Interview with singer songwriter Ayanna: ‘In creating music, I experience a powerful exchange of energy’

Charlie-Louise Akintilo

AYANNA 300x214 Interview with singer songwriter Ayanna: In creating music, I experience a powerful exchange of energyHer inspirations range from Stravinsky to Stevie Wonder; currently she is touring the states with Anoushka Shankar and last year she received personal plaudits from Dionne Warwick.

But in a few weeks’ time, singer song writer Ayanna Johnson will for the first time in her budding career have the spotlight solely to herself. Her debut EP Black Panther edges closer to release and if the lead single is anything to go by (also named Black Panther); we should be just as excited as she is!

What instruments do you play and when did you start learning them?

I started learning the piano at four years old, the cello at 13 and I have sung throughout my life.

I read that you’re on tour with Anoushka Shankar, how did that come about and have you enjoyed it?

She was looking for a singer to cover the vocal parts that Norah Jones recorded for the album ‘Traces of You’ and unbeknownst to me at the time, we have a mutual contact who showed her my YouTube clip of ‘Roxanne’.  She was really taken with it and invited me to audition for her privately. Touring the US and Canada has been the most incredible experience and I’ve enjoyed it immensely.

What has the experience taught you?

I have learned that there are always small risks in expressing yourself authentically. But in doing so you truly have the opportunity to liberate yourself and others.

After hearing the lead track ‘Black Panther’, what can we expect from the EP?

Sonically, you can expect soulful vocals, groove, heart-breaking harmony and delicate melodies. People can expect an intimate collection of honest songs. I have covered a Bill Withers song – ‘Grandma’s Hands’ as an opportunity to reflect on those that have contributed positively to my life and also I shed light on revealing your true self within various types of relationships.

Why is it entitled Black Panther?

Black Panther is the lead single from the EP and a song about love and empowerment. As the lyrics of the chorus outline, the black panther is a metaphor for strength and freedom. ‘Like a black panther, I’m free to roam without a keeper. You’ll never need to fear my power. My strength will always be your anchor.’ I felt that this image really captures the journey I have been on, this past year, developing my artistry and expressing myself freely.

This is your first release, are you nervous?

I’m really excited more so than nervous.

Who are some of your inspirations?

Maya Angelou, Nina Simone, Bach, Sojourner Truth, Stevie Wonder, Stravinsky, Sweet Honey In The Rock, Michael Jackson, Steely Dan, Jill Scott, Bjork, Oprah, Bobby McFerrin, my Friends and Family.

Some of your songs have been played on BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra, which must have been a great feeling. Did you expect it?

I did not expect it at all and it was the most amazing feeling!

You were nominated for a MOBO in 2012. Were you disappointed not to have won and what have you gained from the experience?

I truly appreciated my nomination and had a fantastic night! It was a lot of fun, including a personal congratulations from the legendary Dionne Warwick, so I felt like a winner anyway! I have since learned that, yes, there can technically only be one winner but in the wider sense, it’s so important that as artists we support one another and not focus only on satisfying our individual egos. So whoever wins, is truly winning on behalf of everyone nominated and on my table we really did celebrate together.

Finally, why do you personally continue to perform, score and make music?

Being a creative musician is my passion and through that medium, I have found not only an excellent way to process my own emotions and to develop positively as a human being. But also a way in which to share that positive experience with others in a way that empowers them. In creating music, performing live and teaching, I experience an exchange of energy that is so powerful and I know that music can inspire us to make positive choices and to create more compassionate global communities. It is important for me to continue striving towards being the best global citizen I can be, because there can never be too much peace in the world. And I explore that best through music!

Visit Ayanna’s Soundcloud page here

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