Female Firestarters: Audio Production alumna Akila shares her advice to aspiring artists

Akila - Catalyst Berlin Creative Audio Production & Sound Engineering alumna

On Women’s Day 2021, we’re celebrating two outstanding Creative Audio Production & Sound Engineering alumni who are part of the new generation of female producers: Akila and Cecilie Sadolin. First up, read our Q&A with Akila. 

If there’s one thing (probably the only thing) for which we can thank Corona, it’s the creative spirit it reawakened. According to The Guardian, the lockdown periods have seen a colossal spike in registrations for creative courses, as well as an uptick in ‘how-to’ searches. When it comes to the male-dominated audio production and sound engineering industry, the outlook is particularly exciting. The percentage of women in the workforce has languished at five percent for the best part of a decade – no thanks to sexism, underrepresentation and underexposure. However, in an incredible turn of events, lockdown has encouraged many more women and non-binary people to ignite their passion and take the first steps towards their dreams.

At Catalyst, we’re happy to meet more women and non-binary applicants each year – though they remain in the minority. That’s why, this Women’s Day, we’re celebrating two Creative Audio Production & Sound Engineering alumni whose outstanding music is helping to change the face of the industry: 2020 graduate Akila and 2018 graduate Cecile Sadolin. We caught up with them to learn what they’ve been working on since graduation, as well as their advice to fellow females who aspire to a career in music.

Read our Q&A with Akila below and click here to head to Cecilie’s.

Æ band featuring Akila - Catalyst Berlin Creative Audio Production & Sound Engineering alumna

[Above photo credits: Photographer & art director: Kaśka Jankiewicz. Fashion Designer: Kai Gerhardt. Make-up artist: Pablo Barckhahn]

What was your motivation to focus your career in this field?

I’ve always had a passion for art and music since I was a teenager and I’ve always dreamed of being an artist. I flew 11,004 km from Indonesia to Germany to pursue this passion. Therefore, this effort and sacrifice kept me motivated.

What are your current projects/endeavours/jobs in the music industry?

I’ve been having a lot of fun with my band Æ. It is a duo project consisting of me (vocalist and producer) and Elias O Graversen (singer and instrumentalist). The project was born as a result of the “Working to a Brief” module in my third year at Catalyst. Thanks to my tutor, Florian Zwietnig!

Last November, we were granted the artist’s residency from Musicboard Berlin at Hellerau cultural center in Dresden, where we wrote and recorded our debut album, Small Hands. Now I'm finishing the production of our album. Ainsley Adams, who was also my tutor at Catalyst is the mixing and mastering engineer of our album, under his production team, Brave. I am very happy to work with him and his team, he is benevolent and very encouraging. He boosts my confidence!

Our latest appearance was at the Hellerau Bandstand Festival, where they showed the two live performances of our unreleased tracks from the album. Nickolas Menescal, a Film Production alumnus from Catalyst is the director of our videos. 

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What is your advice to future female students considering their studies in CAP?

In general, when you decide to study something art-related, you must believe that you’ll be happy doing it and have the love for it. The more you do it, the more in love you are with yourself. It is like carrying a gift. I believe everyone has the gift. But the challenge is how to develop your talent.

“The life of the soul is in its creations and once you get the taste of it, you feel the freedom. You’ll be dancing in the moonlight, women!”

The gift of creativity is a part of the soul. When I play or create music, I put myself into it – I think we all do. The life of the soul is in its creations and once you get the taste of it, you feel the freedom. You’ll be dancing in the moonlight, women!

Therefore, my advice would be to trust your intuition. Intuition is the compass you bring to this world. I used to give up so easily because of the voices outside of me. Yet, all I need to know is already inside of me. Despite the fears of our egos, with no guarantee of success, we need to go and trust that our inner being will take us exactly where we need to be. Listen to your gut feeling and it will lead you.

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What are the obstacles you perceive, what should we work collectively to overcome?

Self-doubt and criticism are the biggest obstacles in my creative process. I used to only work alone. I closed the door to other people because at that time I thought no one would understand my ideas. It’s a lack of trust I guess. Because I worked alone, I felt personally attacked when someone criticized my work, I couldn’t separate myself from my work.

Now I realize that even though I locked myself in my own musical realm, I was still trying to get acceptance from the outside. I was naive to think that I could do it all by myself and then I would get the validation that I deserve. I was making music for other people, not for me, which can be a struggle because you will never feel enough. Through this experience, I started to learn how to accept myself. By doing that, I feel that making music is more enjoyable because my only intention is to be free with it. I want to make music for me, to make me feel good. In this state, I’m flowing with the music. There is no rush and pressure, and you will see there are many doors of inspiration open for you, under your joy and self-acceptance.

Nevertheless, there are always ups and downs in the process. I will not say that I amcompletely free in making music. I still have obstacles in the process, but I think the most important part is to be aware of it, so then we can work on it and we will find our way to enjoy our own creation.

“I get inspired by people’s stories, their background, cultures, their jokes, their pain, their happiness and their perspective towards life.”

Can you share someone you look up to or who inspires you?

There are so many people and artists that I look up to and feel inspired by, and it's hard to just choose one. Some of them are Kate Bush, FKA Twigs, Aurora, Kendrick Lamar, Patti Smith, Nico, Brandi Carlile, Weyes Blood, Caroline Polacheck, SZA, Kelsey Lu, Kid Cudi, Tyler The Creator, Tom Yorke, Alex Turner, Michael Jackson. But to be real, I mostly feel inspired by the relationships I have with other people.

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I get inspired by people’s stories, their background, cultures, their jokes, their pain, their happiness and their perspective towards life. Sometimes, the people that really care for you embrace some of your reflections. The good ones and the bad ones. You can understand yourself better when you are surrounded by them, but you can also feel a sort of resistance when they show the sides that you don’t like about yourself.

To balance my different sides is what inspires me the most. The more I feel inspired, the more I can open myself to others, the more I listen to others, the more I feel true to myself. When I combine all of these inputs and the voice I have within me, my work seems to be more honest, genuine, and authentic. I think to find the best in people and in yourself is inspiring.