Alisha Popat

Musician Alisha Popat on stage during the “Love is a Funny Thing” Valentine’s event at the Kiza Ballroom on February 15, 2020.

| Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

Alisha’s big break as she competes in ‘The Voice’

What you need to know:

  • The 34-year-old journalism graduate from the University of Cape Town describes herself as as a travel enthusiast, a lover of nature and a big foodie.
  • For now she is focused on the The Voice of Germany where she is already making a big impression in the show that premiered this month.

My earliest and fondest memory of music would be our family’s eight-hour drives from Nairobi to Mombasa when we were younger. We would listen to the golden oldies and sing along together the entire way!

My parents realised my affinity to music when I was a one-year-old. I would hum before I spoke and I was constantly singing. I realised my affinity to music when I recognised that my favourite thing was to sing to songs on the radio and dance around with a hairbrush in front of my mirror. My prized possessions were my mum’s old guitar books. I loved looking through all the songs.

The artiste that really influenced my music was Bryan Adams. I just loved his music and he made me want to be a musician too. Other than that, when I was about 12, Dana from the Calabash Band would always tell me to come up on stage with her at open mic sessions and sing with them. This happened with other artistes like John Katana, John Orina and Sodi. They all gave me an opportunity to sing and find my feet. I don’t tell them enough how thankful I am.

I honestly wish I could say that I had more help joining the industry in Kenya, but I didn’t. I had to fight for this, hard! My priority as a musician in Kenya now is to give aspiring artistes all the help they can get to make it.

My passion for music grew in high school when I was part of a band. I realised that I loved this so much that I could make a career out of it. My parents wanted me to get a degree in anything else first, so I did my bachelor’s and honours in media and journalism. In between those degrees, I worked at X-FM and East FM as a newscaster. When I finally completed my degrees, I moved back to Kenya with one goal in mind – to make my music career work.

I started branding myself and networking. I had an amazing leg-up by singing at the 2010 Fifa World Cup opening ceremony where I sang for 80,000 people. I knew then that singing was indeed my calling. I felt an overwhelming sense of purpose. After that, through VenTribe (which brings Facebook friends together to buy gifts as a group), I managed to get a collaboration with (American artiste) Lindsey Stirling, which is what propelled my career.

I then got smarter and more creative and found ways to collaborate with other big YouTubers by pairing performers with suitable sponsors and creating songs and videos for different organisations. Killing three birds with one stone by maximising companies and sponsors' social media exposure, giving artistes a unique opportunity to see Kenya while doing some good in this world, and boosting my career. My career flourished for some years and then became stagnant.

To be successful in this business, you need to be thick-skinned, be consistent, keep being relevant and work harder than anyone else you know. It was so hard! During the pandemic, I struggled both financially and emotionally. I thought my big singing career dreams had ended and that realisation was heart-breaking. The move to Germany was so hard, being away from my loved ones and my home but somehow through all the tough times, a big door opened.

I believe in this quote: ‘’You never change your life until you step out of your comfort zone; change begins at the end of your comfort zone.’”Roy T Bennett

I am still completely overwhelmed by being on The Voice of Germany. Out of 10,000 people, I got this unique opportunity! Two months into my move here in Berlin, we were watching The voice weekly and on one of those occasions, my partner asked me if I trusted him.

He was doing something on his laptop. “Of course,’”I said. He then swiftly pressed send then told me that he applied for me to get into The Voice of Germany. I was shocked. I needed to learn German as all I knew then was ‘Kann ich bitte ein Brötchen mit Käse und eine Tasse Tee haben?’ That was my breakfast order at the corner bakery.

Getting into The Voice of Germany involved a rigorous interview and audition process just to get into the Blinds (a preliminary audition stage that focuses on the voice) . During these months, all I was doing was intensive German courses and vocals coaching to get myself ready.

I have never worked harder in my life than for this opportunity and when Lindsey Stirling called me with the news that I got in, my heart almost burst out of my chest. When I stood on that stage to sing, I was the most nervous I have ever been because not only did I have to sing for my space in the next round, but I had to talk in German and understand everything the judges asked and said to me.

It was one of the most exciting and liberating moments of my existence, getting through with all four chair turns (a move in which the judges, in their seats, turn their backs during a performance on stage then those who approve turn to face the contestant. I didn’t expect it.

My highlights have been meeting the other contestants, making really great friends and having Johannes Oerding sing for me while I sat in the judge’s seat. I am also really proud that I managed to learn German for this contest and after so many bumps in the road, I still have the confidence to dust myself off and try again.

I am an indie-pop singer. I love ballads and emotional songs because my voice lends itself to deep, emotional music. My sound is soft, raw and restrained, I would say.

I would love to collaborate with my very good friend Tetu Shani, he is just incredible and also Khaligraph Jones. I don’t know him personally, but I think he is exceptionally gifted. And of course Sauti Sol.

Music is a long and creative process. Everyone’s writing process is different, I like to go by topics and feelings at the moment and then start writing from there. Then put a melody to it, get into the studio with great session musicians, and build the song together with whomever I am working with. The hard work starts after that process – how to push it and market it.

Recovering from Covid-19 was a hard journey. It hit me hard and it was emotionally and physically draining. You wouldn’t want it, especially as a singer. I had issues with my lung capacity and breathing for almost four months afterwards. I am finally feeling like my normal self.

Three things are coming up for me: The battle at The Voice of Germany, album and wedding bells.

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