Kiss Nuka speaks about her experiences of artistry and activism, sharing her thoughts on creativity, empowering people, and connecting work to social impact. Quite often on the podcast, we explore the outward journey to creating social change, but there is an inner journey as well. Both being able to articulate our values and what we stand for, and then, to be able to position ourselves in alignment with our values when the structures of the world around us pull us in different directions.
Kiss Nuka’s career in music exploded when she was 17 years old through a famous reality show in India, and she went on to be a successful musician in the Tamil and Bollywood film industries. Kiss Nuka started in the music industry by accident, and had other plans for the future. That is until her music career snowballed into other opportunities in the entertainment field. She says she went with the flow as she maneuvered her unplanned success, and now Kiss Nuka is nearing 20 years in the industry.
How can someone stay grounded after years in an industry with so much visibility? One of the things Kiss Nuka points to is her upbringing. Her parents were more open-minded than the parents of her peers, and she grew up feeling empowered in her family environment. While speaking, she explains her thought that many of the concerns people deal with in adulthood stem from their response to their upbringing. She believes that traveling is one of the ways to grow more accepting of the world around you.
In terms of what surrounds you, Kiss Nuka tells her personal story of finding her passion towards social impact concerns, along with her realization of the importance of having a community. People sometimes have some skill, talent, or perspective within themselves that doesn’t fully flourish since there isn’t a way to exercise that gift. Having a community to connect with can provide space for people to explore and sharpen what they have to offer the world.
A balancing of the masculine and feminine energy can help social entrepreneurs learn to be both gentle and strong while navigating purpose. Earlier in finding a purpose, Kiss Nukka used to anchor herself in anger. She says she became more open to feeling a wider range of feelings later in life. Being human, she knows anger will always have the possibility to resurface, but realizes that other emotions, like love, also have utility.
Discussing the decisions to help present her art while being an activist, brings Kiss Nuka to talk about different styles of expression having their own utility. Everyone contributing in their own way can spark inspiration in others that helps the collective interest develop more. Kiss Nuka expands on her thoughts around staying true to her aesthetic, discovering what mission she is creating art to promote, unlearning the limits of the industry around artists, and making an identity document to know yourself more.
Adam: [00:00:00] Welcome to People Helping People, the podcast inspire greater social change and give you ideas on how to take action. I'm your host, Adam Morris. I'm super excited to have Kiss Nuka on as our guest today. Her career in music exploded when she was 17 through a famous reality show in India. And she went on to be a successful musician in the Tamil and Bollywood film industries.
But today she comes on as a guest to speak about empowering people, to help both each other and nature. Quite often on the podcast, we explore the outward journey to creating social change, but there is an inner journey as well, both being able to articulate our values and what we stand for, and then to be able to come into alignment with this when the structures of the world around us pull us in different directions.
So to speak about this inner work and how to create change from the space of being in alignment with who we are. Kiss Nuka welcome on the podcast.
Nuka: [00:00:54] Hey, thank you for having me.
Adam: [00:00:56] I'm super excited. Can we start off, can you just tell us a little bit about your journey into music, how you got started?
Nuka: [00:01:03] I arrived into the industry. By accident. I would say just on a luck, I went into a reality show contest just for fun. And it was one of the first that that we've actually seen in the country that was we had reality shows before they were like talent shows, but we've never seen something like this, where they would follow you and , they shoot you day and night.
And anyway, I didn't know what I was getting into. And I showed up and I won. And that was it. It was a switch. And since I have gone with the flow. That's what I would say, because it was never my intention to pursue music professionally. I had other plans, like extensive plans, and then I was suddenly, I was thought of one of the biggest pop bands that India ever seen.
And then from there I went into television. I did some channel-v some MTV, like music, television hosting, and then I started doing playback. Again. It was just, it was so random. Like I would just get called to do something and I would show up. And I was really lucky that everything that I did well. And it, and just like that, it's now next day in the month of February 2022, it will have been 20 years for me in the music industry.
Adam: [00:02:31] Wow. Now, when did you start to have a shift of feeling like there was something different inside of you that you wanted to express through your work?
Nuka: [00:02:39] I remember the moment that I realized that something was different. I was already quite outspoken about a lot of things, and I think that has to do with the way that I've been brought up. In my family the women lead, let me say that.
And my mother is an extremely strong, independent woman and she's raised both her kids, my brother and myself like that. And my father is amazing. Super open-minded and. So open with us. And so we had this amazing relationship, which allowed me to be able to go out and be fearless in the world, just because I knew that someone always had my back, my family always had my back.
And I'm so grateful for that because I realize now that it's not always the case like this.
Adam: [00:03:28] Can you give a little context of what that's like in India? Cause I know things change so quickly.
Nuka: [00:03:32] I would say the people who live in the rural part of India and the people who live in the urban part of India, they live, very different lives from each other.
