Photo: Claire Farin

Aluna

MYCELiUM is Aluna’s second musical project where we get to hear the producer, singer, and songwriter display every aspect of her personality, especially her deep passion to pave the way for other upcoming Black creatives. For Aluna, music is as versatile as culture, and trying to define music is futile. That is why her latest house-focused album has so many diverse collaborations.

Being of Jamaican and Indian descent, she’s decided to champion minorities in the music sphere. And she has gone further than simply penning a 2020 open letter on the industry’s racial inequality to actively partake in the solution. With MYCELiUM, Aluna is proving that she’s the change she wants to see in the world.

It’s your second round as a solo artist after first debuting as one-half of the duo AlunaGeorge. What have you learned so far being a solo artist versus being in a duo?

As a solo artist, the first challenge I think was accepting the responsibility of every creative decision. I think that’s what used to scare me about going solo, even right at the beginning of my career. I didn’t feel like enough of a person, I struggled throughout my childhood and life lacking in confidence, so I didn’t have the confidence to do that. But in the end, it wasn’t as big of a challenge as I had thought it was at the time that I chose to do it, because I had learned so much at that point. And then the factor of having the responsibility every creative decision made meant that I was really able to explore my cultural heritage from a really personal, exploitative position, without having to think about anyone else. When you collaborate in a duo it’s really 50% of the other person and you have to take yourself out of the picture a little bit.

Would you say that there’s more pressure for you to deliver with this album, especially since the first one was so successful?

Not at all, I felt like the first album was just a starting point. For me, it was all about experimentation and breaking down boundaries between what’s considered dance music and what isn’t, and it was really like a lot of groundwork for this album. So this album was much more streamlined in the process. Mostly it was fun, whereas the first album was way more complicated.

You’ve created a separate identity for yourself with your unique songs when it comes to the world of dance music, what drove you to do that?

I think the question in itself speaks volumes. Like why do I as an artist have an identity at all in dance music. And I think that’s something that has been lacking in dance music for a really long time, especially for Black women. Like, you would never ask a white male producer why he has his own personality. It is newer to see a Black woman in dance music be the fun artist or individual that I have pushed myself to be. And mostly that’s a personal goal where I wanted other girls like me to see themselves represented in the same way. As whole people, as whole artists in their own right in the industry.

With MYCELiUM, you’re talking about the interconnected system that should feed and promote diversity but doesn’t. How does the album both address the issue and promote diversity?

The album is almost like a blueprint, a micro-universe, that could be used as an example of how to create a healthy and diverse ecosystem in dance music.

The concept of your sophomore album is said to “represent the way individual agents of change find ways to connect on a global scale despite the current power structures.” Can you explain it a bit more?

I think the biggest thing I’ve learned through dipping my toe Into advocacy and light activism, is that there is much more power in the individual than we realize. I am 1 on 1 person, I’m not really a group-orientated individual, so I’ve found that amplifying and connecting with individuals who have the right vision for change, and the right level of passion, has been much more successful than appealing to large groups of people to make changes, or bigger companies, or anything that is large scale. It has the impression of being impactful because of its size and the number of people within, but if all of those people cared 1% then it doesn’t amount to much. But if one person cares 1000% then that one person can do so much more than the 1000 people that only care 1%.

What was your most memorable moment in creating this project?

My most memorable moment was in Paris at Ground Control, teaching an audience to sing the vocal part of “Beggin'” and seeing how much fun the audience had getting involved in the song and making it something different/their own. Even after the song had finished they were still singing, I had left the stage!

Have you noticed any change to be more inclusive on the industry leaders’ side since you first launched your musical career?

No, what I’ve seen is more individuals like myself braving the industry and being encouraged by others who are also going down paths less traveled and uncharted territory. What I’ve seen from industry leaders is performative diversity as a whole since George Floyd. Promises made and not delivered.

You worked with a number of diverse artists on this record, did you ever feel that you’re way in over your head?

If you mean by the number of people I collaborated with, no because I learned enough from the first album which also had a lot of collaborators on it, and had worked with an executive producer, and watched how the executive production process is done at that higher level. There is that last 10% of unifying a project and elevating the project so that it’s all got cherries on top. So for this second album, I was able to do this myself having studied it in the first album. The people that I collaborated with also became family so it was much easier to work with that many people. I was very selective about who I worked with.

With the diverse talents contributing to this record, was it harder for you to try to create a cohesive body of work or did you just go with the flow?

I was very intentional about the process at the start of every session I had where I talked about the origins of dance music, the pioneers of dance music, and what methodology they were employing to make that music so that we were starting from a point in history that rooted us all in one mental, emotional, and sonic space. That’s why is was so easy to work with everyone even though everyone was from different backgrounds.

What will the rest of the year look like for you?

The rest of the year I will be developing my live electronic band, then touring my DJ PA set, and starting work on new music.