Published on June 30th, 2015 | by Jameelah "Just Jay" Wilkerson


Jahna Sebastian: International Sensation

How did you discover your musical talent?

I started singing at the same time as talking. Singing has always been a natural thing for me, and I used to perform as a solo act at all school shows. I learned to read music at the age of seven when I joined the children’s orchestra in Russia playing domra. We performed on many stages, and playing for two weeks Christmas/New Year’s Eve concerts was my first paid job. At the age of eleven, I realized that I wanted to become a professional musician, and I had a pretty clear picture of what it included for me; singing, playing instruments, writing music and performing. I also remember that even at that time I was listening to music and analyzing it in the same way as a few years later I’d been told to do in sound engineering and music production courses. I would listen out for the details in the arrangements of the songs, rhythmic patterns, how the kicks go with snares and other sounds, not just the voice. Playing in the orchestra for eight years also has set the ground for me to get into producing.

Who have been your greatest inspirations musically and why?

My first major influence comes from Michael Jackson. As a very young child, even at the age of three, I used to sing along and dance to his songs all the time. My whole room was filled with his posters. Bob Marley’s songs and powerful messages have helped me go through some hard times in my life, especially when I was not able to talk to anybody because of certain circumstances, but his music was speaking to me in a very special way. His story also resonated with me as I found some parallels between his life and some of the things I have been through as a child, and in that sense it was even more deep. I did a lot of reggae in Russia. My first big stage performance as a singer with my own lyrics in front of a couple of thousands of people was on a Bob Marley’s Birthday celebration. Vocally, I have always been looking up to Whitney Houston. I have been singing her songs at almost every audition as a teenager, including the free public Master Class I won with vocal coach Seth Riggs, who came specially from U.S. to Russia for his sold out events. I have always admired Madonna for her ability to re-invent herself, and as (a) performer/entertainer, she is really fearless and I love people who dare to do things artistically and push the boundaries. Prince’s musical genius and lyrics have inspired me a lot, too! He is the ultimate “Music Man,” playing every instrument, arranging, writing, producing and charging with electricity on stage — That is what I aspire to be.

What do you feel you offer the music industry that we don’t already have in other performers?

I am able to appreciate diverse music and cultures from around the world and incorporate that into my work. Being of South Indian and Russian origins, I want to bridge the gap between the East and the West in the world today, and create music that can speak to both parts of the world today globally. I understand the the way of life and mentality in Asia and the Middle East, as well as I understand the way in the U.S., U.K., and I can see the unifying component of all of us as humans. As a female artist, I have learnt to make beats, write, arrange and engineer in many different genres. I know the technical aspect of things and with these skills I can adapt to work with any artist or musician. That diversifies the musical experience through collaboration. Today, there are no social barriers in this music industry for women to be producers, not just singers, and I am here to show that. I am also an actor and I approach all of my work in that sense, which allows me (to) re-invent my act as the times change, while staying true to myself. I am the opposite of stagnation and staying the same for too long, in this fast changing world I am the person of my time. Transformation is the key word in my life and my work. Before I decided to become a musician, I wanted to be a visual artist and that manifests in what I am doing now. I am a visual person. I want to connect people from all over the world; India, U.A.E., U.S.A., U.K., Russia, Japan, China, etcetera, through music, visuals and art I create.

Have you encountered any problems in getting to this point in your career?

There have been a few challenges. I was born and raised in U.S.S.R., and I was the only mixed race child at my kindergarten, primary school and in many places I’d go to. I was the odd one out because I didn’t look Russian enough. Some people were curious, some were hating and saying rude remarks on the street all the time. There were not many people who looked like me over there, and most of them were students and only lived (in) one part of Moscow where the international students’ campus was. Police would stop me to check my ID on my way to school, because they didn’t believe I could be born in Russia without proof. In early 2000’s, racist ideas started to spread in a very organized way in Russia. I ran away from neo-Nazis inside the underground station and after some time I could not leave my house without fearing for my life just because of my skin color and ethnicity. I started writing about that and raising awareness through my music, attended protests and demonstrations against racism. Then, my bass guitarist was beaten up really badly by a large group of neo-Nazis on his way to our performance at (the) Bob Marley Festival in Moscow. We had to cancel all the shows and the police refused to open the case until the news about it ended up on mainstream TV and in the newspapers. I moved to London by myself and had to start everything from scratch; from finding a job and building my studio, to establishing my music career. I had my child at least ten years ahead of my initial plan and although it is a great blessing, it wasn’t easy, because I have not fully stabilized my position in (the) U.K. and my career at that point yet, and I was not where I am now. Also, when I was pregnant my asylum case in (the) U.K. was put on the wrong procedure by mistake and I was detained for two months, then battling to get a fair hearing of my case. I won the right to stay eventually. I had to go behind the scenes and put my artist career on the second plan, because balancing early stages of motherhood, as well as other things, did not allow me to tour and do many things, apart from being in the studio. Now, I am in a much better place. I tour, I focus on my own music and acting, my daughter is a bit older…She is my best friend. I have never ever stopped, I kept going.

