Eclectic Reggae/Island-Fusion Artist Vana Liya Releases Single “Come Away” (Featuring Half Pint) via LAW Records
Genre-busting vocalist, songwriter, and ukulele maverick Vana Liya www.vanaliyamusic.com/ made a serendipitous recent arrival on the national music scene after she posted several ukulele covers of popular reggae songs to social media, which garnered the support of top original artists and led to a 2018 record deal with L.A.-based LAW Records. She has since been quickly earning a reputation among many of her well-established musical peers as a solid collaborator who always brings a fresh take and positive energy to the mix with her distinct yet not easily classifiable “island” vibe.
That free spirit of collaboration between major and emerging artists is nowhere better illustrated than with Vana Liya’s new single “Come Away” featuring Jamaican dancehall and reggae legend Half Pint, (out Feb. 12, 2021, on LAW Records). halfpintmusic.com/ www.law-records.com/
Produced by multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and Stick Figure member Johnny Cosmic, “Come Away” had originally been constructed by Vana and Johnny as a reggae-pop club track before Half Pint was asked to collaborate on it. Yet when Half Pint sent the stems with a section of the vocals back with the lyrical tagline ‘come away from the land of the sinking sands,’ Vana was so blown away by those foreboding words, almost premonitory of the racial and political strife yet to come in 2020, that she decided to scrap everything she’d written and go with the more heavy-hitting, politically relevant storyline.
“I think musicians have a really important role to speak up about what they believe in. And it’s not necessarily like you have to get super political or anything. But I definitely think that if you don’t use your platform, you’re missing out on an opportunity. The song isn’t explicitly about racism, or politics, or any one thing. But it reflects the times that we’re in and the racial violence and political injustice is just something that hit me really heavy. This was the year I woke up and I realized that the world was corrupt. I’d had a shield over my eyes where I thought everything was fine before. So I wanted to address that in the song but it in a light way. So that if you wanted to just chill out and listen to the song, you could chill out and listen. But then, if you had your thinking cap on, it also hits you a whole different way.”
The release of “Come Away” serves as a sample of what has been a consistent flow and wide range of new material Vana Liya has had in the works over the past year and foreshadows the broad stylistic eclecticism and bold subject matter that can be expected on Vana’s upcoming projects. It is also indicative of a deeply personal renaissance Vana has been undergoing with her evolution as an artist.
Born Nirvana Goberdhan, Vana grew up just east of New York City in Deer Park, NY. As the daughter of parents from Guyana (located at the southernmost end of the Caribbean), Vana was surrounded from a very early age by soca, calypso, dancehall, and reggae music and began singing at the age of 12. At age 19, Vana’s mother recognized her daughter had a gift and love for music and bought her a guitar. However, playing the acoustic guitar was difficult for her small stature, so for the Christmas of 2014, her mother gifted her a ukulele instead — a gift that ultimately changed the course of her life and journey.
A couple of years later, Vana began posting ukulele covers to YouTube and Instagram of songs by her favorite reggae artists like Sublime, Slightly Stoopid, and Pepper. Her magnetic personality and smooth voice combined with the novelty of a reggae-rock-ukulele chick belting out fan favorites and soon enough her videos started taking off and getting lots of views and engagement Before long, artists like 311, Rebelution, Stick Figure, and SOJA were sharing Vana’s covers across various social media platforms, which was the beginning of Vana finding her audience. However, what would become a career-defining moment came in June 2017 when she put up a cover of Pepper’s “Too Much”. Within a week, the band had reposted it and taken keen notice of the young artist and her unique approach.
In April of 2018, Vana signed with Pepper’s LAW Records — becoming their first female and first solo artist — and subsequently released 4 singles within a year. In November, Vana visited Great Stone Studios owned by Scott Woodruff of Stick Figure in Oakland, CA. At that time, she recorded “Go For It” with Johnny Cosmic of Stick Figure and also did a duo song with Happy Madison star Peter Dante called “Give Love Get Love”.
That year, Vana made the business decision to move from her native New York to California, eventually settling in Los Angeles, where she formed her band, including Steve Shaw (keys/sax), Kenny Nishikawa (bass), Logan Tyler (drums) and Eli Reskow (guitar). Much of 2019 was spent touring relentlessly with bands including Expendables, KBong, and Kash’d Out, and opening for such noteworthy artists as Pepper, Ballyhoo!, Badfish, Oogee Wawa, Tunnel Vision, and Tropidelic.
After meeting Johnny Cosmic on tour, Vana asked him to team up with her in the studio for this single and the two worked closely through 2019 to develop Vana’s unique island fusion sound. While much of her work falls into the reggae category, Vana asserts she is not a straight-up reggae artist. For the “Come Away” single, she was successful in demonstrating an authentic stylistic eclecticism by creating a track that has a reggae basis but is, in essence, more of a heavy pop-reggae tune that even manifests elements of trance.
Says Vana, “Working with well-established and respected artists like Half Pint and Johnny Cosmic has been a rewarding and validating experience for me at this early stage in my career. I think one of the things I’ve been kind of struggling with is that a lot of people used to pigeonhole me as like ‘the ukulele chick’ who just does covers and stuff like that. I’m really trying to stray away from that and coming into my own now. So with this single, I want to let people know I didn’t come to play; this is legit!”