To say that Alyana Cabral is destined for greatness is an understatement. Since learning how to play the guitar and write her own songs at the age of 13, Alyana was never meant to take on a singular direction. With the countless musical hats she wears every day, hers is a world of fascinating contrasts and immersive experiences.
When she’s not performing with her bands, Ourselves the Elves or The Buildings, she’s busy scoring films — one of which has reached American shores during the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Festival — or working on her solo electronic project, Teenage Granny. Whichever moniker she chooses for the night, Alyana never fails to deliver a textured, multi-dimensional and magnetic performance that one can’t help but notice just how deep her roots run.
“As a kid, I was exposed to music every day of my life. All my relatives on my dad's side had a natural talent for singing or playing music. There was a lot of singing going on in the household, and my dad would play music every day for his DJ sets. He played different genres, which influenced my sensibility for eclecticism in music. So as a child, I already knew music would be a big part of my life. At 13, I learned to write songs and got better at playing guitar, and I just kept exploring from then on. Now I just focus on sound and listening.”
She adds: “I was raised on a multitude of genres in music, from folk/pop, to dub/reggae to house/techno. So I always felt like I had this inner drive to do everything that I could to expand my musical expression. I wanted to try everything, and immerse in everything. I'm still figuring it out now, but I think it has something to do with searching for sounds that truly heal the soul. I think it's part of every musician's journey to do that. And it entails a lot of exploration and being open about the different sounds that exist and the different sounds you can create. It's also related to manifesting ideas into music, sometimes it doesn't even matter what/which musical project you want to channel something into, but just bringing ideas to life in the form of sound, and I think that's a powerful thing.”
It felt natural for the highly-intentional and introspective artist to gravitate toward DJing. With an encyclopaedic music library and an unsatiated thirst to try something new, she dabbled with turntables and vinyl.
“I've been trying to explore DJing and electronic music ever since I gave birth to my solo project, Teenage Granny, in 2015. It's only recently that I'm able to practice it more and play in clubs. My dad has been teaching me the basics of DJing since before the pandemic, but at the time I wasn't too interested. I explored a bit more and got attracted to vinyl records and turntables. During the pandemic, in order to continue my craft, I would set turntabling practice sessions for myself every week. I was amazed with the craft of DJing with records, at how much intricacy and handwork it demanded. Most of all, it was the best way to train my ear. I'm a bit biased towards analogue musical equipment. But it was really good training for DJing with standard equipment, like CDJs. So now I feel more at ease when I'm on the decks. I love improvisation, and DJ-ing allows me to do that. It's good exercise.”
When asked what she thinks makes a good DJ, she shares: “[It’s having] empathy, and a good eye for observation; knowing how to read a crowd and what they would wanna dance to. Also, I think a good DJ knows how to maintain her/his calm and composure in the midst of chaos in a club.
Beyond clocking in countless studio and show time, and diving deep into miscellaneous artistic projects, the musical wunderkind has performed across the region, took a three-month residency in Yogyakarta, Indonesia and is also a dedicated activist with SAKA, an alliance that fights for local land, justice, and food security.
“In 2018, I was invited to play at SAKA's general assembly, and from then on met a lot of respectable artists and activists. I was invited to perform in community immersions and protest strikes, and this experience shaped the messaging of my music and my maturity as an artist. Music or art can be a powerful tool to make sense of all our struggles and help us become more aware of how we are being oppressed as a people. Artistic expression cuts through all social classes, and when accompanied with concrete action, it can conquer the violence we are all experiencing.”
Now that the Philippine capital is currently enjoying nightlife and events resurgence, Alyana is keen on seeing a much more evolved industry; one that she wants to be proudly part of.
“I feel thankful I can practice my craft more often now that nightlife is returning, and it's awesome that people who go to these clubs/bars are realizing more and more how much we need safe spaces more than ever. We learned a lot from the pandemic when it comes to cultivating our communities through art, parties, etc. So now, I look forward to seeing the music scene become more progressive and accepting of all identities and expressions. Most of all, I'm excited for the new breed of music that's about to keep coming. “
[Images via Alyana Cabral, Girls Club Asia & Female Pressure]