Aruba Red is a London-based alt-soul artist. Borrowing her moniker from the legendary female pirate, Aruba Red is said to have been a fiery, strong, rebellious and independent female seafarer navigating a male dominated world, Aruba Red the artist strives to evoke her spirit and embody her strength and resilience.
Although she toured with her musical family, grew up in studios and wrote poetry from a young age, having her first poem published aged nine years old, Aruba Red initially shied away from performing, her lyrics – a glimpse into her soul, felt a little too personal to share. However, in her early 20s she became a regular on the London open mic circuit, her rich tone, signature vibrato and fusion of influences led her to be scouted for Aftershock London, a project at the Royal Festival Hall curated by award-winning composer Nitin Sawhney, kickstarting her career. To date, she has worked and toured with the likes of Maverick Sabre, Jah Cure, Natty, Xavier Rudd, Roxy Music’s Phil Manzanera, Ms Dynamite, Plan B and Riz Ahmed to name a few. Aruba Red has performed and held residencies at London’s Roundhouse and Southbank Centre as well as hitting the stage at festivals and venues nationwide and overseas.
Just as her career was gaining exciting traction, Aruba Red was forced to stop making music due to a very challenging period in her life. During this hiatus, she lost her father, became a mother and escaped a decade-long abusive relationship – experiences she has since poured into her new music. Re-emerged with her EP ‘Holy Waters’, released Autumn 2018, the independent offering climbed the charts and reached an impressive #7 on the iTunes Top RnB/Soul Albums Chart. Holy Waters is a musically rich, lyrically impressive celebration of feminine strength and resurrection. Futuristic soul with an edge, fresh vibes fused with ancient wisdom, leaving you feeling inspired and uplifted.
In December 2019 Aruba Red launched Aruba Red Treasured, an innovative take on sustainable band merchandise. All items are ethically sourced, a reflection of Aruba Red’s ethos and values. 2019 also saw Aruba Red talk openly about Mental Health and Wellness within the music industry for the likes of Help Musicians UK and BBC Introducing Live, issues close to her heart.
Fast forward to the present day, 2020 marked the inception of ‘Aruba Red’s Women’s Circle‘, a gathering celebrating sisterhood and the healing powers of the divine feminine, supported by Ernst & Young as well as leading live guided meditations and various other commissions. On 11th March, Aruba Red performed her debut headline concert at the iconic St. Pancras Old Church to a sold-out audience coinciding with the release of her new critically acclaimed EP ‘Shadow Work,’ her stepping stones to freedom. During the current lock-down period, Aruba Red is channelling her energy in writing new material for her upcoming album [supported by Help Musicians UK], releasing exciting new visuals and remixes, as well as mixing and editing footage from her live show for a new wellness series.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
I’m an alternative soul artist, radical birthkeeper, wellness advocate and mother. I go by the name Aruba Red, named after a legendary female pirate. My music and work in the world is inspired by the themes of healing and transformation. I hold women’s circles and lead bespoke guided meditations and am passionate about supporting people in connecting with their own innate power.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
In the early days no I didn’t, but I knew that I wanted to be creative and longed to sing and make music. I was also fascinated with all things magical and spiritual from as far back as I can remember, making up songs and searching for four leaf clovers in the garden and praying every night despite nobody having taught me how. In recent years I’ve become an advocate of setting goals, reverse mapping and being really clear with my intentions. I find the more specific I can be with what it is that I want, and setting out achievable steps working backwards from my goals, the more likely it is that these will become my reality. It’s also a lovely surprise when unexpected opportunities come your way and these can be woven into the existing plans or they may even inspire a change of course which can be wonderful. Balancing fluidity and surrender with dedication and planning is an incredible combination that I aspire to embody. Learning how to give our dreams our all, without being too attached to the outcome, can hugely improve life experience as well as encourage positive opportunities to continue to flow towards us.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
Yes, I have faced many challenges as I’m sure the vast majority of people do. Life is challenging! I come from a musical family and was lucky enough to join my parents on tour when I was growing up which was an amazing and quite unique experience but also came with doses of instability and turbulence. My father suffered from issues surrounding addiction and growing up in quite a co-dependent environment proved to be very challenging for me.
