Contrary to common belief, good art almost never takes shape in an ‘ideal setting’ defined by tropes of pleasure and perfection. Great art stems from a void within, often rooted in crippling, agonizing pain. Akin to pain, art and music is especially subjective; after all what may be soup for the soul to one may be a road-trip anthem for another. Music was born out of an indispensable need to make the telling of difficult stories by artists, soothing for listeners. Millennia since its genesis, art-imbued music is losing its relevance as the course of most musicians shifts from change-inspiring storytelling to the creation of more marketable singles.
Vincent Van Gogh once quoted, “Art is to console those who’re broken by life”. Amid today’s competitive music landscape, Kovsky as an artist stands out, thanks to the ease with which she uses her music to tell difficult stories. Driven by themes addressing substance abuse, loneliness or even simple feelings like love, Kovsky feels strongly against surrendering her creative caliber to the mumbo-jumbo of lousy lyricism and drab composition, that modern music has become.
Mumbai-bred singer-songwriter Aashna Gulabani brings more to the table than you’d expect. A classical-pianist herself, she ascribes the quirky moniker ‘Kovsky’, to her greatest sonic influence, Russian composer, ‘Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’. An organized, meticulous person by nature, Aashna’s painstaking attention to depth and detail are what attribute her music a distinct edge. Besides being a gifted vocalist, her piano expertise comes in handy when supervising production for synth-laden singles spanning from her debut song, ‘Chameleon’ to the lockdown release of euphoria-inspired tune, ‘Lonely’.
Kovsky’s evolution as an artist
Kovksy’s tryst with music has been a fascinating one. Born close to the dawn of a new century, her childhood was tinted with bright shades of 2000’s pop, rock, and rap music; from the likes of Kanye to Avril Lavigne. A colorful medley of coming-of-age cinema and indie films also played a role in shaping her persona as well as nurturing her creative spirit. She fondly recounts witnessing both, the evolution of modern sounds, and the parallel growth in her passion as a musician.
“Growing up, all I wanted was to be able to make music to express myself better. While my taste and approach towards music have progressed from when I was younger, my creative direction is still the same.” Quotes Aashna, recounting how despite constant modifications in style, her music still focuses on telling stories and bears the same soul it did when she started off.
About her music & creative influence
Currently a post-graduate student of counseling psychology in Brisbane, Aashna Gulabani’s dark, somber sounds and deep vocals are influenced by brush with pain, love and other emotions. An artist who devotes a significant amount of time to community service, be it offering psychological remedy to Covid patients or ushering substance addicts in rehab towards a healthier recovery; Kovsky’s narrative-rich music is her channel for expression.
“For starters, my single ‘Lonely’ casts light upon substance abuse, depression, and anxiety. Tropes often glorified and aestheticized by pop culture” says Aashna. Having battled her own share of issues as a wee lass, Kovsky shares the impact her personal discord has had on her music. “Growing up, I struggled with a learning disorder and occasional self-esteem issues as well. Living in a closeted society that doesn’t acknowledge the gravity of mental health issues can feel suffocating”
Kindred to her odyssey of navigating past mental conflicts, Kovsky shares how good music can often cheer people up and lift their spirit during hard times. She personally believes that regardless of how bleak life may seem sometimes, there’s always a silver lining and brighter tomorrow.
The artist’s freshest lo-fi offering, ‘Love Sick’ is an ode to simpler times and being silly in love. Kovsky recounts her experience with love in the song and how loving someone / something too profoundly can feel like a disease. The mellifluous tune, co-produced by Citizen Kale (Viraj Chheda) employs atmospheric sounds, smooth basslines, a soft synth melody, and Aashna’s breezy vocals to create an almost teleportative sensation among listeners. Upbeat, bright, and mellow in tone, the song is a slight deviation from the heavy sounds and dark lyricism in Kovsky’s usual music, charming audiences with its soothing vibe.
The video clip for the song features Aashna in her element, all goofy and jamming to the song as Pokemon visuals play out harmoniously in the back. The song by itself evokes a strong sense of nostalgia among listeners while the clip bears a striking resemblance to ‘coming-of-age’ indie films. The cover art designed by Neil Bijlaney, cover art photos captured by Kyle Ian and film captured by Nikita advani juxtaposed with Kovsky’ lip-syncing, coke sipping, and goofing around make the clip a major mood for anime-stans and lo-fi aficionados alike.
In conversation with Kovsky :
At Homegrown we reached out to Kovsky to understand more about her journey as an artist and her creative process behind making music.
HG: You’re a post-grad student in Australia pursuing an advanced course in psychology. How do you still manage to prioritize music and make time for community service?
