Expressive. Heart-Centered. Visionary.
Walk with us into the mystical realm of AIVA ASTRA
Mysterious, mystical prose; divinely inspired, genre-defying musical compositions; all things wonder and rainbows—it's impossible to accurately and succinctly define the experience of AIVA ASTRA's music. But if one were to try, there's somewhere one can always start without error: Love.
AIVA ASTRA, born Ariel Imani Van Alstyne, was discovered on Myspace as AIVA the Great in 2009 while on a break from college; originally she only began writing music with the intention of exploring her creativity. The notion of pursuing music as a career had never occurred to AIVA until a British blogger wrote about her music—suddenly, she started getting massive amounts of attention, and the possibility became reality.
After several meetings overseas, AIVA seized opportunity in full stride in 2010 and signed to what appeared to be the hungriest label in her inbox, Island Records; she then packed up her life and moved to London. There, she made lifelong friends and fell headfirst into the diverse world of London creatives. But not everything went according to plan.
What seemed to be her great break turned out to be a directionless stint of smoke and mirrors; more and more AIVA became aware that there was never really a plan for her. Or maybe there had been a plan, and they’d found she couldn’t be forced to play the stereotyped part of a black woman in music, as so often occurs. There’s no way of knowing. All that AIVA could remember was what the agent had said to her just before she signed: “Are you ready to sell your soul?”
Unfortunately, the mainstream cultural dogma—including that of the music industry—has a very narrow, reductive, and stereotyped depiction of what blackness is and can be. People like AIVA—that is to say, those who defy the stereotypes—are not small in number by any means; “There’s a spectrum of us,” AIVA points out. “Blackness comes in all shades, and all types.” But true or not, many in the industry opt to oppose this fact.
“I just want to exist and take up space... you know, showing up however I am or how I'm supposed to be...without trying to meet standards or please labels or please the industry.”
AIVA ultimately struck a mutual separation agreement with her label and moved back to the states to pursue her craft independently, where she ultimately joined forces with Brain Candy and took on the moniker AIVA ASTRA. She realized very quickly that she didn't need anyone's permission or help to pursue her life's purpose. “We don’t want a seat at your table," AIVA stated. "We want to build our own tables so that we can celebrate our diversity as a people, and everybody else’s diversity, because we just want to exist like everybody else.” True to her inherently resilient nature, AIVA emerged from the deal stronger and more empowered than ever.
“The power of being a self-healer is a lot of who I am,” she remarked, “and I want to also inspire people, as a Black female artist, to find that healing within themselves.” The need to heal and share love runs deep in AIVA's music—right to the core of her purpose as an artist. Listening to ROYGBIV or Magenta, this is immediately obvious.
But it runs even deeper than that: this need is embedded in her spirit. AIVA's music is informed and inspired by her gift of mystic vision, or second sight. Her songs are intrinsically a cathartic expression of what the divine has communicated with her, and they are her way to share with others what the divine has passed on for her to interpret.
She writes and shares music like she breathes air, or like a bird flies; it is her life, it is her impetus, and it is her design. Interpreting the love of the divine is a condition of her humanity. This is a cause whose corruption would be the gravest and darkest of offenses; thus, creative freedom could not be more critical.
“Having the authority and the control over my narrative and telling my story exactly that way that I want to tell it, and having the freedom to do so using my own voice, and using my creativity, in the way that I know best because I have the vision—these things are crucial to me and my art."
There's no questioning the fact that AIVA has come miles from where she began. Fate worked in beguiling, often bewildering ways, but all paths lead to where we are meant to be. Ultimately, AIVA now has the freedom to pursue what she was created to pursue, something Brain Candy and her team encourage tremendously. “The success for me is the being who I am," AIVA said in closing remarks. "I am taking full sovereignty over who I am as a creative person, but also my life. Me showing up is really saying that I’m taking up this space as I am, who I am, in all senses of the word, and you can do that for yourself too. No one is telling you that you can’t...
...Because I’m not letting anybody tell me that I can’t.”
Be sure to check out AIVA ASTRA's latest drop with Tichi Start Fires!