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“Music Is a Way To Process Life in All Its Devastating Glory” – In Conversation With Yuhina

A vocalist, songwriter, and electronic music producer from Gangtok whose currently based in Bangalore, Yuhina expresses herself through vocal-centric, ethereal electronica. A corporate Product Designer in the past, the Echoes of Earth performer released her single and music video ‘OMW’ along with her debut EP ‘MNEMONIC’.

1. Tell us a bit about your project. How did you begin your journey as a singer-songwriter?

The MNEMONIC EP has been in the works for 4 years. The first track I ever produced is also the first track on the EP, it’s called ‘Brave’ and I’d made it in 2019 when I was still doing a day-job. But my journey in music began way back when I was in school, perhaps even before that. I’d found a report card once from KG that said “Yuhina still has trouble distinguishing between ‘b’ and ‘d’ but she loves to sing and dance” haha.

I grew up listening to a lot of blues, jazz, rock and country. My dad had these BB King, Dire Straits, Eric Clapton, Don Williams and Pink Floyd (to name a few) cassettes that were constantly playing at home. There was also a lot of Beethoven, Bach, Chopin and Mozart that became a staple study-accompaniment. And I think growing up surrounded by that much nature and wildness made everyone back in Sikkim really musical as well, and it was an easy trait to imbibe. I also grew up performing in a lot of musical-productions by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Tim Rice and Lionel Bart at school, which deepened that connection.

I’d also started writing poetry which I’d then turn into little songs, but that was a very private thing at the time. Music was always encouraged more as a hobby than anything elsethough, so I internalised that, went on to study Industrial Design at NID Ahmedabad and got a corporate job as a User Experience Designer in Bangalore, which I kept for 5 years. I never disliked that career and it was fulfilling in many ways, but it always felt like something integral was missing. Around that time a lot of major shifts began to occur in my personal life as well, and it reached a point of real internal turmoil where I felt like I needed to definitively decide what I wanted to do with my life and what were the things I’d regret on my death bed – not devoting my limited time here to my first love, music, was one of them. So while my singer-songwriter self was quite happy and secure where she was, I had all these soundscapes in my head which I didn’t know how to externalise, and knew I had to start learning production or I’d go mad.

Being a self-dependent music maker had become important because forming a band felt pretty daunting and impractical to me at the time.

2. Which bands/artists were your first love and who is your biggest influence?

I’ve already mentioned my very early influences, but in high school I was very into metal, punk and alternative rock. Blink 182 was one of my first big loves haha. Their ‘Blink-182’ album was played over and over again. Another huge one for me was ‘A Crow Left of the Murder’ by Incubus. ‘Fallen’ by Evanescence. Angels and Airwaves. Lana Del Rey.

There were also some really incredible musicians and bands back in school and back home who were very inspiring. ‘Still Waters’ was one of them. ‘Girish and the Chronicles’ (who are killing it by the way) were my seniors and their grit and determination to do what they love all these years continues to be an inspiration.

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Now my biggest influences are Grimes (since I first discovered her music in 2010) who is whimsical, autonomous, and dauntingly innovative – a true genius and visionary marrying music and tech, (((O))) who is mystical, deep and rooted, Kimbra who is constantly exploring and upping her game, Björk who is, well, Björk, there’s also Tsunaina who has the most evocative, haunting music, and I think that scale of like…deep earth reaching towards outer galaxies is just super interesting and intriguing to me. Very spiritual as well.

It’s also interesting that most of my biggest influences are women – I feel very deeply connected to the energy they source to create from. Other artists whose work I’m continually inspired by include Moderat, Burial, Kraftwerk, HVOB, Galcher Lustwerk, Aphex Twin, Aleksi Perälä, Leon Vynehall, Joy Orbison, Efdemin, Röyksopp, Hania Rani, Nils Frahm, Julianna Barwick, Beautiful Chorus, Moses Sumney, 070 Shake, Shabazz Palaces, Sault… I could really go on and on. 

3. You just released a single, OMW. Tell us a bit about it. Whats the song about?

OMW is a song about healing from the past while resiliently looking to the future. About freedom and bidding farewell to those we no longer resonate with, and being on our way back to ourselves – hence OMW. It starts with a soaring orchestra of violins and organs setting the emotional tone, and goes into synth-wave inspired beats and pulsating basslines. The vocals come in softly and begin to sing about liberation of the self and for the other. About a tender, yet resolute letting-go. The music video uses a lot of metaphors to try and communicate the same thing without it seeming too obvious.

4. What was your music-making and recording process like?

For OMW? So the first 2 tracks on MNEMONIC, ‘Brave’ and ‘Crossing’ were produced by me on GarageBand back when that’s what I used to use hah. Then I met an incredibly gifted and passionate producer named Reuel Immanuel at a studio once, we clicked immediately and felt that we’d like to work together on something. I already had the lyrics for OMW and all the sonic elements of the track were in my head, but I hadn’t gotten down to production yet because I didn’t know how to produce to that level at the time (still a work in progress). I took it straight to Reuel, we sat one night for 14 hrs and cracked it. It was deeply cathartic and the process felt very sacred. Because of that one track, we realised just how much we enjoyed working together and he hopped on to co-produce the last 2 tracks on the EP as well – ‘For Chenrezig’ and ‘Amor Fati’. By then the story of the EP seemed complete and we stopped. I then needed to record vocals. Up until then I’d only been recording vocals in my bedroom, but Reuel convinced me to get it done professionally for the EP, so we headed to a studio he’d recommended and in 4 hrs we tracked vocals for the entire project. It was hectic and very rewarding. 

