Dana Shanti Is A Peaceful Pirate
Written by Vocalo Radio on August 31, 2022
Pictured above: Dana Shanti by Fruit Salat Films, courtesy of the artist.
Sometimes you need a “C O S M I C VIEW” to see things clearly…
Berlin-based artist Dana Shanti is a singer, songwriter, composer and self-proclaimed peaceful pirate, who can most likely be found behind her piano. Her music, rich with soul and R&B nuance, is for patient souls with discerning ears.
The singer/songwriter crafts intuitive and thoughtful songs inspired by the intersection of her interior and exterior worlds: the concept of race, her city’s history and the effects of capitalism all intertwined between rhythms and melodies from the soul, accompanied by delicate piano and flute instrumentation.
The title track off of Shanti’s newest release, “C O S M I C VIEW,” was featured on Vocalo’s “Poised to Break Through” playlist this month. The song paints imagery of an astronaut looking down onto earth from space.
“I wanted to write a song that spoke about how we’re all in the same boat – Mother Earth – floating in the same ocean – space,” Shanti explained.
We heard from Shanti on “C O S M I C VIEW,” artistry in Berlin and her concept of “peaceful pirates.”
“Silence is part of listening. And all great musicians and music creators should be great listeners first.”– Dana Shanti
Are you originally from Berlin? If not, when did you move there and what motivated you to make the move?
I was born and raised in Frankfurt (Oder), Germany. It’s a small town 60 miles east of Berlin, by the Polish border. I moved to Berlin in 1999, originally for college.
Give us a brief rundown of the music scene/ community in Berlin. What do you think sets Berlin apart from other cities in terms of its music and arts community?
Berlin has a rich musical scene! There are all sorts of sounds and styles to be found here! Even though the city is big – 4 million people – the music scene feels really connected. Almost like something of a small village. It’s as if everyone knows everyone. The city’s changing a lot, but reminders of its history have endured, and I think that’s part of why it’s attracted so much talent. Also, for a long time, I think Berlin’s cost of living was lower than most other large European cities, so lots of “starving artist” types came here. Nowadays, between the depth of talent and the rising cost of living, it’s becoming a little bit more challenging to break through.
How has Berlin shaped you into the artist you are today, if at all?
Berlin has an almost understated quality about it. It’s deeply talented, it has its elements of beauty, and there’s so much to love about this city. But it isn’t overly flashy, and from what I’ve seen in the past, most of the artists here generally created for the sake of creating rather than for their livelihood. I think I generally did the same thing for most of my life. It’s only recently that I’ve allowed my love for my craft to blossom into a serious pursuit. I finally realized that if I truly loved it, I needed to take it seriously in every possible way.
Your bio on Bandcamp reads, “She is a peaceful pirate, a kitchen-philosopher, and a lover of silence.” What do you mean by “peaceful pirate”? Why is silence important to you as a musician, someone who creates sound as your artistic practice?
I wrote a song some years ago called “Pirate.” To me, a pirate is someone who makes it a point to find their own way, even within a larger system. They do their best to find self and their own value beyond what the system deems important and apart from whatever path has been previously set for them. I’m bothered by capitalism, exploitation and the ongoing destruction of the planet all in the name of having and greed, and I’m annoyed by the idea of nations and borders and all of the complications that come with that kind of structure, so I do my best to live a life that isn’t beholden to any traditional structure. By the same token, I’ve made peace with being a human and being part of the whole, because it’s not as if I can actually escape it.
As for silence, I think it’s the most important tool for a musician. Silence is part of listening. And all great musicians and music creators should be great listeners first.
On your Instagram you can be seen playing any instrument from the piano to the flute. What is the instrument you find yourself gravitating toward most often?
My biggest love is the piano. It’s been the ground beneath my singing for many years. The more I learn about it, the deeper I fall in love with it and the more I want to continue learning about it.
The flute is deeply personal. It’s the instrument of my childhood, in that it was the only musical instrument made available to me. I’ve recently rediscovered it and in some ways I see it as an approximation of voice.
When and how did you first get into soul music?
I believe that was when I first heard Donny Hathaway.
What’s your songwriting process like? Do lyrics come easily to you?
It typically starts when I come across a chord progression that makes me feel something. I start humming to it. Involuntarily, almost. That shapes a melody which already carries a rhythm. More often than not, the lyrics are right in there and they come to me rather easily when I allow them to spill instead of parsing through them with judgment. It’s a bit like peeling an onion: taking away what’s unnecessary to get to some kind of essence.
“C O S M I C VIEW,” which is featured on Vocalo’s “In Rotation” playlist this month, seems to be an exploration of objectivity and perspective. What does this song mean to you? What do you hope listeners will take away from it?
“C O S M I C VIEW” came to me after I watched a documentary about people drowning in the ocean trying to reach Europe by boat. The idea of the “Fortress Europe” and the hypocrisy that exists in European “values” really shook me. I wanted to write a song that spoke about how we’re all in the same boat – Mother Earth – floating in the same ocean – space. I also wanted to convey through song that I believe the concept of race is created as a tool of economic division, and that I wish the unnecessary suffering created by the concept of race would end.
Did you create the collage cover art for “C O S M I C VIEW”? If so, what was your inspiration behind it?
I did create the collage cover art for “C O S M I C VIEW”! I did have some “inner pictures” when I began working on it. The idea of an “all-seeing eye” was something that resonated with me, but I don’t know if I’d go so far as to call it an overarching “inspiration.” When I do collages, I pick images intuitively, no matter how random the selections may be. Then I just try to create some visual order or harmony. Ultimately, my hope is that the viewer or listener will be moved and will find their own meaning in it.
We recently interviewed SXVXNT of music imprint Sound of Cannae, and he mentioned you’re also affiliated with the imprint. How did you become affiliated with Sound of Cannae? What has working with them been like?
I originally met him some years ago through social media. We were mutual IG followers, and later mutual admirers of each other’s work to the point we began exchanging ideas almost on a daily basis and working on music together. He’s executive producing, and contributing to, an EP that I’m creating with Batsauce that’s scheduled to be released in the spring via Sound Of Cannae. To me, they represent quality and hard work from the ground up, and love of the art of music. I deeply respect that.
Other than music, what are some of your favorite art forms to practice and why?
The arts of silence… peace… humor…patience… listening… meditation… seeing beauty… understanding… loving… letting be… work… and presence. Primarily because practicing all of those things helps me draw the best possible result of my life experiences, regardless of circumstance.
What’s up next for you? Anything you’re particularly looking forward to in the near future?
So much on the horizon! I’m particularly looking forward to releasing a single with PB29 on September 9. It’s the lead single from a project that we have in the works. I’m also particularly looking forward to the release of a FIGUB-produced remix of “C O S M I C VIEW” through Krekpek Records. Also, particularly looking forward to my project with Batsauce, SXVXNT and Sound Of Cannae dropping. And I have some songs in the works with a few more of my favorite artists: Aka Kelzz, Cedric Till and Ria Bronte. Those are all going on my self-produced full-length album.
Follow Dana Shanti on Instagram and listen to her music on Spotify below.
Interview and written introduction by Makenzie Creden
Edited for length and clarity by Morgan Ciocca
Photos courtesy of the artist
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