Emma Shaka is a composer from Reunion Island, also best known for being a singer with an outstanding voice able to easily match her power trio. She wrote, composed and produced her last album titled “Who I am”, which has received a lot of great feedback since. Emma Shaka’s music is raw and passionate, often described as a warm and punchy rock sound sprinkled with pop that will bring you up dancing, or touch your heart through it’s slower and more romantic pieces. “Who I am” is now available on main digital platforms.
Question: How would you describe your sound?
Emma Shaka: In a few words I would describe my sound as energetic Rock sprinkled with pop. ’Who I am‘ is definitely a Rock album with a blend of Pop and Folk. The overall mood is dark and the lyrics are sincere. In one of my songs called ’Let Me Try‘ I describe the difficulties we have sometimes to realize things essential to life. Humanity continues to disparage nature and it seems we are rushing into a wall with no hope of stopping: “Cause we ain’t gonna stay in a world that’s burning, when they’re saying that everything is fine. And I cannot smile when I hear all the lies, they’re just keeping-keeping saying.” I do not like to talk about politics in my songs, it is rather questions of the future, of our children and grandchildren which makes me write the way I do. ’Who I am‘ is not me asserting how I think things should be, but rather a question posed to my family, my friends, and my fans and asks, “do you really know who I am?”. With social networks we believe we know a lot people but I believe it makes us also feel lonely at the same time. Loneliness is also about a theme to this album as sometimes you just feel oppressed by life itself and while we all try to seek answers within ourselves we also find ourselves hoping people around us will understand why we act the way we do despite focusing on our appearance. Most of my lyrics are quite autobiographical, my emotions as well as what I feel is directly dictated my music and represents the core of who I am.
Question: Did you have any pre-conceived ideas about the music industry?
Emma Shaka: I used to have one set of ideas but this has evolved somewhat, for example few years ago I thought it was absolutely necessary to find the right producer, manager, agent and a label or a record company to possibly exist at all as an artist. However I found now that to me this is a common pre-conceived idea about the music industry by the public and therefore by new and emerging artists. I now find that as an independent artist I can manage my music and my private life as I please. To me the most important thing is to be happy and fulfilled in my artistic life and especially as a woman. I can do things at my own pace and follow my heart. ’Do It Yourself‘ therefore suits me completely I work with a small team and therefore every opinion is important. I am surrounded by people who are extremely passionate in what they do, whether it’s about graphics for the album, thoughts on the website or for musical arrangements. I just want to have fun in what I do.
Question: Do you write your own songs? What’s your inspiration?
Emma Shaka: Yes I do, usually I have the melody that comes first and then I find the chords either on bass, guitar or the piano. When I’m satisfied with the melody and the general harmony of the piece I then explore it in more depth so as to develop my lyrics and emotion into the way I want the song to carry over to those listening to it. My guitarist and soul mate James Le Joliff will then add his personal touch and help me to finalise arrangements. Once we are both satisfied with the song we then will submit it to two other musicians David H.Ortola (Bass) and Vincent Perotti in the band for review and finally rehearsal. Sometimes I can be very creative and on the other hand there are times where nothing comes out. If the inspiration is not there I do not try to force things as it might be a good occasion to do something else… which could inspire me! I do not necessarily have rituals to find the right inspiration, but I have noticed that a nice bottle of Australian red wine from the Barossa Valley does help quite a bit! When I’m in creation stages, I have to isolate myself, stay at home, and lock myself in my room. I do not answer emails or phonecalls. During those times looking for my muse, I listen from little to no music at all so I would not be swayed by what I hear. On the other hand watching movies or reading books bundled up in my duvet is a great way to feel emotions that can be translated into music later. In fact I have to lock myself in my own bubble to find out what I am looking for! It is not easy for my family but they understand me and always support me in those moments.
Question: What music/artists do you listen to when you are not playing your own?
Emma Shaka: Of course I listen to rock music but I also have hundreds of CDs in genres such as Rock, Jazz , R & B, Soul, Pop, Metal and Blues. Sometimes I also find myself listening to David Guetta or Lady Gaga too. I love to discover new artists and other types of music as well, I believe singers or artists should never try to lock themselves into one style musically, because in all styles of music there is something interesting to learn. Even though I have a preference for bands like Muse, AC/DC, Janis Joplin, the Jet, Gossip, and Midnight Oil I am also keen on Damien Rice, John Butler, Norah Jones, Brooke Fraser, Eva Cassidy, Sarah McLachlan and Billie Holiday, just to name a few! The way I listen to music highly depends on my mood and emotion.
Question: What’s next? Tour/Album/Single?
