Interview Xylo Aria “I think it’s more important than ever to connect to people”

 

I discovered the work of Xylo Aria through a free master class on music production, which was nothing short of a serendipity intervention. Singer, producer and entrepreneur, Xylo Aria transcends any boundaries and is now using all her music expertise to help other women produce their own songs. She is the founder of MPW (Music Production For Women) which has a You Tube channel and a podcast in the streaming platforms.

I was immediately captivated by her artistry in songs that speak about the way we treat our planets, our animals and each other.

We talked via online call at the beginning of the lockdown about self care, the healing power of music and the fascinating world of female music production.

 

1_ Could you tell us a little bit of your upbringing and early music experiences?

I was born in India, so I have an Indian background and then I moved to Australia when I was about seven years old, with my family. So, we all moved together and I was in Melbourne. Three years ago I moved to the UK, I was in London, and just recently moved back to Australia actually. I moved back just before the Coronavirus. I’m a musician, I started singing when I was really young from India as well and I was taught by my grandma at first and that kind of evolved. I started with more traditional Indian music but then I got into more electronic stuff as I went along and now I’m in electronic downtempo music.

2_ How do you think music intersects with self care and do you think it can be like a therapy for the soul?

Definitely. Especially if you’re having a really tough time like emotionally and you’re going through something, I think music is such a great outlet to let go of these feelings in a new and creative way. And also, when you’re really happy, but for me it happens more often, I guess, when I’m sad and I think for a lot of others. But I think it’s a great way to express and let go of something that is a really intense time for you.

3_ Could you talk, in your catalogue of music, about some of your songs like “Paradigm”, “Awakening” and “Pig”? Did you want to do a sort of social commentary or convey a message? Can you highlight some of these songs and the process of creating them?

So I think for me, music is another medium to communicate to people. I think it’s really important to talk about things you really care about and for me a lot of that is environmental things and just how to be a little more aware as species of the world and the impact that we’re having in the world we’re living in. It’s always something that’s been in the back of my mind to talk about through my music. “Pig” was actually the first track that I released myself and produced myself, it’s about industrial meat farming, it’s about just that from the perspective of an animal. It’s pretty intense actually if you listen to the lyrics and that was kind of my commentary on that issue. Another track I released last year, it was called “Greed”, and that’s about over consumption in society today, greed essentially, and I actually have a song on my last EP called “Consumerism” which is exactly about that, just a need to consume way more that we probably need to. There are some issues that are close to my heart that I speak about when I need to.

4_ How has the Coronavirus changed your approach to art general and to life?

Well, to art, I’m a solo artist anyway but still it has become a lot more solo during this time. You are not really going out, gigging or performing in front of people so it’s a bit more disconnected, I would say, to a community. We blog but oftentimes is easy to feel very alone in the world with the lockdown and everything. I think it’s more important than ever to connect to people and reach out and talk to people that are close to you. And focusing more on deep meditation and in doing yoga and exercising every day is also healthy for sure.

5_ So, last question, I wanted you to talk about how you had the idea to create MPW and what do you intend to achieve with this community.

My big vision is for it to the first thing any woman thinks about when she wants to get into production because I want for it to be that nice and welcoming space for people to really feel like they belong. As an artist I always worked with other producers and for whatever reason it didn’t work out too well for me and I decided that I needed to produce my own music, that would be the way forward, and that felt like a very lonely process. For me it all came down to three main things, one is the teaching content that I was looking out when I was learning, it felt a little bit alienating in the sense people were moving really quickly and I didn’t really know what they were saying, they did not talk in very plain terms. Secondly, was the lack of community, I didn’t feel like I had a place where I could go and ask any questions and thirdly, the lack of visibility. I didn’t see anyone that looked like me producing music. So, with MPW it’s my aim to tackle all these three things. One of them is the teaching content, have it really conversational and easy to understand, secondly is having that really strong community where people feel comfortable  to ask whatever they want to ask and feel supported  in this space and the third thing is increasing visibility, so we have a podcast, we have a YouTube channel as well, where we’re increasing the amount of content by female producers. I hope that other young women coming into music production might be able to find this and see it as something they can aim to achieve.

Paula Gouveia

Information is the path to inclusion

 

My husband and I usually joke that we never do life in easy mode: we’re constantly doing more stuff than we should and most of the time with some pretty big difficulties along the way. When we had our son, Gonçalinho, we had just bought our first house. We dreamt of the day that we would bring him home and, for the first time, we didn’t expect any problems – we were healthy and the pregnancy was completely normal. However, a few hours only after our little sparrow – that’s what we call him – was born, everyone could tell that something was not quite right. He was severely hypotonic, extremely floppy and hypermobile. Life was not the same after that.

The road to a diagnosis ended up taking almost 12 months (Osteogenesis Imperfecta and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, two syndromes without a cure). We had already learned by then that he had severe allergies as well, reacting by ingestion, smell or contact and going into anaphylactic shock a few times. During this time, he was constantly getting hurt (joints, muscles and bones) and was developmentally delayed – e.g.: while other kids were already pulling to stand, he was still mastering how to sit upright. In order to help him achieve gross and fine motor skills, he started doing physiotherapy when he was 1 month old. Later on, we added occupational therapy, speech therapy, hydrotherapy and music therapy.