We lost Reuel this July, MNEMONIC is dedicated to his memory and his vibrant light.

5. You have your debut EP ‘Mnemonic’ release coming up really soon. What can we expect from the album?

I had my first real awakening back in 2018 and had started to come to certain realisations about what my life was trying to teach me, and I’d started journaling those lessons and feelings, which eventually turned into lyrics. MNEMONIC was birthed from that. The EP is an introspective and deeply intimate story in 5 parts about a journey spanning 4 years, several dark nights of the soul and multiple rebirths. Each track stands as a marker for a personal milestone in uncovering and assimilating factors that acted as either blockers or aids in that journey. Hence, ‘Mnemonic’ – which means “a system such as a pattern of letters, ideas, or associations which assists in remembering something”, helping to bring me back to the Original intention – Who am I. Through this project I hope to have created music that helps people, and myself, to go on living and in wonderment of who we really are.

It’s a slightly experimental sound which I thought people might not resonate with much, but I’ve thankfully been proved wrong on that account through recent gigs. 

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Oh and! The project also includes hand-crafted merch consisting of atypical jewellery in Sterling Silver and crystals where each track corresponds to a piece of jewellery, uniquely designed and handmade by me, which will be made available soon.

6. Why do you make music? What drives you as a musician and what are your songs about?

I’d mentioned earlier about these huge shifts that had started to occur in my life which made me question, essentially, EVERYTHING. Why am I here, what am I doing with my life, what patterns have been dictating my behaviours all these years, where do my traumas stem from, who and what am I really. So far, and for whatever reason, music has been the predominant way through which I’ve been able to make sense of these questions, even just as a listener. And having a natural inclination towards being a creative, making music seemed like the next and only logical step for me. A way to process life in all its devastating glory. All my work so far has been about integrating these primal emotions –  wreckage, guilt, loss, shame, reckoning, breakthrough, peace. And through that, finding out who we really are, at the core, beyond being human, while also honouring the depth of the human experience. What powers all of this? That’s what I’m interested in investigating and sharing.

And hopefully encouraging others to seek answers in a similar way. I’ve heard too many people talk about how they aren’t creative, and I’ve always sensed a deep sadness behind those words. Through my work, I hope to be a conduit and pass on a message very clear to me – that it is in us all to make art if only we allow ourselves to, through humility, sustained grit and profound love, channel the beauty and creative abundance contained within all of us. I deeply believe accessing that place within us can heal the world.

https://open.spotify.com/album/22clvTGVg95Xc8Lhs4Kagx

7. Which Indian bands or artists do you admire? And why?

I’ve been meeting/listening to so many incredible independent artists of late, apologies in advance, this list is going to be LONG. I’ll start with some folks from back home again 🙂 There’s of course Girish and the Chronicles for being so steadfast in their commitment to doing what they have always loved. Also have you heard Girish’s vocals?? Nothing like it. There’s Gaulay Bhai whose music takes me right back to cold Himalayan winters, warm bonfire nights and millet wine (Chhang) from bamboo jars (Tongba). Anoushka Maskey, impeccable lyricism, that beautiful lilting voice. Then there’s Kamal Singh from Launch Piranha and Hoirong fame, one of the OG’s in the indie scene, music with a very interesting combination of depth and irreverance. He was the one who actually got me to release my first singles back in 2021 having known me since 2014. Komorebi, prolifically showcasing what it means to be a successful artist and businesswoman, really been resonating with her and her music of late. 

Moebius, college batchmate, one man army, doing too many incredible things in music and visuals. Sijya, again a fellow designer and junior from college, making some truly evolved music and soundscapes. Jbabe, who seems to approach his work with equal parts fun and frivolity, equal parts seriousness, very addictive music. Entropic (US based), doing massively groundbreaking stuff with code and sound. Hedrun, incredible production and beautiful indigenous soundscapes. Three Oscillators, probably one of the best producers in the country right now. Karshni, very emotionally intelligent music. Discopuppet, a true creator and disruptor. Aditi Ramesh, such a warm person, such power in her musicality. Signal W, incredible band, impeccable music, resilience galore. Some of my cohort-mates from the Amplify Music Incubator program – Sheherazaad (US based, but deeply connected to her roots here), one of the most soulful women I’ve met with the most haunting, mischievous sound.

Sugandha, gaming the system, committed to always doing what she loves, one of the most inspiring humans I’ve met. Sanoli Chowdhury, the reluctant artist, much better than she wants to be at her craft hah. Khus Fir, purity and originality in every bone, in every note. Queendom, powerhouse duo (trio?) of women, constantly hustling, astoundingly connected to their craft. Harini, stunning voice, massive stage presence. Gooth, too good of a producer and vocalist at too young an age, only getting better at his game, sweetest guy. Same goes for Gandhar. Honestly, the entire cohort. I could really could go on and on again. Everyone is REALLY inspiring. I’ve used the word ‘incredible’ way too many times here because I’m genuinely in awe of the tenacity of these artists carving their unique paths, largely on their own, in a pretty nascent, strange and unpredictable industry. 

8. Whats your take on the independent music scene in India?

I feel like I’m still too new here to have an expansive take on this, but from what I’ve gathered, the scene is relatively new too. And with that comes a fair amount of chaos, ego-games, gatekeeping and lack of professionalism. But I want to be optimistic and say that because there are no rigid systems and fixed templates of what success in the indie scene here looks like, there’s a huge scope for mindful, soul-centered creative engagement and nurturing the need to express freely, fearlessly, and authentically. And I do believe this is possible and is already happening in pockets. I can’t wait to see how this industry matures and how I and my sound mature with it. 

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