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Brown Girl

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Aaradhna Patel

Her mother is Samoan, her father Indian, but she hasn’t known any home other than New Zealand. Aaradhna Patel grew up in a musical household with a confident performer for a father, and a mother who taught her Joe Dolce’s songs as lullabies. At the 2013 Pacific Music Awards, she set a record with six awards including Best Album for Treble & Reverb and best song for the fantastic Wake Up. The foundation of her work however has a touch of grey—racism has haunted her throughout her life and proven to be the seed of thought behind most of her albums. Aaradhna is a soul singer with a very powerful and impactful voice. In this interview, she opens up about her disturbing past and the art that keeps her going. 
How have your mixed roots influenced your work? Which of your backgrounds evokes a feeling of belonging?
I've visited my parents’ homelands many times, so I feel connected to those places. But it’s my parents who are my home, and they have given me more than enough to influence my work. My parents are singers. The first piece of music I ever heard was from them. My Dad always played Indian music and Bollywood movies, so I would watch those with him and sing along even if I didn't understand what it meant; I would imitate the songs and just hearing my dad sing is always magic for me. My Mother loves her Samoan Gospel… she writes her own church music. She also loves country music so she would always sing to me as a young child and play her favourite country music out loud in the house. I absorbed everything they gave me.

Your first record, I love you, came out a while back and was very well received by the music fraternity... some songs have aged well. What inspired it?
Most of the songs I wrote on that album were mainly about love... when I think about it now; I would call it a young, naïve sort of love. I thought I was in love at the time but really I hadn't experienced enough. My first record was like a diary from a young girl still finding her way. 

What does music mean to you?
Music is therapy for me - there is strength in it. It's my ideal form of communication. I find freedom through writing music and when I write music I want to be sincere about it, so I write and sing only about things that I can relate to and what I am experiencing in life. I appreciate sincerity. 

From 2006 to 2012 you had a rough phase…you disappeared as an artist and a public figure. Thereafter you documented all the triumphs so winningly in your album, Treble & Reverb. How difficult were those years and what inspired you to take it all out through an album?
It was a tough period; I was dealing with a lot of things. I used to be a very sensitive girl when I started out. So reading harsh remarks about myself on the Internet and dealing with different sorts of people who took advantage of my kindness really took its toll on me. I was just a girl that wanted to sing; I didn't know how hard it was going to be till I had to go through it. It really put me off to be in the spotlight, being judged for every little thing. So I left the stage. But music never escaped from me, I kept writing, I wrote to stay sane, I kept on writing till I had a whole heap of songs and after that I realised I’d grown a thick skin from scripting how I felt about everything. It helped enormously, and that's why I say music is therapy. I'm still a sensitive soul but I definitely know when to shut off all negative energies and use hate to my advantage.


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