My brother died when I was 15 which was extremely painful for everyone, especially my father and my second oldest brother. Two years later my first boyfriend was hit by a van and killed instantly and grief became a big part of my identity for many years. I found functioning in the world challenging and self-medicated with marijuana but managed to abstain from the prescription meds that were offered to me by various doctors. I mention these personal challenges because they very much informed my experience of the world and thus my music and other work. Poetry and music was my therapy and my escape. I adored being in the studio and got my first break of sorts when the incredible composer Nitin Sawhney selected me for an exciting project called Aftershock. This brought together various young creatives to collaborate for an event celebrating the reopening of the Royal Festival Hall and awarded us an 18 month residency at the Southbank Centre.
My music career began to take shape and I really thought I could make a go of it. I secured independent investment and was receiving radio support as well as being asked to go on tour with artists including Natty, Ms Dynamite and Maverick Sabre and opened for artists including Xavier Rudd and Fat Freddy’s Drop. It was a really exciting time, but below the surface there was so much going on and I was struggling. I was stuck in the dynamics of a very abusive relationship and my management at the time coerced me into giving the investment money I had secured to a third party and between them they spent it internally and it all disappeared after which I was discarded. It’s something I’ve never spoken about publicly before, it’s quite scandalous how many artists, especially young women, are taken advantage of in the industry. My partner ended up becoming my manager and I felt trapped, I was coerced into stopping making music and it felt like part of me was dormant. When a person’s creativity is snuffed out, it can be very difficult to exist. I was in that dynamic for over a decade and stopped making music for four years, during which I lost my father, became a mother and managed to get out. The web of lies crumbled and I could see clearly for the first time in my life. Having an unmedicated birth at home under the full moon was a psychedelic experience that triggered an awakening in me. I felt strong and determined to change my family narrative. I became a solo mother with my 8-month-old baby boy and although it was challenging, it was such a beautiful period of transformation. I poured all of my experiences into my EP Holy Waters and it felt incredible to come back home to creativity and to myself. I have been more productive since becoming a mother than I ever had ever been before and I am so thankful for coming to understand what was for me in all of these challenges.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
It’s hard to choose! Performing in front of ten thousand people from the top of an open double decker bus at the FCK Boris protest last summer was pretty epic. Collaborating with Nitin Sawhney for his upcoming album Immigrants has been amazing… maybe my biggest highlight so far was singing to a circle of 25 women from all around the world on the top of a mountain overlooking Samaná Bay in Dominican Republic in February. It was so raw and intimate, I sang a song acapella I had written for them called Wild Woman, tears flowed freely and I was so filled with the power of connection and sisterhood.
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
Redefining my concept of success! Learning how to stop comparing my journey with that of other people’s and to clearly define what makes me feel fulfilled, challenged, helps me to grow and is sustainable. Success means many different things to many different people. I have come to understand that having time to spend with my family and friends, being in nature, the ability to take care of my body and mind and my son, supporting my community, collaborating with my creative friends and having the means to continue to make and release art that has a positive impact in the world, is my definition of success.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
I feel that mentoring is a really incredible model and should be fully supported. I haven’t officially mentored anyone, but am always happy to share information and insight with people who contact me. In terms of being mentored, I haven’t ever been part of a mentoring scheme but I do have mentors. I can always call on Nitin Sawhney for advice which is brilliant, he’s a very knowledgeable and supportive person. I have also received some brilliant coaching sessions from Help Musicians UK which have been so helpful.
If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?
If I could change one thing it would be for mothers to be more honoured and supported. The pregnant woman holds the future of our species within her body. In order for the human race to flourish spiritually in compassion and empathy, we need to support mothers and babies. Birth rights and justice is the heart of this. Peace on earth begins with birth.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?
Spend more time developing your craft rather than chasing success. Learn how to play more instruments, learn how to produce, how to record, mix and master, learn how to be self-sufficient, how to actualise the sounds you hear in your head in the music you create. Work on being the best version of yourself creatively that you can possibly be and then the opportunities will naturally flow to you. Understand that nobody owes you anything but that’s ok, you can be your own hero, nobody is going to save you, but you can save yourself.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
I am currently immersed in an intensive three-month course studying radical birthkeeping which I am absolutely in love with. I’m working on a new live album and visual project supported by Help Musicians UK, using audio and footage from my debut headline show which took place just before lockdown. I will be releasing new visuals from my latest EP Shadow Work throughout 2020 and I’m hoping to have another baby in the not too distant future! I am also overjoyed to be creating a delicious musical meditation series for pregnant women and new mamas which will be available very soon on www.birthmagical.com
Thanks so much for having me <3
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