Natasha Natarajan is a British-Indian visual artist funding her autobiographical comic strip ‘FML Comics’ and zine habit through Graphic/Web Design, Illustration, Arts Administration, Education and a career that basically makes no sense on a CV. Natasha holds a BA in Indian History and has worked in the arts in Copenhagen and Scotland. She has recently moved home to London where she is whole-heartedly winging it.
In the first of this new two-part series, Natasha shares some of the women in music who have changed her world; telling us what they mean to her, and sharing a unique original illustration.
Women That Changed My World
When I love something it generates a lot of energy in me. In the past I’ve unhelpfully unleashed this energy on various people in my life. But drawing has become a wholesome and productive way for me to deal with it; it feels like a labour of love when I draw someone that’s important to me. I started drawing musicians in 2017 – I listen to their music and draw. As much as possible I try to find a photograph of them playing, rather than a press shot, because I think it’s important to me they’re doing what I love them for. I am so inspired and encouraged by the work of other artists. I hope you enjoy these renditions of the women I have loved!
“My music brings together people who occupy different spaces and belong to different tribes. It’s such a mash-up of genres. We all have a strong need for belonging, and once you find your tribe it can be so easy to become trapped in an echo chamber of beliefs and experiences that match your own and then everyone who is not like you becomes alien.”
I love AGAMA’s lyrics. Her words are so insightful and tender. Each track could stand alone as a glorious poem. It’s a blessing that we can listen to her sing the words herself because her voice adds a whole other force of energy. She can whisper to you and roar in the same breath, but always with a rawness that feels human. The four tracks that make up her EP deserve listening front to back loud, on good headphones and alone.
“Having been exposed to Europe from a young age I have never seen it as ‘superior’, I have always just seen it as an equal place to Mali. I had enough context to understand the way in which Africa is depicted to the world. The value of life should not need to be tied to money. In Africa, people may have less money but there is value in finding joy in the everyday. There is a different philosophy, a different way of seeing life in Africa.”
– Speaking in brightonfestival.org
I love the sparse rhythmic beauty of ‘Zen’ and so many of Rokia’s compositions. Each track takes me on a mini journey. Her voice and the instrumentation feel so nude and I’m drawn to her subtle grooves. My heart dances and my shoulders wiggle along. I love nothing more than dancing alone to Rokia on repeat in the kitchen.
“We have to keep singing. Women need more motivation. We need to wake up women’s consciences and say, ‘Don’t give up. Continue.’ In Mali, my generation looks at me, at every action I do. I’m like a little example for them, for women. When I’m in Bamako, many girls come to me and say they’re very happy for everything I’m doing. I can tell them what I want through my music.”
– Speaking in The Independent, 2013
Fatoumata’s music has always been a soothing presence in my life. When I discovered that the lyrics were about her experience as a Malian woman, her sound acquired a new melancholic beauty and I found great respect for the powerful way she communicates her message. I can listen to her first album, Fatou, anywhere, anytime and with anyone.
“With a sweet melody, the message comes across simply and reaches people more easily, and the emotion remains. With the African languages that I sing, there are not many people who can understand (them all)… But emotion transcends borders, and it remains written inside the listener’s body.”
– Speaking in The Chicago Tribune, 2015
Her song ‘Palea‘ has brought me to happy tears many a time, even though I had no idea what she was talking about. She’s right when she says a sweet melody can carry an emotional message. And she does it so beautifully. She does truly amazing things with her voice filling her tracks with so much energy. She’s also an amazing dancer! I am forever stalking her on Instagram and plundering YouTube for live performances.
Huge thanks to Natasha for her inspiring words and truly beautiful illustrations! Keep your eyes peeled for Part 2 of her ‘Women That Changed My World’ feature next week.