“Women are slightly afraid to be in a male dominated music production space. It’s more common to see women being a singer or artist – because it’s just not desirable to be behind the scenes.”
Tall and poised, Kanika settles in, with her wide smile, tiny MIDI keyboard and powerful beats and vocals. From the soundcheck we can tell that her music is fresh, gripping and just the kind of work we had hoped to come by with LIVE at PORT. Lots of nodding and foot-tapping later, we settle down for a chat.
Born and raised in Belgium, and from the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, Kanika is multi-talented. She not only writes and produces music – but works in philanthropy as well. Just starting out – one of her major career highlights has been performing and arranging with/for Academy Award winner and legend A. R. Rahman. As a music producer, she says, “I look up to women in the industry who are talking about why fewer women opt for music production. There are lots of amazing female music executives like Julie Greenwald and they’re all saying that women are slightly afraid to be in a male dominated space and it’s difficult to break through when all you see are men trying to take over, even though they may not be doing it consciously. I think it’s more common to see women being the singer or performer because it’s not desirable to be behind the scenes.” She then adds, optimistically that things are changing with many organisations being formed by women, building a coalition of sorts, just in the last year.
When asked about how much of the different cultural aspects from her roots in India come through in her music, she smiles. “I grew up in Belgium in a very Indian household. So whether it’s watching Bollywood movies or listening to Hindi music, my brother and I are very familiar with it. I feel like my music has grown into a combination of everything I grew up listening to – Indian music, Belgian and European electronic stuff and US Top 40. No matter what I do, there’s always some influence of Indian music – especially Indian percussion, we have such amazing drum sounds, and those little ‘tings’, not to mention Hindustani Classical vocal…I love playing around with those samples.” For Kanika as a producer, the diverse variety of people, flavours and languages is exciting and inspiring.
Kanika is also behind the unique initiative MusicRecycle. With her family in the recycling industry for the last 30 years, she was the black sheep who went to pursue music – and was detached from it all during her schooling. She soon realised that her family was working towards what needed to change in this world. “There’s a need to understand recycling – what to put in which box and so on. And it was my father’s idea to use music to share recycling information. I had access to all the recycling associations around the world. Plus I’ve been working with Sony Music in LA and Berklee – and we thought why not use platforms like music festivals – where artists can announce helpful things like ‘Make sure you throw away that bottle in the right bin’ – and use their influence and massive following to spread the word. So that’s what we’re working towards.” Currently trying to balance her time between this recycling project, her music and a new recording studio in Bombay, she wishes she could attend gigs more often. “A live experience is completely different to listening to music at home, so I try to grab every opportunity I can to watch a gig. My absolute favourite is Beyonce. She’s the reason I’m in music. She came to Belgium with Destiny’s Child when I was in 5th grade. Whether you like her music or not – her energy on stage is just amazing – it’s a real show.” Since then, Kanika has never missed a single Beyonce concert if she’s in her city.
MusicRecycle’s goal is to change perceptions and behaviours about recycling; to educate individuals on how they can make a difference with small changes in their daily lives and to use the power of music to unite the recycling eco-system with the entertainment scene, in an effort to make the world a better, cleaner place.
Watch Kanika LIVE at PORT
Words by Shaista Vaishnav