Emma Shaka: We’ve recently posted a teaser on YouTube, and in July we will launch the music video of ’Can You Hear Me‘ which was directed by Stefan Miles. It has been a really exciting adventure to make this video and I can’t wait to share it with all my fans. We will be touring Reunion Island until November 2012 as we still have a lot of concerts scheduled. I am also at the same time preparing an Asian tour for the end of 2012 which is a lot of work. Also I truly hope from the bottom of my heart that we’ll be able to come and play in Australia at the end of our Asian tour on our way back home. For 2013 I am planning to release a live album as well as a live DVD, this will feature songs from the album but also some unique unreleased tracks. The second studio album should be released in 2014 and we already have some great song idea for the album, but I won’t say anymore… it’s a surprise!
Question: Was there a moment you contemplated throwing in the towel?
Emma Shaka: Of course like everyone! I had times I wanted to stop everything, I had some really hard times meeting with the reality of my decision to be a performer and it was not easy day-to-day, but I never gave up! The hardest part for me I think was being able to invest a lot of time in the project while ensuring the daily family life. While preparing the album I was pregnant and soon gave birth to my son, this was all while also trying to balance 2 and sometimes 3 jobs, it was hard but I was focused upon releasing an album that had the right sound for me. Despite all the difficulties encountered I didn’t give up, because music is what fulfils my life. Periods of doubt have enabled me to grow up as an artist and created energy and drive in me to have passion and devotion to do what I love. When a child learns to walk, he falls and then rises no? To me life isn’t very different, how could you learn to stand up and face challenges if you haven’t fallen before? You should always stay focused, if you fall down, get back up and keep pushing for what you want to achieve! Periods of doubts are needed to keep your feet on the earth and give you even more reason to keep moving forward to achieve your dreams. I have found that the reward is great and you are always going to be surprised at all the great opportunities that will come to you and all the great people you will meet in your journey to achieve you dreams.
Question: Do you prefer performing live or recording?
Emma Shaka: I love both and I cannot separate one from the other. These are two completely different worlds and yet complement each other. What I like about performing live is the energy, the loud sound, the lights, and especially to be able to live in those magical moments with my band and my audience. Each concert is very different. The public is not necessarily the same and to be able to share and sing my songs in front of my fans is just unforgettable to me and I remember each and every performance! The studio on the other hand is much more comfortable, I can take the time I want to build my songs and think about arrangements. My musicians also appreciate the studio as they can concentrate on the harmony and test new sounds that will be performed during our concerts. These are two worlds that are totally essential to an artist. But if I got to choose then it would be to do a live recording. The energy of the live sound on tape is fantastic! The sound is very different and while less comfortable sometimes I feel that the feelings and emotion I feel while performing on stage, are some of the most powerful I have ever felt! I love the sound of the warmed tube amps, you cannot cheat when you perform live, sometimes small errors can occur but that makes it all the more interesting and challenging.
Question: What/who was your inspiration to go into the music industry?
Emma Shaka: I always wanted to make music. As a child I was already singing jazz and international standards for Christmas time with the some local big bands. It was during my teenage years that I headed into the rock scene. I discovered all the greats at this time, Nirvana, Rage against the Machine, Guns n Roses and many other great bands from around the world. They played a vital role in my life and are the one who made want to make music. I started writing my first songs in high school and haven’t stopped since, I then began hanging out with musicians, I formed a band and started doing gigs in small bars and clubs covering PJ Harvey songs, this was really one of my most fond memories. Right after high school I decided that I wanted to make a living out my music. As you might have guessed, it hasn’t been easy to explain to my family that I wanted to fulfill my passion as they wanted me to become a nurse, but the call of the stage quickly took over.
Question: What is the biggest challenge you have faced along the way to your musical success?
Emma Shaka: The biggest challenge I have faced and am still facing everyday is to be a woman surrounded by men in the music industry, and rock music in particular doesn’t make it any easier. Usually girls are more into pop and folk and it is rare for a woman to venture into the repertoire of rock. It is not easy to explain your choices and ideas in front of boys and how you want or believe how rock should sound! They always find everything too “girly“ and I find myself having to use tricks of my own, to make myself heard and convince the boys to do what I want! Where I come from rock music is not a big part of the music scene. I’ve had to argue and defend myself against some very influential people who were only seeing my band as a bunch of immature teen-adults just because we were doing rock music and played in bars. Seeking to finally finish the album and have it ready for release to the standard we wanted was a real challenge for my team, as we received almost no financial support from anyone. I started producing this album without all the knowledge that was required, as I didn’t know how to start and where to stop. This was a fantastic adventure where we’ve all shared some very exciting moments. We’ve had to overcome challenges, find solutions and especially not give up. I love challenges and if it would have been too easy, I probably would have done something else!
Question: What’s a typical day like, for you?
