One of the loveliest conversations I had recently was with a super talented musician named S.A.A.R.A based in London, England. For about forty minutes on Zoom, we talked about her musical upbringing, why she uses so many different musical genres in her music and the release of the single “Forest”. Keep on reading to find out how does the London-based artist uses a soundscape approach in her music. And, how does “Forest” relate to our current obsession with our smartphones and social media? Don’t forget to check out S.A.A.R.A’s latest single down below too.
Who is S.A.A.R.A?
S.A.A.R.A is prominently a bass player that is based in London. She is also an artist that makes electronic dance. It is described as orchestral funk and experimental EDM. The London-based artist plays a multitude of instruments: bass, vocals, synthesizers, and drum machine.
This multi-talented musician is no stranger to the music world. She has been playing music for a long time. She started off with recorder lessons at school with her brother as small kids. Then, she went on to play the violin, but she was awful at it. S.A.A.R.A then moved onto clarinet after seeing her friend playing it. She admitted that she wasn’t good at that either.
Then, when she entered secondary school in north London, she joined her friends as they were starting up a band. When the original bassist spent all her money on clothes instead of a bass, her friends asked her to become the new bass player. “You know music, you play the clarinet”, they told her, “It as bass or nothing.” Over the years, the band changed names and moved throughout the different genres. S.A.A.R.A also went on to play for other bands, including Ezra Bang and Hot Machine. She also worked on a hodgepodge of projects.
The artist took a ten-year hiatus from music. Then in 2016, S.A.A.R.A quit her job and decided to pursue a Master’s in Experimental Music. She wanted to start fresh and learn the basics as she never learned about things like composition before. Experimental music, S.A.A.R.A thought, would give her the chance to work with music she wanted and find her sound. However, that plan changed. She discovered during her studies that she was into creating sound environments and create sonic installations. She uses these elements of playing with sounds, the perception of sound, and the idea of the audience’s role in the S.A.A.R.A project.
A Mixture of Sound
The London-based artist describes her music as a mixture of funk, new wave, indie, DnB, and jazz. “When I started this project, I didn’t know what I really wanted to make. I was in the mode that “it has to be something”,” she explained, “And I wanted this project to be where people could experience the music and dance at the live shows. Feel like a rave. Having that same energy from the lives being transported to our tracks. However, I also want it to feel orchestral in the sense that listeners feel they combined energy of the instruments together.”
She further explained how each musical genre is added to each track: “The elements of the drums would come through as Drum and Bass or Afrobeat. At the time, I was listening to a lot of Sly and the Family Stone and Fela Kuti. I was always thinking about how they composed their tracks. But, with the people who I perform alongside, we have a sort of jazz mentality when playing each track. Kind of improvising during the sessions and reference artists like Charlie Parker. For the new wave, I think it’s because of my vocal style. A lot of people think my vocals are similar to Debbie Harry from Blondie.”
S.A.A.R.A uses a soundscape methodology when composing the moods, colors, and atmosphere in her music. Instead of thinking of how to write a specific harmony or arrangement, the artist asks herself what would the listener feel or experience while listening. It is all about creating atmospheres, but also adding effects to accent the instruments.
About The Latest Single “Forest”
“Forest” is one the densest track that the artist has ever made. It has many layers: loads and loads of synth that merge into what the woodwinds are doing. What S.A.A.R.A was really mindful about when composing the song was what was the listener wants to experience. And, she came up with a tune that gives listeners that “tense feeling” that is similar to watching a thriller movie.
What inspired the musician to write this tune is the work of post-internet artists. How do technology and the internet are part of our lives? Using what she learned in her studies with her undergraduate degree in Psychology and Sociology, S.A.A.R.A started to make a connection between reality and hyper-reality or the age of the smartphone. Where do we properly exist in this world?
The idea of “Forest” was being in an all-natural woodland with the ghost or supernatural experiences. It makes us feel troubled and haunted because it feels hyper-real. Contrasting that idea with being in a city or in a familiar space that we weren’t connected to but told that this is our reality. This is our natural experience. We have to load that picture on Instagram, or it didn’t happen. We talk to our friends on our phones via texting, especially during the pandemic. We can shop for clothes and order food at the touch of a button. This is our comfortable reality.
Behind the Scenes
S.A.A.R.A admitted that “Forest” was difficult because I had a clear idea of what I want to do, but I am a novice at production. I went into the studio at my university with a couple of sound engineers. They experimented with a variety of drums, the volume of synth, and etc. “Taking something out of the machine and dragging it into real life. Having the sounds of the instrument, the sound of breath.”
The London-based musician hopes that the listeners can feel freedom and empowerment with whatever floats their boat. Be creative as creativity is all about discovering something new that would attract naysayers. S.A.A.R.A also wants listeners to feel inspired. Also, to be in the moment in their bodies by being transported by the music. Just dance your socks off as you are in the moment!
Make sure to listen to “Forest” down below and let me know what you think in the comments!
The London-based artist hopes to release two songs (that are already finished) very soon. She also hopes to start to record a new EP. Hopefully, that can be out next year.
Make sure to check out S.A.A.R.A at the following: