Welcome to One On One In 10, where we ask 10 questions to pick the brains of some of the most talented Indie Artist from across the globe. It’s your girl Mai Mazzi live and on the scene, brining you the real with today’s movers and shakers that allow you to meet them, one on one.

August has been an eventful month; between the festivals, events, and everyone getting ready for the school year with the donation drives, USL has been on the scene giving the people the information that they need. Sadly, this is the last Friday of the month. Are you all ready for the fall? I hope that memories have been made this summer as the upcoming summer of 2017 seems overly promising of more to come on the Indie wave!

This month I had the pleasure of chopping it up with the self proclaimed “Alchemist of Sound” Jahna Sebastian. She hails from the UK and is determined to bridge the East and the West with her unique and versatile sound.
Mai: What made you first realize that you wanted to pursue a career in music? 


Jahna: I have been singing all of my life. I learned to read music at the age of seven when I started playing the domra (instrument) and joined a children’s orchestra. I decided to become a professional musician at the age of eleven, even though I did not come from a family of musicians. It was entirely my choice based on my passion for music. I was fascinated by sound from a very young age. I was hungry for educating myself on music and when I first got access to the Internet, I discovered that it was possible to make music on a computer. I was just a kid in Russia who was passionate about music and wanted to get into composing music, yet I had to find my own way to discover the path that I am on now as an artist, producer, and engineer. The usual path would be either playing an instrument or singing in Russia. I wanted to learn and do more, to master music and put my imagination to work. When I got my first personal computer at the age of thirteen it was a dream come true. My parents thought I would just play games, but I already knew what I could do with it – I could make music and merge my interest in technology with my understanding of the world of sounds. I grew up influenced by classical music, hip-hop, soul, R&B, and Russian folk music.
Mai: How do you describe your music? 
Jahna: It’s the music that you can dance to, vibe to on every occasion, with a message and story connected to real life. I hope also that my music can become one of the signs of the time that I am living in. As an artist the main goal is not just pure entertainment, but a commentary on the world, the society and people that I happen to be contemporary to, which hopefully can also live forever for generations to come. My music is a self-created proclamation of freedom. 
Mai: If you had to categorize your music, what genre would it best fit? 
Jahna: I create in various genres, depending on whether it’s for myself or other artists. To me my music world has no boundaries and over the years my sound as an artist has changed also. I have done reggae, r&b, house, hip-hop, grime, dub step, drum&bass, soul, funk, trap. I did a lot of reggae in Russia, then I realized that if I just stick to one genre, it would be very limiting to all my ideas and as well as the audience that I can reach. After I graduated from Russian Academy of Music and did my production course at Point Blank College in London, I was finally able to build my own studio and invite other artists to record. This helped expand my experience with various genres and artistic approaches. That’s how I love to work – when it’s a journey that is culturally enriching to you and people around you. This is one of the reasons that I have been able to sustain longevity and have also been able to reinvent myself after moving to London. It’s easy to get used to the same sound, and the next thing it’s outdated, so it’s important to have a way of working within the norms of the genre as well as experimenting with it. I like to think that my music evolves with the times more than it fits any particular genre. In production school we learned a very important lesson: that as a creative musician, to be great you have to not just be good at making music that’s within the given genre, but to develop your own personal sound. We live in times of personal branding and the battle of ideas where establishing your individuality is the best thing for an artist. We live in times of independent artists, the DIY and there is no longer the need to be in the box. However, I know there is something distinctive about my sound no matter what type of music I make, uniting all of my music. I like to think of it as Jahna Sebastian sound for now; the main thing is the message and philosophy behind my music, with the genres being the frame of it, yet the coining of the terms for genres are best done by music critics and historians. 

Mai: Do you feel as if music is perceived, accepted, and respected differently in the United States versus where you are? If yes, please describe the differences. If no, please state the similarities. 


Jahna: I would say it has been received very well by those who have already heard it in the US, although many people have not heard it yet, considering that I have not been able to travel outside of the UK for the most part in recent few years due to paperwork. My impact on the US or any other country was limited to Internet. I was only able to visit the US two times for a few days each time, not counting one other time when I was ten, and there were visa restrictions in terms of work. Now I am free to travel and do a lot more. I am grateful that even within those significant limitations that I was given opportunities in the US, like two magazine covers, radio airplay, and so much love. I would say though that generally my music is well received both in UK and US, and it’s probably due to versatility of my art as well as the fact that I have been producing for other artists, which actually opens a lot more doors for an artist than just singing. I am able to touch different audiences through work that I have done with singers, rappers, writers etc, whether as a singer, producer, writer or engineer. To me that is all equal, as long as people hear it. The main difference is that my main presence in the UK has been through touring, performing and modeling in the fashion industry here, while in US my opportunity to reach out to the audience has been so far mainly through online media, due to traveling restrictions, so it’s physical vs digital. However, now that I have my paperwork sorted out I will be able to come and perform in US as I have been able to do here in UK and do so much more. Traveling is very important in music. 



