India-born, Atlanta-based singer-songwriter, teacher, and political activist Anita Aysola remembers the hopeless feeling of a sinking collective heart that day. It was on May 7, 2019, when Georgia’s Republican governor signed into law one of the nation’s most restrictive pieces of anti-abortion legislation to date, effectively banning abortion after six weeks of pregnancy. Like millions of others across the country determined to fight the impending war on women’s rights, Anita had gotten involved as a citizen, made calls to her senators and representatives, written letters to the governor, voted consistently, protested, and marched against the awful things happening in the American political landscape the last few years. But now the state was actually restricting women’s autonomy over their own bodies. She felt stifled, angry, paralyzed.
Aysola thought about the cold irony of the right-wing pundits, dubbing such an oppressive law “the heartbeat bill” while ignoring the living, beating hearts of the women it disempowers. That moment bursts into a powerfully defiant, jazz-infused anthem with the production of “Heartbeat,” her latest single and music video in collaboration with members from the women’s vocal social-action powerhouse Resistance Revival Chorus. The first of three upcoming singles, produced by Samrat Chakrabarti and engineered by John Clark, “Heartbeat” confronts head-on a timely issue that faces American women under an increasingly hostile political regime.
As mother of two beautiful children with a loving marriage and a wonderful career, Aysola knows that if motherhood can at times be tough for someone as lucky as her… then legislation such as the “heartbeat bill” can only further oppress less fortunate women. “I want women to feel empowered when they hear the song,” she says, “to remember their own strength and remember that we aren’t helpless, we aren’t powerless. We can make change. And, you know, we are kind of nipping at their heels. We’re making strides even when it feels like we’re not.”
Aysola never set out to be a professional musician, though she took both Indian and Western classical music seriously from an early age, studying piano and Hindustani classical vocals, singing in the school chorus and at Hindu religious gatherings, and playing in orchestra and band. She even took sitar lessons for a while. She began to study more Western styles involving improvisation, especially jazz and blues. While living in Chicago, she connected with master boogie-woogie blues pianist Erwin Helfer. There and while in grad school in Boston, she played everything from trip-hop to jam-based rock to Indian fusion, before focusing more intensively on her own material.
Known for her unique style of bridging Indian and American jazz, Aysola notes that “Heartbeat” is a more politically charged track that doesn’t contain any overtly Indian instrumental elements. However, she does return to the inclusion of more of her signature Indian fusion elements in her other two upcoming singles to be released this Fall “Rumpelstiltskin” and “Legend in My Mind”. Produced by a polymath actor and composer of Indian heritage, Samrat Chakrabarti, in collaboration with musical polyglots from the Brooklyn Raga Massive circle, Aysola’s songs tend to fold radiant flights of Indian-style improvisation and rhythm into solid storytelling and piano chops. Think Anoushka Shankar meets Randy Newman.
Visit her website for tour dates and music downloads at: www.anitaaysola.com.