Alysha Brilla is out to change the world, one song at a time

Supplied publicity photo
Alysha Brilla is an Indo-Tanzanian-Canadian musician-producer and activist for advancing gender equality in the music industry. Supplied publicity photo

Two-time Juno Award-nominated musician Alysha Brilla has long been outspoken about the Canadian music industry's lack of gender diversity — particularly behind the scenes.

Unfortunately, this year's Juno Award nominees and winners included few women (just eight nominees in categories not based on sales) and none in both the engineer and producer of the year categories.

In the 45-year history of the Junos, only four women have won Producer of the Year and no women have ever won Engineer of the Year.

Brilla, aside from creating and self-producing her own world-influenced pop music (her third album, HUMAN, was released last year), has actively recruited female artists and technicians to join the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences — the voting body that awards Junos — and is an activist for social justice both on and off the stage.

We caught up with Brilla to ask about what's needed to get more female technicians recognized and working behind the scenes, and her own music and upcoming projects.

Alysha Brilla produced her first full-length release, 'In My Head' in 2014. It was nominated for a Juno Award for Adult Contemporary Album of the Year
Alysha Brilla produced her first full-length release, 'In My Head' in 2014. It was nominated for a Juno Award for Adult Contemporary Album of the Year Courtesy of Alysha Brilla
Female producers and technicians like yourself are still relatively rare in the music industry. Why do you think that is?

Recently, Indigenous-Canadian artist Kinnie Starr directed a documentary called Play Your Gender, which examines why there is such a low number of women behind the scenes in the music industry. Having been in it for fifteen years, I think the reason is because when the industry was initially established, it was run by men as a bit of a boys club, where women's only place was as a singer, to be financially exploited by record labels.

How can representation increase in those fields?

I would say increasing representation requires major labels, themselves, to make sure that there are equal numbers of women on their board and in executive positions. I make sure I qualify my production skills publicly so other women may see another woman proudly working the tech aspect of music. I am greatly inspired when I see other women in production and engineering roles. I'll be working with a female mastering engineer on my next album.

Alysha Brilla is recording a new album to be released this fall.
Alysha Brilla is recording a new album to be released this fall. Courtesy of Alysha Brilla
Tell us about the new album.

I'm currently arranging songs for a new album that I will be recording over the next few months. I'm very excited about it. Many of the songs are about being rooted and finding commonality in our humanity. I'll be touring for that album across Canada as well as internationally.

You're very much the modern musician: a multi-ethnic Canadian, female and world-conscious. One of your songs is very literal, that you're all about "Changing the World." Is that what you're trying to do through music?

I appreciate the recognition of my intersecting identity, as it does factor into my worldview and my music. I am trying to make a positive impact through my music. I write love songs, but I also write love songs for the world — those are my songs that offer my analysis on our humanity — its different facets and how we may shift them. Music is such a powerful tool. It has literally saved my life on occasion, and daily, it inspires me to move forward and keep using my voice.

Watch Alysha Brilla's acoustic cover of "Valerie"

Visit Alysha Brilla's website and YouTube channel for more music and info

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About Robert J. Ballantyne

Robert Ballantyne is Artsculture's Creative Director. Previously, he was a journalist at the CBC on a number of news programs including the fifth estate, Marketplace and The National. He also worked as a staff writer at the Toronto Star and other media outlets.

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