Our life completely changed. Our son was disabled and would need help to learn things that most kids do naturally. He fractured with minor trauma and subluxed while doing the tiniest of movements. I had to stop working, due to the amount of therapies that he had – at least two sessions every day. I went from having a team at work to being completely isolated at home, searching for the next thing that could help him develop “normally” and I became obsessed with information. Most special needs parents need to stop working, at least temporarily, to give their children the best care possible. Unfortunately, our government is not very flexible with special needs parents in terms of working conditions. I am very lucky to have colleagues and an employer that completely understand our situation, but most parents are not so lucky. Their employers or colleagues might feel that the parent is skipping responsibilities at work, when in reality most of them, sometimes, don’t even sleep in order to manage everything for their children.

Slowly, I started to understand that a lot of people would look at us with pity, like his disability was something wrong or a taboo, a burden even. Not a lot of people would understand when I tried to explain what he had, what he was going through. So I started writing to break down barriers, to show that having a disability doesn’t make you less worthy of a fulfilling life, to explain in easy terms what he has and to show all the parts of our life – the bad but also the good ones.
I got involved in several projects to help advance the knowledge about his diseases, anything from TV to writing articles to magazines.

I became an activist, so no other parent has to deal with this alone. I even created a community for parents of other children with specifics needs (www.facebook.com/groups/maespaiscuidadores), so we can all support each other. I also never lost touch with my professional life: during all this I completed another master’s degree and kept completing courses and getting certificates.

Nowadays, Gonçalo’s almost 3 years old. The biggest challenge we face is finding the perfect balance between letting him try new things that help him develop new abilities while at the same time protecting him from hurting himself. He still doesn’t walk or talk (he’s starting to say a few words). He still does therapies daily. He has to be monitored 24h/24h, since any activity can cause him to break a bone or get hurt in any other way (e.g.: one of his fractures happened because he didn’t seat correctly). It is very taxing to plan all his appointments – his daily therapies, his doctors’ appointments, medications, hospital stays, among a lot of other things; we keep a calendar just for him. It is also very difficult for me to deal with emotions at times, especially when he is going through a procedure, or he gets hurt. Luckily, most of the time I already know what to expect and how to prepare for what’s coming. I still am obsessed with information, but I try to share it in the community instead of spending hours at medical articles or any other source of information. I think that was my way of overcoming the obstacles faced – by learning as much as I could about my son’s conditions.

My mission is to educate. To promote a human conscience, instead of feeling sorry, ask “how can I help?”, ask parents for permission before feeding a child, for example, you never know if that child has an allergy or other invisible condition. To raise awareness that it is ok to have a disease, what is not ok is to be excluded because of it, especially when we talk about children. Indeed, “it takes a village to raise a child”. To make people understand that it is not easy at all to have a son with two rare diseases but it isn’t also the end of the world.

My motto is “information is the path to inclusion”, since we tend to fear and disregard what we don’t know; if we have access to information, the taboo is gone. I think my message for any parent going through a situation like this is that there are good days and bad days, we just have to make sure that the good ones surpass the bad ones so the balance is always positive.

Tânia Vargas

https://www.facebook.com/mundogoncalinho/

Seven lessons learned with Lady Gaga on Oprah 2020 Vision Tour Visionaries

 

At the beginning of this year, Oprah Winfrey, kicked of a tour to talk with some of the most fascinating figures in the United States of America. The singer and actress Lady Gaga was chosen to be part of a panel and she decided to address mental health, sharing her personal story and hoping to offer light to others facing similar hardships.

Here are seven take aways from the capitivating conversation:

1_ In order to heal, you have to feel. Lady Gaga reveals she has been dealing with a lot of pain for most of her adult life and she ultimately discovered she fibromaylgia, which was a response to the intense trauma she had been through after being raped at multiple times at age 19. In consequence of not processing this suffering properly she also developed PTST (Posttraumatic stress disorder) and began self harming. It was only when she hit a mental health crisis with a dissociative psychotic break, that she seeked help and assembled a team of professionals to assist in her recovery.Read more

Pain is universal: Three tips to make it through hard times

 

As cliché as it sounds everybody hurts. When life is not all sunshine and rainbows, we tend to think something is deeply wrong with us, we feel lonely like we aren’t a part of something bigger, like we are totally disconnected from the Universe. Like we are too damaged to ever be fixed, too broken to ever be healed, beyond any kind of redemption. Nothing could be further from the truth.Read more

A must watch: “Let there be light”

 

“Let there be light” is a documentary made by the famous filmmaker John Huston about a group of returning veterans from the war suffering from post-traumatic disorder, displayed in several nervous conditions.

Set on Mason General Hospital on Brentwood, Long Island, the largest mental health facility on the East Coast, the unscripted documentary aimed to help spread awareness about what was called “shell shock” and “psychoneurosis” at the time, break down the stigma and to prove that after mental instability brought by the war, those human beings were normal after psychiatric treatment and ready to rejoin society.

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How to cope with loss

 

Time and time again we are forced to jump through hurdles and face the bitter truth: that we just lost something that is unreplaceable: a relative, a friend, a lover, a place, a state of being. It can be either physical death or the death of a feeling, it doesn’t really matter. The end result is the same: a pounding in our chests, a pain that we can’t just shake off and sometimes a certainty that things will never change and that we will always be miserable and unhappy.Read more

What do we talk when we talk about mental health

 

The title of this post comes from the short story collection “What do we talk when we talk about love” by Raymond Carver.

In this day and age does it really make sense separate body from mind? Because mental health is not just scary illnesses or those that can be wrongly perceived as mere weaknesses. It’s also prevention, well-being practices and actively working as a society to reduce the stigma and be more inclusive.

When we talk about mental health it’s usually like an epidemic, with depression on the rise around the globe and becoming the leading cause of disability worldwide. Their numbers illustrate a worrisome reality: we can be busier than ever, we more information and resources in the tips of our fingers but that is not making us necessarily happier.

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