Last year at the VNZMAs, Aaradhna made her point in a speech.
In her album, Brown Girl, she makes her point through song.
“I’m not just the brown girl in the ring. I’m a girl that likes to sing.”
A lot of us want to shout this words – that we are not just Brown Girls - we are more than the colour of our skin.
It feels like something Aaradhna has been saying all through her career as a recording artist and producer. She has never shied away from talking about what she has gone through as a woman of colour in the industry. Back when I was preparing for this interview, she was in the news for having given away her Tui (an award given in the New Zealand Music Awards), saying that she felt out of place in the Hip-hop/Rap category and that it wasn’t fair that she was put into the genre just because of her ethnicity.
Amidst this constant storm of prejudice, I asked Aaradhna how she powers through.
"I hold my head high and keep working. Most importantly, I write songs about it. Nothing but fuel for my fire, baby. By the end of the day I have the strength, love and support from my family and loved ones and they always remind me to continue to stand up for what I believe is right"
And indeed, her family has been a pillar of strength.
"My family are very supportive and happy for me because they know how hard I've worked. They've seen me singing in my bedroom since I was a kid. They saw the passion I had for music early on. I can see that it makes my family happy and proud"
Aaradhna has a voice that not only asserts her identity, it rises from the masses. I wondered what it might be like to be part of a community where she was the odd one out. Was she treated differently because of how much she spoke out against racism?
"To be honest, I've only come across a few people that have made me feel like I was being treated a certain way because of my ethnicity, being placed in a box and such. But I think it's fuel for me, it gives me something to write and sing about. Moments like that motivate me"
And post-VNZMAs, she says her peers stood by her and her words.
"I believe they are (accepting of my uncategorisable identity). I had a ton of support after my stance at the music awards which was awesome"
On being asked if there was a place she felt like she could be herself without any resistance, her home life was a crucial aspect of Aaradhna’s successful career.
"Home with my loved ones will always be the best place to relax and also on stage performing is where my spirit truly runs free"
But, in the time it took for this interview to be complete, the New Year has come and gone. On this side of it, Aaradhna is in the news for a different reason than her VNZMAs speech – she has been announced as a finalist for the 2017 Taite Music Prize! Though, in our interview, she stuck to her affinity towards home and mentioned that it might be time for her to switch tracks a little bit.
"I want to start a family. I'm at that point where I want kids. In saying that, my passion for making music is still strong and I have new songs in my head and heart that need to come out asap"
I asked her if any of her brothers and sisters may be gearing up to follow her.
"They are all musically talented in their own right and I guess if they really wanted to pursue this music thing they would and do a great job. But they all have other passions and dreams that they want to follow"
Aaradhna is Samoan-Indian, and though she’s said before that she doesn’t really have a racial demographic, her fan base does have a majority.
"I feel I have a very strong Polynesian fan base, but over the years it has grown and branched out towards wider audience. It's just humbling that somewhere someone is listening and connecting to my music I just hope it continues to grow"
A growing fan base = global recognition. I asked Aaradhna if she planning to enter that platform.
"It's always been a goal of mine to branch out and push my music out as far as it can go. My music being heard overseas is definitely a huge goal for me"
I got some tips - at the end of the day, it was us, women of colour, brown girls battling against white privilege, who looked at her as an inspiration. On this, she had some suggestions for both aspiring musicians and girls who wanted to make a change but didn’t have a platform like Aaradhna’s.
"Be confident in your craft, and speaking of craft learn how to write your own songs because by doing so you find freedom in it. Speak up if you don't like something, you gotta be selfish with your craft because at the end of the day your craft is representing you not anybody else. Be vocal about what you want so you can be 100 percent happy with it and never give up!"
"Stand up for what you believe in. Never be afraid to speak up. Confidence and honesty is key, be confident and honest in what you speak on"
Finally, I asked her for a playlist - songs that described Aaradhna Patel: the musician and the woman. And as I had expected when I sent over the questions, it’s a playlist I have had on repeat ever since.