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  • Date
    07 AUGUST 2023
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    Artela’s Music Is a Source of Empowerment and a Catalyst for Positive Change

    Welcome to the magical musical world of Artela! As an artist, Artela takes listeners on a captivating journey through her unique blend of sounds and styles.

    Her music is a reflection of her own life experiences, and she channels those emotions into her compositions.

    With her background as a singer, composer, music producer, and multi-instrumentalist, Artela brings a diverse range of skills and influences to her work. Drawing from her upbringing in Taiwan and New York City, her music is a fusion of cultural influences and personal stories.

    Artela's debut album, Faceless Girl, is a testament to her artistic vision. The album explores themes of conforming, misogyny, individualism, and freedom. Through a mix of electro-pop, hyper-pop, electronica, and house, Artela creates a sonic landscape that refuses to be confined to one genre.

    Her music is not just about self-expression but also about empowering others. It resonates with anyone who has ever felt like they didn't fit in, encouraging them to embrace their true selves and find strength in their uniqueness.

    So, get ready to immerse yourself in the enchanting sounds of Artela's music. Let her magic transport you to a world where individuality is celebrated, and where the power of music can heal and empower.

    Share with us a few highlights about your background as a child. When was your first approach to music and what influenced your path to explore it as well as performance art? How did ARTELA emerge?

    I was born in Pingtung, a town that looks a lot like paradise located on the southernmost tip of an island called Taiwan. I was born with music in my bones; my mother is an opera singer, my aunt is a pianist and my uncle is a flamenco guitarist. I started learning piano at age 3 and joined the music conservatory at age 7 where I learnt to dance and picked up violin. In high school, I took voice and musical theatre lessons, wrote music on my keyboard and performed in local venues with my band while touring with a classical chamber music group.

    I won a scholarship to study Classical Music in the US and soon packed my bags and moved my life to the US, where I’d sit for hours practising the same 8 bars of music. The obsession with perfection almost put me off the music entirely, and the small Midwest town was not the liberating experience I imagined. But I felt free in New York City, and finally won another scholarship to support my move there to experience a whole new world of music; one where rules were made to be broken. I spent my free time neck-deep in dubstep, house, electronica and techno, and became a full-time touring classical pianist who DJs on the weekends.

    In March 2020, I flew home for a family event and, thanks to the pandemic, was unable to fly back. The contrast between NYC and Pingtung was a huge shock and brought back painful memories. Stuck in my childhood home, old traumas resurfaced and my only outlet was music. That’s when the Artela project began.

    In Taiwan, I never felt like I fit in. I’m taller and bigger than average, and my idea of success doesn’t include getting married and staying at home as the ideal woman. At the same time, I love my culture and am proud of where I am from, so I have many conflicting emotions. Writing music as Artela is a way to work through these complex emotions and channel my creativity at the same time. 

    Surreal sounds and your feelings about a society where you don’t fit in merge into your regenerative art. How do you think music as a form of meditation can have an impact on the human body or mind?

    I remember the first time I heard SOPHIE at a friend’s studio in Bushwick. I had never felt so seen and understood in my life. I was stripped naked by the music and the sound waves from the monitors just crept on my skin and embraced me like a delicate silk fabric. It was at that moment that I thought to myself, I recognised the greatness of Beethoven, Puccini, and Mahler, but this (electronic music) is who I am and where I belong. 

    Music became more than just beautiful melodies, brilliant chord progressions and glorious harmonies from that moment—it became a performing art that celebrated individuality and liberation. After working long hours playing Bizet for the opera company, I found peace and comfort in electronic music shows. It was my refuge, where I could finally be comfortable in my skin. It was a personal journey, uncovering a deep connection between my body and the beats. To me, music is not about the pursuit of perfection anymore, it has become the language of self-acceptance.

    Walk us through your process research when it comes to developing a new composition.

    Melodies and chords all come very naturally to me with my musical background. It’s a blessing and a curse at the same time. My process is a constant battle to break the structure and the harmonious sound I create. I will write something in front of the piano, and then go into the studio to “destroy” everything I compose with the softwares, plugins and the synths. Then my team and I will add back elements of me slowly until we’re happy with the music that shows my authenticity.

    Do you think loneliness can be part of self-repair and growth? What about the connection between art and music being part of self-repair?