Emma Shaka: I usually dedicate every morning to my three years old son who does not go to school yet. We walk into town, go shopping or swimming in the lagoon. About noon I prepare his lunch. It is very important for me to spend time with my family; it’s where I find I can recharge my batteries. Life is too short and I do not want to miss a bit of anything. Around 1.30pm, after driving my son to his nurse, I take care of everything related to the internet such as social networks, emails, phone calls, and planning various things. Then around 4:30pm I go to the studio where I do some singing classes. To be able to share my passion is something really important for me, I teach how to write lyrics, breathing work, vocal techniques and especially song interpretation while having fun and enjoying myself. About 6:30pm I go to the rehearsal studio to meet with the boys, we review the set list for concerts to come, work on arrangements, the show, interpretation and the atmosphere of the show. At 8:30pm I pick up my son and we go home then I put my mom hat again and take care of him and the house. Then around 9:30pm when my little demon finally sleeps I take some time for myself or music. I also have an outdoor sofa in my back yard where I like to lie down and this is also where I usually work on songs. I have some busy days but when you love being a passionate person, you can spend hours doing it.
Question: What has been your favourite part of becoming a music artist?
Emma Shaka: One of my fondest memories was in Beijing in 2008. It was the time of the Olympics and I was invited to perform at a concert hall called the MAO Live House. It was located in Beijing’s town-centre and it was packed, REALLY packed! The atmosphere was warm and the audience was entranced, we performed for about two hours and yet it felt like it lasted only 30 minutes! I was accompanied on stage by some Australian mates on the guitar and bass and they are the one who made me discover one of my favorite rock bands “Jet”. They absolutely wanted me to cover one of their songs called ’Cold Hard Bitch‘. I was a little stressed out to sing this song but it went great and I loved to sing it. Somehow I kept it in my repertoire and still play it at my concerts from time to time. Over the years it has become one of my favorite songs that I love to perform.
Question: If you could collaborate with another artist, who would it be?
Emma Shaka: There are so many great artist out there that I would just love to be able to see live, so just imagining what it would feel like to collaborate with an artist I love is like a dream to me! I particular enjoy Anouk, AC/DC, The Vines, Damien Rice and The Frames… But If I got to choose one, even if they have unfortunately split up recently it would be “Jet” for sure.
Question: Do you have a website fans can visit?
Emma Shaka: Yes I have a website at www.emma-shaka.com. Here you can listen to some sample tracks and see some pictures of concerts. Soon it will be much more complete and there will be a blog, gig listing, many more videos and a really cool looking store where you’ll be able to get the CD, tshirts, shot-glasses as well as other things. If you want to stay tuned with what I do then check out the website and leave your email address and you’ll be posted once something comes up. Once registered you’ll be able to download the single of the album and also purchase the album online if you wish. If you wish to listen to more music then I suggest taking a look on my SoundCloud profile www.’soundcloud.com/emma-shaka. There are some other tracks to listen to as well as free downloads. Otherwise of course you can find me on other traditional social networks such as facebook and twitter and I will be happy to answer you personally.
Question: Can you tell us 5 things required for a happy healthy & enjoyable life?
Emma Shaka: This is not an easy question! I will try and do my best to give you an easy and short answer: 1. Do your job with passion not with anger. 2. Surround yourself with positive people (whether in love or friendship). 3. Be self-confident without over estimating yourself. 4. Drink healthy and eat healthy. Good Barossa Valley reds should not be forgotten! 5. Sleep well but do not forget your dreams.
Question: What message would you like to say to your fans?
Emma Shaka: I’d like to say first and foremost, “THANK-YOU for all your support and messages!”. I receive email every week with some of you located as far away as Canada, Mexico, Australia, Norway and Japan! Every time one of you is posting, downloading or sharing our music, it deeply touches me and I would like to tell you that I feel the same way as you do! I can’t wait to perform for you! But I have something even more important to say to my fans, and everyone else for that matter: ”Take care of your families, your children and everything around you. Enjoy your life but take care of it too, try to open your eyes to what’s happening around you and around the world and see how you can help. Global warming, soil and water pollution, drought as well as previous hurricanes might be a sign that something is changing. It seems like our grandchildren will not know the beauty of world we now live in. Every month an animal species disappears and every hour over a tonne of waste is put into landfill while hectares of forest are burned and thousands of children go starving” . I know that as an individual you might think it is too difficult to change things so I’ll give you a tip: Share! Sharing is totally free, and will only cost a fraction of your time. Share your knowledge; share your thoughts, at least share a link once a month of something that matters to you or to our planet. Share a newsletter or a video that will contribute step-by-step to wake people up. Previous generations of world-wide political leaders might not have always taken the right decisions for the sake of our future and that of our planet so let’s not repeat the same mistake over and over again. I do not say this to give any political guidance, just to hope you understand my message and my thoughts. We should all contribute to make this world a better place!
Interview by Brooke Hunter
See the article, here: http://www.girl.com.au/emma-shaka.htm