Mai: How do you cope with major obstacles as they relate to the term “starving


Jahna: I just create. Music is the best healer, the best shaman, and cure to any frustration. Whenever I felt overwhelmed with negative thoughts, I found that the best thing is to make music. It takes me to that special place where only pure ideas exist. For me personally, the major obstacles were related to being stripped of my basic human rights at some point; racism in Russia where I was born and grew up; and then issues with the immigration process, which were not my fault at all, but due to a mistake made by someone else, here in UK. That plus challenges as a single mother in the first couple of years of having my daughter, have impacted my career more than trying to make it in music industry, both financially and emotionally. So when it comes to my actual music career, I’m unstoppable as I have overcome situations which were a matter of life and death, a matter of dignity and personal freedom. I always think that if I came this far through being a political refugee, unlawful detention while pregnant, being a single mother, building my life from scratch in UK alone — if I have managed to create this new life, then the only way is up from now. I take all these experiences as a test for strength and inspiration for my music. Yes, many talents may not have opportunities to be discovered in places where the priority is survival. That can also be a huge obstacle for many, where food is very literally not there. That is a question of basic needs. However, in a music career the greatest starvation for an artist is not linked to a lot of money, mansions, fancy cars and champagne, although it’s nice to be comfortable enough and have all the tools to work or relax. The starvation of the mind for great ideas and the soul for understanding human nature becomes the obvious obstacle. That’s why Mozart is only born once in centuries and no amount of corporate money can pay to create one artificially. Creativity is something that no money can buy. That’s why ideas are so valuable today. One idea could change the world. 


Mai: What do you think your greatest opportunity has been so far in your musical career?


Jahna: Performing at the legendary mother of all festivals, Glastonbury Festival 2014 on Pyramid stage, with British rock band Kasabian in front of 100,000 people and more people watching the live broadcast on BBC. The energy was out of this world. To me this has been the greatest opportunity so far. I was a political refugee at the time, yet I got to perform on this stage of this major event, which is a big part of British culture, before I even became a British citizen. It’s a case of a refugee being a part of something great, something that unites people with music. There are people who do flee their countries to save their lives, maybe through the struggle the purpose is to be able to contribute positively to a society of another country and eventually give back to their own people. It could also be a reason to see the world in order to become a better person. Considering all the recent talk about refugees in the media, it’s something that is the opposite of the negativity surrounding this topic. Being able to integrate into society in a very positive way, and being able to engage in the celebration of the culture, is why it has that special meaning to me. Now I am a British citizen; performing there at that time has me ready and gives me courage to do all these new things I have been waiting to be able to do in my career. 


Mai: What image do you think your music conveys? 
Jahna: Master of all musical traits, urban philosopher for everyday people, the Alchemist of Sound that’s free to open people’s eyes on reality with love for individualism and personal freedom. 
Mai: Why did you choose this type of image for your music? 
Jahna: This is who I am and who I built myself to be through experiences of my life, including those when my self-identity was nearly destroyed. I have learned how to create myself, my life from scratch. I have learned that instead of trying to fit in, which has always been impossible for me, especially in Russia, maybe the opposite is needed. It’s gaining freedom to be yourself and the key to your personal creativity, as you don’t owe anybody to be something else. You can be your own personal revolution. What happens if you are behind prison walls without committing a crime stripped of your identity, your awards, your property, and your basic rights? This is a point where one can break or find new personal emancipation from mental slavery. We live in very interesting times when Internet and information is available to many, while it connects people of all cultures from around the world. This world is a battlefield of ideas today, with everybody tweeting, posting, shouting, and broadcasting, yet who is right? Music is the universal language that is able to help people understand one another. There is a new philosophy that is needed in order to bridge the gap between the East and the West. I feel very intrigued to be a part of this time in history of the world and all these changes are the motivation behind the music that I make. Ironically, my own life has always been reflecting these changes as well, so it’s not hard for me to link that too. An artist can help describe the world, and I have been looking to find my purpose from a very young age. Money and fame can be fleeting, but the knowledge you learn and can give to others will live forever.


Mai: What are your immediate music career goals (1 to 3 years)? 


Jahna: I have many years of experience in various countries with music, but I am really starting now to get on the path that I have anticipated. The freedom to travel has been opened for me only this year. Touring the world, filming, connecting the East and the West through music, fashion, ideas, and technology. I am looking to expand my brand, release lots of music, build another bigger studio to give opportunities to other talented people, a personal creative TV show, a fashion line and more in the tech world. I am looking to work with various artists, write and produce for them when I travel. I hope to direct my own movie soon. 


Mai: Do you have other interests or talents that you would like to share with us? 
Jahna: Before I made a conscious decision to become a musician, I had another dream and that was to become a visual artist. I was very good at drawing and painting for my age as a child and my works have been exhibited in Russia and abroad. Most people thought that’s what I would become. Then, music took over! I am still a very visual person; I see sounds and even music is very much imagined through space, colors and moving pictures in my head. This has transcended into the way I write scripts for my videos, my photography as a hobby, editing videos and styling my outfits. I am into styling, writing scripts, design and coding. I think I could be a stand up comedian at some point as well. 


Mai: How do you like to enjoy your time away from the music? 
Jahna: I watch movies, documentaries, political talk shows, interesting talks by various speakers on YouTube, read books, and attend art galleries. I must admit though, being an artist is a 24/7 job, so no matter what you do, when you are not in the studio, you are still creating in your head, constantly analyzing everything you see and bringing that back into your music. Even when you sleep. It’s a constant intellectual Olympics marathon with yourself. You never know when your best song can come to you. It could be right there, while you drinking your tea. 


Make sure you connect with Jahna Sebastian on social media!

Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/JahnaSebastianWorld/?fref=ts

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JahnaSebastian

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jahnasebastian/

Website: http://jahnasebastian.com/

To my readers, thank you for tuning in, and make sure you stay tuned for the next NMNJ “One on One in 10”!



Mai Mazzi
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