Dubai through the eyes of.... singer/songwriter Gaya
UAE-based and with a voice that lingers, Gaya talks to us about whether Dubai fosters creatives and the success of her new tune The Boys Who Cried Love…
Where are you from? I’m from India. I moved to Dubai with my family when I was seven.
Have you been singing your whole life? Yes. I grew up in a house of music. My mum is an Indian classical music teacher and my dad archives music from the ’50 to now. Music was like the language of our house. It was inevitable that I would continue it.
Is music your full-time job? Absolutely. Music is what I do. I do other creative projects as well to sustain myself, but I’m committed to making my way through art.
Could you sum up your style of music in just a few words? Alternative pop.
Which musicians inspire you? I’m inspired by musicians like Alanis Morissette, Joni Mitchell, Björk; singers who don’t stick to conventions and who are always pushing themselves and have created really iconic things in terms of songwriting and performance.
Does Dubai play a part in inspiring your music? I see Dubai as my safe haven. It has laid the platform for me to create without having any blocks. It has definitely inspired me in my creative process and has helped me to be the best I can be.
Are there any particular places in Dubai that inspire you to write? My home! You’re able to create the most amazing work either when you’re extremely challenged or when you’re extremely comfortable. I think that, for me, Dubai is extremely comfortable, and when I leave town to tour or to do projects, that’s when I’m extremely challenged. Both give me just the same amount of inspiration.
Does Dubai offer independent artists the opportunities they need? Not in a conventional sense but it does in other ways. I think that you tend to be more creative in a place where there isn’t an infrastructure for independent artists; you have to see opportunities when there aren’t any.
For me, when I first started to perform my own music, there weren’t many venues that were doing singer/songwriter style events so I did my first show in an art gallery. If you have a presence of mind and think outside the box you can get the opportunities you’re looking for.
What advice do you have for up-and-coming artists in Dubai? Stay true to your original vision because in a place like Dubai, where there’s so much going on, you’ll get dragged in so many different directions with a lot of people telling you what you should and shouldn’t do. If you stick to what you wanted from the day that you stepped on stage then you’re good.
Do you enjoy covering songs or do you prefer to write your own? I write my own songs but I love covering songs too. It’s a beautiful thing to reinterpret someone’s work and do it your own way. It strikes the perfect balance between bringing yourself into something that already exists and allowing someone to see who you are.
What kind of singers do you like to cover? Songs by Queen, David Bowie, Joni Mitchell… but doing it in ways that are accessible to people.
What about your own music? What inspires you to write? I draw from my own experiences and the experiences of those around me.
Has your writing process changed over the years? When I was younger, writing was a very cathartic process. It was very much about taking what I had experienced, pain or joy, and channelling that into something beautiful. But now that that sort of exorcism is over, I’m able to look at other people’s experiences and make something out of that. It has definitely widened as a process.
Has sourcing a manager been difficult in Dubai? I’ve always managed myself. I feel like one of the characteristics of an indie artist, and one that is so crucial, is that you are so hands-on with everything; you are the only one who wants to take a chance on you. The only one who can hustle as hard, push as hard, and you’re the only one that it means so much to.
Do you have a favourite song on your recently released three-track GAYA EP? I think Fake It Till You Make It is my favourite. It’s my mantra for life. It was a letter to my 15-year-old self and it means a lot to me.
How did you source your team of designers for your Boys Who Cried Love music video? Through the art community here in Dubai. Everyone on board is a full-time independent artist. It’s a really amazing community.
It notched up over 2,000 views on its recent release… It is so heartwarming to receive such beautiful, thoughtful comments about the music video and to see our work being considered worthy of sharing.
Where will your music take you? I’ve travelled a lot to the States and Europe and that’s where I can see myself going with my art. I’ve spent the last three summers in New York and I’m actually going back there in August to shoot the music video for Fake It Till You Make It.
Shooting a video in New York is going to be super fun. There’s going to be a whole New York diary vlog series that’s going to be from the moment I leave Dubai all the way to the release of the music video.
The EP has three songs and I want to make a music video for each. We’ve already started to create something for the third song, Marble Moon, and we should hopefully have finished videos for each in the not too distant future.
Any gigs pencilled in? I’m going to be touring in America. I’ll be doing some shows in Boston, New York and Chicago. I’ll definitely be meeting up with another artist whose blowing up at the moment. I can’t say too much about that right now but as soon as I can, of course I’ll tell you! I’ll be going on tour with them.
Where and when can we see you live in Dubai? Probably in October and November. I’m actually planning a video launch party once I’m back from New York.
Tell us more about your show in Dubai Airport… Dubai Airport is doing this very cool thing where they have a stage in Concourse B, close to where people board their flights. There’s a beautiful little stage there for talent from the region. They asked me if I’d like to perform and I said, ‘That sounds really cool.’ I did it on June 5 and it was awesome. Walking through the airport and seeing your face on every screen was a huge sense of validation.
Favourite place to eat in Dubai? Too many to mention. Wherever I go in the world, Dubai is always the place with the best food.
Favourite place to hang out with friends? The best parties are always house parties. You can go out and have the Dubai experience with a glamorous dinner but we always come back home and have rather crazy karaoke parties.
Listen to Gaya’s music at facebook.com/listentogaya and listentogaya.bandcamp.com.
– Interview by Jemma Carr