Alysha Brillinger better known by her stage name Alysha Brilla is an Indo-Tanzanian-Canadian musician. Born in Mississauga, Ontario and raised in Kitchener, Ontario, Brilla started singing in her early teens in local bands and at various festivals, including the Coalflats and Kitchener Blues Festival, where she was the 2008 winner of the Grande River Youth Legacy contest.
Brilla briefly attended Humber College’s Jazz program in Toronto while playing local gigs and building a fanbase.
In 2010, she was signed to Lava Records/Universal Republic.
Brilla was a featured performer at the 2010 Kitchener Blues Festival and Gala. Alysha is now independent and runs her own music label, Sunny Jam Records Inc. and has released three self-produced studio albums on that label. The first two were Juno Award nominated.
Here is our interview with Alysha Brilla:
Please tell us a bit about your academic/family background?
I come from a mixed family. My mom is a white, Canadian born woman and my father was born in Tanzania, but is diasporically Gujarati. I grew up in a mixed Christian/Muslim household and it fostered a lot of discourse around race, religion and politics.
As far as academia goes, I have always been critical of academia and the institutionalization of knowledge. I just directed a short documentary called “Indigenizing Post-Secondary Education”. Though I was put into advanced classes after being tested intellectually ‘gifted’ as a youth, academia didn’t feel relevant to me and I never formally studied music.
• Why be in the arts?
The arts have always been a medium I could turn to in order to process this very beautiful, but flawed world. Music saved me when I was growing up and it continues to allow me to communicate when I feel the need to convey something.
• What is it for you? American music or Indian music?
Both. I am both Canadian born/raised and Indian at heart. I like fusion music and I think that’s a result of being a fusion of cultures, myself.
• Why do you think many modern songs & music videos are not like evergreen songs & music videos of the past?
I think there is beautiful music being created right now. Artists create because they need to express something. It can be political or be a simple love song, but it always reflects the times. What is needed right now are artists who can take this world’s turmoil and alchemize it into art that activates people to think, feel and act towards progress. We are an evolving species; physically and intellectually, and it is important we remember that change is necessary and when energy becomes stuck, it becomes sick. We have to let life flow and embrace the diversity of humans.
• Do you believe art is for entertainment or for social awareness? One can argue that with so much disturbance in life, people would like to enjoy art for relaxation purpose only.
I believe art is for both. A political song can relax someone just as a simple love song can engage social awareness, depending on who is singing and listening to it. At the end of the day, music is meant to make you feel something. Make you dance, make you sing, make you angry, make you happy, make you fall asleep…it is to illicit and move your being to another state.
• What’s your family’s reaction to your profession choice?
My mom has always been a huge support and I certainly wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing had it not been for her encouragement in my teenage years. My father (being brown/Immigrant), had a lot of trouble with me wanting to pursue music and of course wanted me to be a doctor/lawyer/engineer. Now he appreciates it and of course, he is a musician at heart, too.
• Is it a profession where you can make money?
It is for me at this point in my career, and I am grateful I can make a living from my art. It is a blessing.
• Do good looks matter? Do they get you into the door?
“Good looks” are pretty culturally subjective. There are certainly standards of beauty that (especially) young women are held to when trying to enter any sort of performance-based industry. If a person who has an opportunity personally finds you attractive then yes, good looks can get you into a door.
• How do you keep yourself fit?
Yoga, my bicycle, salsa dancing. . I have autoimmune health considerations, so I have to treat my body with a lot of love and care especially since I travel so much.
• How much time do you spend on social media?
Definitely a few hours a day.
• What kind of pressures do you feel as a professional?
I’d say the biggest pressure I feel is to make sure my fans feel connected and that when we meet, they feel like it is a positive and memorable moment for them.
• Is the industry different for men vs. women?
Definitely. That’s another book I will write, though.
• How much pressure do you feel to maintain a certain figure and looks?
Firstly I will say that I am privileged to not have to deal with the constant media bombardment many women have to lose weight. I have always been really thin and as a teenager, I would actually feed myself until I was sick trying to gain weight. After dealing with autoimmune health issues, my priority now is just to be healthy. I don’t care if someone thinks I’m too skinny or don’t have the curves they want me to- this is my body and it is the mechanism with which I hold my guitar, the muscles which expand and contract to create my singing voice and the eyes and ears through which I see the world. Of course I have dealt with a lot of insecurity, especially when I first entered the industry, but at this point I honestly don’t care. I’m not here for the male gaze and I hope all people can love their bodies. They are gifts.
• What and who do you turn to when depressed?
I turn to music and I turn to water. Water has always healed me. It can be taking a bath, looking at the river, lake or ocean…it brings me back to the earth and reminds me that I am part of something bigger than myself.
• Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Touring the world, living in B.C., learning and learning and learning. Writing and producing a lot of music.
• What would you like to change in the world. Do you associate yourself with any charities?
I would like the world to have balanced knowledge. This means listening to Indigenous peoples and groups of people who have throughout history and presently had their voices minimized within the context of education, leadership and spirituality. We need to listen to women, non-binary folks, BIPOC people, queer folks…all the people who for one reason or another, haven’t had a place at the table. Now is the time.
I just released my song “Changing The World” on a compilation album by the United Nations called “Music To Inspire”. All the proceeds from the album go to United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Human Trafficking. So many women and girls are affected. They need healing. This world needs healing.
• Your favourite male artist
• Your favourite female artist
• What are you currently working on, and what’s coming up in the future?
I am currently finishing writing for an album I want to release next year. I’m really excited about the songs that are coming out right now…they are about the hope, the change, the unity and the awareness. Messages I hope to see more, everywhere.