    We all long for feeling the opposite of loneliness, but we don’t even have a word for it! That’s because loneliness isn’t a state of mind or a feeling, it’s a therapeutic tool for us to get to know ourselves. Oftentimes, getting to know ourselves is the most difficult task we can do in our lifetimes. Yet, we can only do it when we’re left alone without any distractions. Until we can accept the brutal loneliness, we will not be able to self-repair and grow. How can we navigate through this daunting terrain? Through art. Art is born from extreme vulnerability and unfiltered honesty within us. Making art and surrounding ourselves with art is how we can make this process more bearing and comforting until the end of this lifetime.

    How would you define the term “long-lasting” in music and how can it be a tool for the healing of the human body?

    Long-lasting music to me is music that’s created without thinking about the audience. That’s not to disrespect the listeners, it is actually to be respectful to the audience. I truly believe that music should come from a genuine attitude. If artists create only to please the crowd, the crowd will sense its fakeness and it won’t be long-lasting. All the legends in music and art left real blood and tears behind them, and long after they’re gone, their creation still inspires us through generations. Creating from within and not caring about what the world will perceive is the artist's only job duty. It’s also what keeps us grounded in the madness of art creation.

    How is ‘Paralysed in Paradise’ related to your childhood and Taiwanese culture? 

    I originally wrote the song as a domestic violence victim and used it as a therapeutic session to come to peace with my trauma and abuser. It took me a lot of courage to share it. When I brought the song to the studio for the first time, everyone had their ideas/feelings of what the music is about. Some think that it's political because of where I’m from, others feel like it’s about being trapped and ignored in society, which unfortunately, many of us share the universal feeling across the world. I quickly realised that the song needs to be out in the world. I want it to be an anthem for those who spend their lifetimes breaking free from the narrative they were born into.

    Is there any abandoned work project that you would like to give a re-birth? How do you explore the need of finding new ways of creating music? 

    Oh, dear! There are so many unfinished and abandoned projects that need my attention. There’s one particular project that I believe deserves a rebirth. It’s about a faceless figure who breathes like a human but is treated like a ghost. 

    Taiwanese  culture is very superstitious and we believe in ghosts and spirits. There is a genre of ceremonial music for the dead and the unseen. The musicians who play this kind of music are only hired by the temples and funeral homes. They are the only humans you can see in these “performances”, as they only perform for the spirits we can’t see. It’s the kind of music that nobody listens to (you can barely find recordings of it because of how taboo it is). You know that when you hear it at night, the spirits around you are partying and having a feast! I love that we basically have an all-night rave for the dead, and no matter how loud and crazy it gets, the police cannot shut it down (nobody dares to fight with the dead, haha)! I’m blessed that I come from a very diverse cultural background and as long as I look within my people, I have limitless inspiration to create. 

    I’m working on finishing my debut album and I’ll be excited to share “the faceless project” with you once it’s completed and out in 2024! It will be a collection of songs that honour people who feel like they’re silenced and live like ghostly figures without faces. I want to amplify their voices through my music. Nobody can shut us up!

    What is your relationship with dreams? 

    I keep a journal next to my bed. Whenever I have a vivid dream, the first thing I do, when I wake up, is to write it down so I won’t forget. The dream journal serves as an inspiration for my art creation and life. I have many dreams that come and go, but the ones that stick with me are the ones that I’m determined to keep living when I’m awake.

    Is traveling regularly also an important aspect of your research process?

    I have a problem - I cannot stay in a place for way too long. I need to travel at least once a month, whether it’s to be on a 30-minute train to the countryside or get on the cheapest flight to a city that I’ve never heard of. We’ve talked about how art comes from honesty, and there’s nothing more real than being in an unknown place alone and starting a conversation with the local people. Getting to know their culture through local foods, the music they listen to, the way they dress and the art they create, and knowing how different we are as strangers, at the same time, how similar we are as humans. This humbling experience has kept me in tune with myself and the music I want to create.

    What was the last place that fascinated you?

    Cambodia. I lived there for a little while in 2020/2021 as a way out to escape feeling paralysed in the paradise I was born in. I had never experienced having so much and so little at the same time. The fascinating culture and ancient civilisation coupled with limited resources and traumatic events in recent years guided me to fine-tune the sound of ARTELA, a conflicting voice of resilience and compliance.

    A letter to your future self. What would you write?

    Show up everyday. You’re always one step closer to being who you really are. Keep dreaming, keep flying, and don’t stop believing. 

    Interview by Mira Wanderlust

    Image Courtesy Artela