There is a certain addictive quality about Arya Dhayal’s music. Perhaps it is the way she sings, with abandon, or the way she switches between Carnatic, Western, Bollywood and Malayalam seamlessly to make musically delightful creations. The classically trained singer had been posting music videos from inside her room with just her deep voice and an ukulele as a prop, no make-up or background settings, a contrast to the usual YouTubers. The Kannur native did have a fan following but it was only when Amitabh Bachchan posted about her that the rest of India looked her up and discovered her talent. ‘I do not know who this is but I can just say “You are a very special talent, God bless you .. keep up the good work .. you have brightened my day in the Hospital like never before. Mixing Carnatic & Western pop.. amazing!” wrote Big B, in July 2020.

The 25-year-old has come a long way since, and recently released a new English single, ‘King of My Kind’, which she has written, composed and sung besides composing a Malayalam song ‘Angane Venam’ against gender discrimination for the Women and Child Development Department (WCD) of Kerala.

Could you describe the way you recorded your first song online, fusing different genres?
The first song I recorded was a fusion of ‘We don’t talk anymore’ and ‘Enthoru Mahanubhavalu’, on the Smule app. I did that some four years back.

On Smule you can sing a duet with any singer you want to, and all the songs are split into two. Charlie Puth himself had recorded his part, so I thought I’ll do a Carnatic mix with that. It came out pretty well actually and that was the beginning.

Why did you decide to play the ukulele instead of a guitar? And it became your trademark right?
I wanted to use some musical instrument with my singing. Plus, I wanted a very handy, easy-to-play one, so I chose the ukulele. But when I began I didn’t know how to play a guitar, let alone the ukulele. I thought I’ll buy one and try it out. Yes, it became my trademark.

A lot of people including many friends told me that they have also started to learn the ukulele after watching my videos. Am so, so, so happy about that.

Youtubers, especially women, feel pressurised to pay attention to how they look more than what they do. Yet you stuck to your art and stood apart. How did you manage not to fall into the trap?
Women feel pressurised to look good in real life too, that’s basically how our society is. It’s not just on YouTube; social media just reflects society. It’s not like I don’t care at all about how I look, I am just more focused on my music. And I always believe in and like singing live. Having said that, it’s a trap everybody falls into. Content creators, irrespective of gender, are expected to look good. You see people being trolled for not looking good, body shamed, made into WhatsApp stickers and more. Even when I put out a song of mine, people comment about my clothes and my hair not about my music. I just don’t care much about it.

There is this notion in India that women just sing while men compose and create music. You stand apart and create your own stuff. Was it always a dream to create something new?
I always wanted to create my own music so that I can convey my dreams, my wishes, my ideas and my creativity to the listener. I’ve always wondered I will be able to satisfy their needs if someone else creates a work. With my own songs I don’t have that kind of an issue. It is and always will be my dream to create my own songs and I love, love, love doing independent music.

In India you don’t see a lot of women creating or composing music, yes. I think it’s because most women get married after completing their studies. I know a lot of women personally who are capable of composing. But they have other responsibilities after marriage and I think that is the barrier.

Have you come across criticism from more conservative musicians? How do you deal with it?
I have come across criticism from all kinds of musicians, not just the conservative ones. The conservatives criticise too; even my teacher was like ‘okay, you can’t sing Carnatic with ukulele’. But it’s ok, because for you to create something new, you have to forget about the boundaries. That’s always been my motto. I enjoy doing it and as long as it gives me happiness, I’m going to continue.

Your thoughts on social media?
Social media has definitely provided a platform for all creative people. You don’t have to depend on anybody else to present your content, be it music or something else. So you see a lot of rappers coming up, singers, independent musicians. And now even very famous music directors are trying to build their social media platforms, so it’s definitely the next generation kind of thing. People didn’t have such a platform in the past. Now they have this power to be heard, to be what they want. Social media gives that kind of power to everybody.

Above all, you seem to enjoy the music you make and life in general. What is the philosophy of life which makes you so happy?
I don’t have a philosophy as such but I really enjoy everything that I do, haha.

What would be the immediate dreams and the ultimate dream?
The immediate dream as well as the ultimate dream is to do a lot of music, to convey my ideas and help people through my art.