What do you want people get from your music?

Once the music leaves the studio, it starts living a life of its own, as everybody would have their own experience connecting to it depending on how and where they listen to it. I want my music to raise a cultural dialogue and talk to people about things they face and live through every day, to provoke some thought process and make you move. I want it to be seen as the commentary and the voice. I want it to push the buttons some people have, but are too afraid to admit that. I want my songs to be the type people play to each other to listen to the lyrics when it’s too scary to put things they want to express into words without music. I hope people can get some inspiration from it and the clues and answers to the questions they ask themselves.

When can we expect some new music from you?

I am working on my next EP right now, and I have filmed the first video for one of the singles already. Another music video for the song called “One and a Million” with a rap group The Lost Enemy, from my production album, has been filmed with my collaborator, (the) very talented director Kevin Hudson. Something new will come out this month. My next EP is set to be released this spring. My production album will feature many different artists. I am at a place where I am trying to release new music every month right now and it’s diverse.

What has been your greatest achievement so far?

I would not want to list a career point in this regard as I feel that although I have been working for many years in music, since childhood, I am only in the beginning stages of getting to where I want to be and my goals are very high. Everything I have done was a learning curve and building foundation for where I am now. I’d say my greatest achievement so far has been learning to balance motherhood and my work, which I didn’t think I was able to do until I had my child, as up until that point I was totally consumed by my career and studies. I was surprised to find out that it was possible to combine the two, and in fact made me even more focused. I have performed on many stages in front of thousands of people, killed some of my personal fears, started from scratch a couple of times, I have worked on hundreds of songs with many different artists, but my greatest achievement is yet to happen and my best song is yet to be released. Music is what I know, but I am not limited to doing only music, and I am looking forward to expanding into other areas, too.

If you could collaborate with one artist, living or dead, who would it be and why?

Definitely Michael Jackson! He has inspired me from my early childhood up until now. He was (an) incredible artist, very forward thinking and humble at the same time. If I could collaborate with him, I’d want to create something that if aliens were to visit Earth in a thousand years and check out the history of music, that project would have made them dance! *Laughs*

If you could play any venue in the world, which one would you choose and why?

I would like to perform at the Olympic Games at one point. It is a historical event when nations come together in one place, and I would love to be a part of that. I would like to put on a big show, the one that will be remembered, which would incorporate modern technology to the fullest.

One track of yours that you think defines you and why?

The song “I Am Free,” from my upcoming EP, which can be the soundtrack of many events in my life.

Is there anything I left out that you’d like to mention?

A couple of things about The Edge of Love EP, with seven tracks, which I have released recently. It explores the strongest emotions one can have when being in love passionately. It talks about fast changes these experiences bring and the way they can transform you from inside. It’s not the quiet type of friendly love, it’s the crazy passion where there is a split second separating war and peace. Four music videos have been filmed and directed by Kevin Hudson; “One Day,” “Poison,” “The Edge of Love,” “Desert,” and they further elaborate on the subject of the songs. They are all interconnected between each other. I have produced, arranged and mixed this EP, entirely in my studio, Multivizion Music.

Any “message(s)” for our readers?

Have a dream that is worth fighting for, don’t settle down for less than you deserve. Work hard and never ever give up. Everything great has been fought for with blood, sweat and tears, don’t let the easy path of some to be the example to you, look out to be the pioneer not just a follower, don’t be afraid to be different, because we are all born unique. Do what you love and money will follow. You can make all the money in the world, but they are of no use in afterlife, however you can create something during your life that will be remembered forever by many and inspire generations to come. Live life to the fullest and try to be the best you can at any time.

Interview By: Hype Staff

About the Author

Publisher and CEO of The Hype Magazine. Follow me on Twitter @HypeJustJay

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