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Joy is an act of resistance: how to reclaim your identity and find your voice – Anil Sebastian

About This Episode

Michael is joined by Anil Sebastian, the artist, musician and creative director of specialist sonic branding agency DLMDD. As co-founder of the world-leading alternative choir London Contemporary Voices, Anil has fostered a creative, safe space for transgender and gender non-conforming singers to use their voices and spread the joy of music. And it is the act of spreading joy that drives Anil in their work and life, inspired by their own quote: “Joy is an act of resistance.” From resisting the “imposter syndrome” they say they live with each day, to the challenges that come with their own identity as mixed race, queer and non-binary, Anil has turned all of life’s barriers into a joyous and completely unique body of work, which seems them recognised as one of the most exciting artists in the UK today.

Anil Sebastian, Artist, Producer and Vocalist

Anil is the founder and director of London Contemporary Voices choir (LCV).

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Lockdown List

What is a book that has changed your life?

The Buddha of Suburbia by Hanif Kureishi.

David Bowie did the soundtrack to the BBC four part adaptation. I love how Kureishi’s novels always have such a strong musical narrative running through them. The main character, Karim, is a queer mixed race kid from South London – a true inbetweener, belonging nowhere. I read it around the same age he is in the novel. It woke me up and made me laugh and see myself in a whole new light. I always picture Ab Fab’s Edina Monsoon being one of the wanna-be mystics beguiled by Karim’s dad posturing as the Buddha of Suburbia.

What are you watching at the moment?

Pose. It’s pure queer excellence (even if it does go full Glee in season 3). It’s not just Mother Electra’s corrosive tongue and legendary reads, the sickening beauty, ball room scenes and Mother Bianca’s perfect exemplification of chosen family. The trans narrative has always been either erased, miss told or weaponised – Pose reclaims that and sets the bar in a new place. More than that, for me, it’s edified the tenet that joy is an act of resistance. We owe so much of our culture – our freedom of expression, our music, our fashion to ball culture and to the trans, black, brown and latinx homeless queers that created it.

Who is your biggest inspiration?

For me inspiration is always in unexpected places. There’s a lot to be said for The Butterfly Effect and how one small interaction can pivot you in a different direction if you pay attention. I’m creating a piece of music with a group of young refugees to welcome Little Amal, a giant puppet of a 9 year old Syrian refugee to Folkestone, Kent (where I live). Most of them are here without their parents – and arrived with nothing but themselves. To be stripped back to that place and still achieve incredible things, to be able to laugh, reclaim joy, keep going and find chosen family reminded me a lot of Ball Room culture.

In one sentence, describe your ‘new normal’.

Since having had Covid, I found myself feeling lucky and alive with a new, very strange sense of calm – and bizarrely, despite only having about 60% of the energy I used to, I’m able to focus it on what really matters to me like never before.

What is your best tip for life?

Normalise changing your mind. That and that anger is initiatory, not transformative. But I think best of all – try using a teaspoon instead of a knife to peel ginger. You’ll never look back. Oh, and the secret to a good curry is to cook the garlic, onion and ginger for at least 45 minutes before you do anything else…

A quote for life?

Joy is an act of resistance.

What five tracks would make up your lockdown soundtrack?

  • Jon Hopkins – Feel Life First
  • Guy Sigsworth – Prayer Wheels
  • Another Sky – Was I Unkind?
  • Prince – I Would Die 4 U
  • Tina Turner – Addicted to Love (Live in Rio 1988, you have to watch it for the full effect)

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