Scotland, I was always much more immersed in the culture here.   It was always a bit harder to find things like teachers within that field as well.  I feel like this exploration is something that's happened to me over the last five years.  There have been certain parts of myself, just like my own personality, not musically, that wanted to explore.  Then that led to meeting other players and other people that played instruments like the sitar and tabla.  It was almost like an introduction - through meeting a community of people that I really wanted to explore and work with.”

Why is live music important to you?

I like the idea of there being no barrier between the performer and the audience.  When you're learning on your own, even if you have recorded something or if you're doing something over an online platform, the audience is behind the screen or can’t actually even see who you are as a person.  Whereas live music for me has always felt so intimate – a way of actually expressing yourself, telling a story that didn't involve words, but you could still read the person's body language or see physically how they felt when they were singing or performing.  So, for me, its the importance of there being no barrier between you and the performer.

With every live performance as well, every experience is completely different.  So, there'll be people that I maybe didn't know much about, and I went to see their music, but it really resonated with me in a way that I didn't expect.  But also, vice versa, where I've wanted to go see somebody but then thought afterward that I didn’t fully understand the context of it.  So, I enjoy that there’s a new experience every time you go to a performance.”

So what are some of your earliest memories of music?

“My grandma, my Scottish gran, really loved classical music.  So, we'd always have classical music around the house and that's where I think I really fell in love with the sound of the violin. 

When I would play the violin plays in groups for the first time, I would have all these little memories of me getting up in the morning with my mum and gran playing classical music.  And also, when we would be sitting and talking about music, and connecting over that.  She wanted to become a singer, actually, but during the Second World War, she got tied into other jobs during that time.  And so, she wasn’t able to pursue a career in that, but it was always something that then carried down to me and my sister.  Even my gran on my dad’s side is a classical singer in India. So, I remember listening to lots of tapes and CDs of her performing and thinking maybe one day I could do that.”

How do you think music can help or benefit people?

“I think, primarily, it's an outlet.  So, I feel if there are any times when you are struggling to put something into words or have the confidence to do that within a room full of people, music can be that other medium to put across things that you can’t formulate into words.  It’s another way of expressing, basically, and letting something that you are holding in or within your head out to another person and being able to communicate.”

Jodie Rae is a singer-songwriter, musician, and actor from the West Coast of Scotland.  Jodie uses her music as a raw, unfiltered outlet that reflects her own experiences with love, self, and loss.  She has gigged and performed theatrically across Scotland, at events such as Celtic Connections, DMC’s The PLAZA, and the Dumfries and Galloway Arts Festival.

Lost in Music
Touring Scotland from 16 Sept - 7 Oct 2022
Tickets on sale now.