Introducing "Deserve Me"
This past week, singer and creator Amritha Shakti released the music video for her first original song, “Deserve Me.” It's about self-love and representation. It's about finally seeing womxn who look like us on screen, shining in a powerful and gorgeous way. It's about raising our voices, rejecting the norms, and finding the worthiness in every part of ourselves that both our societies - East and West - taught us to reject.
Amritha penned a special reflection for us - a behind-the-scenes look into her inspiration, creative process and team behind “Deserve Me.” Listen to “Deserve Me” on Spotify and learn about her journey below!
Where it All Began
I was born in Chennai and my family moved to Australia when I was two years old. I started learning Carnatic/ South Indian classical music at the age of four, and ever since then, I don't think there has been a single day where I haven't sung. I remember coming home from school, and singing for almost 3-4 hours straight. I loved Bollywood. It was the closest thing I had to representation back then, as one of three brown girls at school. For years, I'd just try to imitate the way Alka Yagnik or Lata Mangeshkar sang in the privacy of my room. It was my solace, my way of celebrating my culture, and my safety blanket that kept me safe from a world that I didn't understand - where I was often seen as “the other.”
It never even occurred to me that singing could be a more serious, full-time profession for me until I was in my mid-20s - because I think as South Asians we're brought up feeling like creativity is a “side hobby” - but it can never become the main thing, and God forbid your child gets into the Arts!
It's taken me a really long time to own who I am and own my voice - and it's because as brown womxn, we face pressures from both worlds, East and West. I love to use my music to tell that story - the story of identity, finding self-love, expressing my passion for my culture and for representation.
And this is what my debut album is all about - it's called “The Process” - because it has literally been one long journey of my unlearning things and learning to accept and own who I am fully. The fact that the songs on this album fuse soul and Indian classical is again a testament to my own bi-cultural upbringing and how I've finally learned to embrace that in my late twenties.
I wrote this song, “Deserve Me,” just as I was going through that phase of finding my own sense of self-worth. It happened last year, when it all just hit me - wait a minute, why should I care about what anyone else thinks or says about my life choices? And who is anyone to question me? It was in that emotional state of defiance and strength that I wrote the first line - "You don't deserve me" - addressing it to someone I had been in a toxic relationship with for a few years, but using that relationship as a metaphor to represent all the different pressures I had succumbed to in my life until then. This was my "enough is enough" song.
When we were thinking about how to visualize this song, the first thing that popped into our head was - if this is a song about a WOC finding her sense of self, why not celebrate WOC on screen? Eventually the idea evolved into featuring and celebrating the diversity and beauty and strength of South Asian womxn in particular.
The more we toyed with this idea, the more we realized how much we've lacked positive representation in the media as South Asian womxn - and how much this has impacted our collective sense of worth and our ambitions and goals. And personally, how much this has made the self-love journey harder - if I'm not seeing people who look like me speaking out in the public forum, if I'm only seeing one form of beauty being celebrated wherever I go, what does that do to my self-esteem as a young womxn?
We wanted to celebrate South Asian womxn as powerful, diverse and beautiful - three words we've never had associated with us in mainstream media. We're hoping this really gets the movement going in terms of representation.
The Highs and Lows
Ask any of my friends, and they'll tell you that logistics is probably my biggest weak point - so taking on the role of coordinating this music video was one of the most complex things I've ever done. I was stressing myself out like none other! I would spend hours every day, planning everything down to the finest detail, and then trying to predict ways my plans could go wrong, so I could then plan ahead and prevent these things from happening. I was OBSESSED at one point with wanting to make sure this was the most perfect day ever. I definitely lost hair over it!
But - the girls in this team came through and without them, there's no way this video would've happened. I want to say a special thank you to Swarnaa from @thelifeofasocialbutterfly for essentially being the force that brought everyone together to make this collaboration happen at this scale. So many minds were involved in this project. It was inspirational to see us come together to work towards a single goal.
The day of the filming was and still is such a happy memory in my mind - the way the women became so close so quickly, the sense of sisterhood we all felt, the positive energy, the way everyone just stepped up and made everything happen in such a seamless and magical way - it blew my mind.
If this video exists today, it's because of the team who made it happen - that's still a high I feel even now.
Reflections on Self-Love
The first thing that comes to my mind when I think about self love is this - UNLEARN. Unlearn the fact that you were told by everybody that there was only one standard of beauty - and brown girls aren't it. Unlearn that your body isn't good enough, that your hair is too messy and unruly, that your culture is something to be ashamed of. Unlearn all the times that you've been underestimated because of how you look, all the times you've had people assume things about you because of where you're from, all the times you've been asked "but where are you really from?"
You get to define your identity.
We are valid, beautiful, powerful, and loud - and we are capable and allowed to step into leadership positions, raise our voices for good, and follow alternative career paths to find our fulfillment.
We are individuals in our own right, the self-love journey exists for us too - we might have to fight through more to get there, but when we do get there - the world better be ready.
"Deserve Me" Official Music Video
Amritha is a trained classical vocalist who started learning Indian classical music as a young child, and has pursued her love story with music ever since. At the core of her work is the belief that music truly is a pathway to the soul, to bridging our differences. Amritha's music fuses her passion for India with her love for old-school jazz and soul, while experimenting with music styles from across the world. Her genre? Indian//Vintage Soul. Her end goal? To bring the world closer and transcend borders with the soul of music. You can follow her at @amritha.shakti on Instagram and at bit.ly/amrithashakti.