Aashna: Considering how passionate I am about my music, prioritizing it comes to me naturally. The real struggle for me is juggling between my side-gig as a bartender, studio rehearsals, academics, and my part-time work as a counseling psychologist at rehab and community centers. Having so much on my plate wasn’t exactly easy initially, but what kept me going was the promise I’d made myself, to become financially and professionally independent.
I can’t deny how privileged my life back in Bombay was. Unfortunately, back home I never got a taste of real-hustle. It’s only after moving to Brisbane that I learnt what it meant to grind day in, day out with no weekends off. Considering my studio is in Gold Coast, almost forty minutes away from Brisbane, travelling was initially a major hunch until I grew accustomed. Additionally, managing university assignments and community service duty on the side can get taxing too.
There are days when I feel like giving up, quitting my job or even missing a rehearsal or two, but what keeps me going is reminding myself why I started. I’m a go-getter and I don’t believe in half-assing anything I take up. I’m also extremely particular about being on-time and consistent with my work. When i’m making music I prefer serious studio time over chill-jamming sessions.
HG: Kovsky as an artist has a distinct voice and visual aesthetic in contrast to Aashna as a person. What influenced the development of your overall visual aesthetic and sonic persona?
Aashna: What the video for ‘Love Sick’ makes abundantly clear is the strong influence coming-of-age indie films have had in my growth as an artist. My music too is rooted in songs that inspire change, growth and a sense of breaking out of your bubble. 2000’s pop-rock and rap have also been pivotal. I remember being young and being in love with everything to do with Avril Lavigne. Her bold persona was liberating to experience.
Since a young age, I knew fitting in wasn’t for me and that I’d want to experiment with my looks, style, and fashion sense. I’ve always found it hard to conform to society’s standards of how one should look, feel, or sound like. For me, dyeing my hair crazy colors, wearing baggy fits, experimenting with my makeup palates and looks in general, have all been a process to find my true identity and express myself the best way I can. As an artist I pay attention to every little detail from how I move to how my audience perceives me; for starters back home while people may stare at me as I walk down the street, here in australia most people wouldn’t look twice.
The aesthetic for my music and visuals for my tracks have always been rooted in minimalism with inspiration from pop-culture and cinema.
HG: Considering its been a long road for you since your foray into music, what are some key people and factors that contributed to your growth as an artist?
Aashna: I’m someone who’s always been super close to my family. They’ve always believed in me and supported my vision. Be it my twin sister or older brother, my family has always kept me motivated while helping me navigate past some of the hardest moments in my life.
While my entire family has supported me in my personal and professional pursuits, one person in specific who’s taste, guidance, and influence truly inspired the growth of Kovsky, is my elder brother, Ankiet. Besides being a supportive older brother, he’s a chef and a celebrity of sorts (laughs). He’s the most passionate, confident, and loving man I’ve known; his taste in music, constant support, and the dedication with which he hones his craft inspired my younger self to evolve into a strong individual who isn’t afraid to express herself.
In terms of factors, I believe music has been an inherent part of my life. Mom often jokes about how as a baby I could sing before I even learned how to speak, which Of course I don’t believe (laughs). My training as a classical pianist and constant brush with pop-music and cinema kind of instilled within me this desire to tell stories using music as a medium and look all these years later, here I am.
HG: Tell us your views on love and pain.
Aashna: Well, truth be told, I’m someone who loves hard and cares for the people in my life deeply. And I’m not referring only to the ‘romantic’ type of love, I’m talking about the love I share with my friends, family, and siblings too. I’m someone who is okay with caring selflessly for people that mean something to me.
I’ve had my share of heartbreaks, pain, and toxic people in life. While most people dread pain or heartbreaks of any sort, I believe pain helps you evolve. No two people ever feel the same kind of pain, yet that doesn’t invalidate the feelings of either. You don’t get to tell me or someone else that their pain is insignificant or irrelevant compared to yours. Pain is subjective and so are the lessons you learn from it.
I believe there is strength in not letting the fear of pain and heartbreaks cripple you. After all they prepare you to endure some of the most difficult moments in your life.
HG: Tell us more about what the world can expect from Kovsky.
Well, ever since I was young with dreams of being an artist, my only hope was to accomplish three things with my music. Firstly, I’ve dreamt less about being a headliner at flashy concerts, but more about making music that truly resonates with people. Secondly, I aspire to someday be prominent enough someday that listeners around the world can recognize my voice when they hear it on the radio; the money factor has always been secondary for me. Last but not the least, my hope is to be able to collaborate with musicians who’re genuinely good people before anything else; musicians who share my vision of telling real stories through the music they make.
It’s safe for listeners and audiences to expect a lot more music from me in the coming days. The unwavering support from friends, fans and all my listeners has kept me motivated to create and drop music more consistently, which will now span genres like lo-fi, alt-rap, and some mellow-pop too. There’s a lot in store for people who enjoy my music and I can’t wait to share what’s been cooking with the world.
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