Local Spotlight: Almira Ara

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On the heels of their first EP release, the songwriter discusses radical emotion, loss, and the genrelessness of it all.

If Almira Ara could say one thing with their music, it’s this: “It is okay to be radically emotional. There’s no shame in having large feelings.”

As a queer, Black songwriter, Ara knows too well the feeling of not fitting in a space. Instead of shrinking to fit, Ara is creating new spaces, new genres, and a new voice in the Boston area.

“Even in musical spaces, where music is a very naturally emotional medium, it feels as though my emotions are too big for space,” they describe. “But there’s so much strength that you can gain from using your own voice, and you’ll find that you’re not alone when you do use your voice.”

This journey to radical emotion began during Ara’s musical upbringing, which they describe as being a kid in a candy store. Only this time, the candy was records: from Hendrix to Nirvana, Sly & the Family Stone to Tracy Chapman. It is no wonder that out of this eclectic and wide-reaching list of influences, Ara didn’t want to be tied to one genre when crafting their own sound. 

“If I could also describe my sound, it would be how do I not box myself in? I love the concept of being a genreless artist,” Ara says. “I feel like oftentimes as a black artist we get very pigeonholed from the jump.”

With this desire in mind, Ara describes spending time in high school writing songs from other artist’s points of view. Practicing what it would be like to write as Kehlani, or even Kurt Cobain, Ara took these influences and created their own genre: “Rock & B.”

You can certainly hear rock, R&B, soul, and even folk notes on Ara’s debut EP, Mastering the Art of Losing Pt.1, which was released on April 21st. Within the 12 minutes, there are robust guitar melodies contrasting with Ara’s delicate harmonies, simmering drums, and whispered spoken word interludes. It is a swirling, brooding mix that makes perfect sense as “Rock & B”, with a clear link to some of Ara’s biggest current inspirations – artists like Willow, Orion Sun, and Meet Me @ the Altar.

Although the EP only contains three tracks, it was a two-year process for Ara. Tied together with a central theme of loss encapsulated by the title, listeners can feel the heavy, emotional work this took before even pressing play.

“Each song kind of took so much from me,” they said. “It was a very long editing process. A lot of hard discussions that I had to have with myself in writing these tunes. A lot of reflecting.”

Out of this comes a full spectrum of loss and all of its responses, from the rage of a romantic breakup bottled up in “Drama Queen,” to the somber side of the same coin with “Object Permanence.” But there is also deeper loss, touching on suicide and mental health in “Livor Mortis.” 

With lyrics that question “what do you call a father who just lost his daughter,” Ara imagines a world without them in it. Using the same awareness they practiced writing for other artists in high school, they have a unique ability to write outside of themselves, bringing a harmony of perspectives into play. 

However, the title of the EP is in present tense, leaving the listener with a sense that Ara is working through loss right alongside them, while tacking on “Pt.1” leaves room for more revelations to come. And on a different level, “Mastering The Art of Losing” also refers to how releasing music itself can be a different type of loss. 

“These songs aren’t going to be mine. They belong to the people who listen to them once it’s out. And once it’s gone, that’s such a difficult thing to grapple with,” they describe. “When somebody is listening to music, they are listening to such a visceral part of you.”

This vulnerability intertwined with the hesitancy to lay yourself completely bare is captured in the clear quiver of Ara’s voice, in the rawness of each guitar riff, and even in the EP cover, which depicts a shadowy Ara, barely revealed by the light of a single candle.

But if vulnerability and loss are the price of art, Ara finds strength in the community around them and gratitude in not having to tackle these big feelings alone.

“I get a lot of inspiration from surrounding myself with queer, POC creatives. A huge source of my community comes from those folks and from being in spaces where creatives are not afraid to speak on what’s going on,” Ara explains. “When you are in a community of people who are like you, you feel empowered to do things that you otherwise wouldn’t have.”

One of these communities is Club Passim, where Ara is a member of the inaugural Folk Collective: a group of artists and musicians who put on events that work to expand the diversity and definition of folk music. 

Ara observes that event spaces which showcase queer, Black talent in Boston are few and far between. And when they do exist, events are often less-attended. This is why Ara also co-founded the Fae Richards Collective, which is working to bring attention and awareness to queer, Black artists in the local area. 

It is clear that community is at the soul of Ara’s music, and rooted in their mission as an artist.  When asked where they see themselves in a year, community was the first thing that came to mind.

“I want to be somewhere where community between queer, Black musicians is as strong as it possibly can be. And I want to be able to do my part to help create that here.”

In addition to continuing to strengthen their community in the next year, Ara is already looking towards a full-length release that goes even further into the “genrelessness it all.” 

While complete mastery of loss may be impossible, a Part 2 of their debut EP will almost certainly see Ara continuing to push the boundaries of genre, emotional exploration, and their own vulnerability, while creating community in the process. 

“I’m grateful to be able to move with other people in kind of this mastering the art of losing,” they said. “I feel like that’s going to be a lifelong process.”

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