Alysha Brilla is no stranger to mixing music and politics.
“At first they were separate because I didn’t see much social justice talk in music when I was growing up. Bob Marley was the closest thing,” Brilla said.
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The Indo-Tanzanian-Canadian singer/songwriter grew up in a mixed household, a Christian mother and Muslim father, which piqued her insight into the debates that ensued.
“As a kid, I’d hear them talking or debating about certain things, maybe values or religions, and I had to be critically analyzing, is one of them right or wrong? Or, maybe there’s merit in both of their viewpoints,” Brilla said.
Her father, who immigrated from Tanzania, was the inspiration for her song Immigrant, touching on a topic which came front and centre in the U.S. presidential election.
“I think if people actually realized Europeans were only here in the last couple hundred years, who came here on their own journeys, they would be able to see that complaining about immigrants has no basis in logic at all,” Brilla said. “It kind of erases indigenous people as well, when someone like Donald Trump or whoever is putting white Americans or white Canadians at the forefront, it totally discounts the fact that indigenous people were here.”
It was her mother’s macabre and twisted humourous takes on old church songs which turned her interest to music.
“My mom’s interest in the English language and being funny made me interested in music too,” Brilla said.
Brilla just released her third album this summer, Human.
She said the themes are more esoteric on Human and the album is steeped in the influence of a trip to Tanzania and India in 2015, exploring her father’s homeland.
“That’s when I wrote all the songs for this album. It was really amazing to go there, so that’s where all these songs were written. So they have all those influences too, you’ll hear some sitar, and you’ll hear the tavla, the drum. It’s got that eclectic vibe, but it’s certainly drawn from those sources,” Brilla said.
Brilla, who hails from Kitchener, Ont., just directed a short film there as well. The film is entitled Supporting Indigenous Students, exploring how post-secondary institutions can better accommodate indigenous students.
“Music is my main thing, but any time there is an opportunity for me to use my body or my voice to stand up for what I think is right and socially just I try and do that,” Brilla said.
Brilla has recently visited Kelowna schools for two weeks performing and engaging in discussions with youth.
Brilla’s lyrics often explore empowerment, equality and social justice, a message she hopes to pass on to youth.
“The students are really cool. I would say there’s a portion of the students who have heard about social justice and intersectionality and equality, or they’ve had these critical discussions with their parents,” Brilla said. “They’ve had this discourse, but a lot of them have not and this might be the first time someone is coming in and addressing it and talking about it.”
She discusses themes of anti-bullying and embracing diversity with students after a musical performance.
Brilla comes to the Dream Café Nov. 26. Tickets are $25, or $59 which includes a ticket and a three-course dinner. Doors open at 6 p.m.
For more information visit www.thedreamcafe.ca.