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DB’s got talent: Yana Fortep

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Singer, yoga teacher and short filmmaker: Yana Fortep talks to Alexander Grasic about the importance of self-love and how performance has the power to heal. Photo by Baljit Gidwani

How did you end up in Hong Kong?
That’s a big question; I have to go back in time a bit. Before I moved here, I was an established jazz and electronic dance music singer in Russia. I grew up in Petrozavodsk, which is quite a big artistic city, before moving to St Petersburg when I was 20. I wanted to be a star and I was quite successful: I had releases on major international music labels like Hedkandi, Clubstar and Seamless Recordings; I made a vinyl record and toured across Europe. I was at the peak of my career, but I realised I had no family, no love. Fans don’t replace normal human relationships. So, I moved to Hong Kong because of love. I got married, gave birth to a beautiful son here and now my life has changed completely.

How has your music reflected this change?
The songs I have created recently (yanafortep.com/new-blog) are about spiritual growth. Once I had my son in 2014, I really began to discover my spiritual side through things like Kundalini yoga, Reiki and crystal healing. It’s You, for example, is about connecting with yourself – with the real you, who doesn’t hide behind a mask. It’s about the importance of self-love. I shot the music video in DB with the help of Camilla Warburton. I got my spiritual sisters together on Sam Pak Wan and we had a great time; we really shared the love. One of my aims is to help people achieve happiness through art.

So, your music has a message?
Now more than ever, I’m trying to spread a message of self-love. I’m not talking about vanity or egotism; I want people to learn to accept and be compassionate towards themselves. Even my fun music is about self-love, as is my documentary and what I teach in yoga. I’ve gone from being a club diva to a ‘shamanic mum,’ and what’s important is self-acceptance. Somewhere along the line, I made up my mind to accept my many interests and simply allow myself to be.

Tell me more about your documentary.
Love is Inside is about my good friend Syv Bruzeau, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2009. She reveals that over the years she had lost herself and that the cancer was her body’s way of telling her that. Through meditation and Butoh, an introspective postmodern performance art, she went on a painful but ultimately life-saving journey to find herself again. She healed herself using art therapy and natural methods and by feeling unconditional love. I thought it was an important story to tell because she talks about her pain, but she also speaks of universal pain, and how to overcome it.

Safe to say it’s a passion project.
Love is Inside is my first complete work where I am director, composer, camera operator and editor. I needed some help with the technical stuff, graphic design and translations but I did all the editing myself on iMovie. I created some new songs, and when I dug up some old tunes, that I hadn’t done much with, I found they fit perfectly. The universe gives us everything we need if we are on the right path.

So, what’s next?
My current project, Art by Everyone, which I debuted at an art therapy conference in Beijing last November, involves singing interactively with the audience using different voice lines, claps and snaps. Together, we can create a beautiful harmony. People love to sing. I can help them. I teach vocals in a studio and I also lead Kundalini yoga sessions on Tai Pak Wan. We do a lot of meditative mantra singing.  Come join us!

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