The struggles are very different. And this disparity that we have between what in India, they say the classes and the masses. It's very, very different. You really can't compare struggling. So I feel like I sound so silly if I say, oh, Indian parents in the cities would not be very open with their children in terms of conversation. I feel like my parents are my friends, but a lot of the relationships that I saw around me when I was growing up were very traditional, strict closed relationships.
And I was the only one I think we used to tell my mom everything, everyone, all of my friends used to lie to their parents about everything. Like everyone had a boyfriend, but no one would tell their parents about it. It was lies all the way to, and, or like hiding that we were going on to watch a movie, silly things like that. This is what my mother used to say. She would say, even if I don't like it, I need to know what my kids are up to. And I would rather that they come to me and that they call me when they're in trouble than anyone else.
Adam: [00:04:52] That sounds like a very empowering environment to grow up in.
Nuka: [00:04:55] That's what I mean, it's, as I got older is when I realized, how lucky I am to have that, because I understand now that I see people and there's a lot of, I don't want to say problems, but a lot of things that the hard things that we do with our mannerisms, our morals, our way of living life, a lot of it is influenced by how we grew up, like what kind of environment we grew up in, and more often than not, when someone's struggling in adulthood, I feel.
It leads back to something in their childhood or something that they've experienced or something that they've been surrounded by. And I don't want it to be sound like a generalized statement, but I do feel that there is a lot of there is quite a lot of truth in that and relationships that you go out and have with other people how you treat other people.
I think a lot of that is defined by what you see when you're growing up.
For me, in my family it was always about equality. It was never that, oh, you have a brother and then in India used to happen like this, once upon a time where if you had a daughter and if you had a son, there was a difference.
The son would be treated a different way from the daughter. And that's what I mean things are changing. Things have changed. These are not the things that we talk about now in the cities, things like dowery and stuff like that, it's gone. But when you go deeper into, rural India, some of this still exists.
That's what I mean , you can't compare struggles, but I do feel that I have been extremely lucky because my parents have been open-minded I think a large part of that also has to do with the fact that they both traveled extensively.
And I would say that traveling is one of the most important things that anyone can do for themselves. That's the education that you must have.
Adam: [00:06:38] What do people learn from travel?
Nuka: [00:06:41] You learn that it doesn't matter if someone looks different from you or has a different traditional accustomed from you. But if you spend time around those people, you realize that on the inside, everyone's the same.
And it's also about normalizing something, so the more you see of different cultures, the more you hear different languages, the more you see different people that look different from you, the more you get used to the idea of that.
It's so important because it does make you more accepting of differences. And that's, that's really what it is. I follow a different faith. You follow a different faith and that's all right, because it's different and that doesn't mean that you're wrong or I'm wrong. I feel like traveling teaches you how to co-exist. And my mother was an air hostess and she flew all over the world.
And my father was in the Merchant Navy and he sailed all over the world. And so they're both saw open-minded. The first time that I actually kissed a boy, I went and told my father. Even today, when I tell friends of mine, some days when I mentioned this, they're like, oh my God, you told your father.
And I'm like, yeah, at the time, I felt even closer to him in that sense to be able to tell him this because he was the good cop and my mom was the bad cop most of the time. And that's what I mean, like back in the day, at that time , for a young girl to tell her father that she gets the boy, that's a big deal. But I think that kind of open, two way street of communication. It's not just your parents telling you, this is what you need to do. They're open asking questions.
Adam: [00:08:18] Interesting. I see that parallel between traveling and being more accepting of other cultures, but then in your family. It's been a similar environment where they've been very accepting of okay, come and speak to us. We don't need to have these barriers.
Nuka: [00:08:34] Yeah.
And I would say that this is So important for all parents to have that kind of relationship with their children, because where do you want your children getting their information? Even now I tell my parents everything, and my mum may not approve of some of those things, but she's open to having the conversation. And she came from this place where she was like, my kids are gonna do shit anyway.
Adam: [00:09:01] So it sounds like you had this very kind of strong seed just from your childhood of being able to be honest and not have to hide things. How did that play into kind of you discovering your own? What was inside of you in terms of your own values?
Nuka: [00:09:16] So there was this moment I think it was 2015 or 16.
It was announced that the government would be building a massive statue of Marotta , a very famous Marotta warrior, Shivagi and they wanted to build this massive statue of his, on the coastline in Bombay, on Marine drive, which is really famous as well.
And they had published the cost for it. And it was a ridiculous amount of money. Ridiculous.
Adam: [00:09:48] More than one lakh.
Nuka: [00:09:50] It was 3500 crores. I don't even, I don't even know how many zeros that is. And I remember at the time thinking, oh my God there's So many other things that we could be spending this money on. It could be like hospitals or in the health care system or it could be schools.
It could just be, the rewards, like some, it could be like, why are we building this? And then, there's a lot behind it. There's a tourism budget. And then , they said that this would create employment for people and increase tourism, and also it was something that would badly affect the eco system around Bombay.
Adam: [00:10:32] So a negative sustainability
Nuka: [00:10:34] Oh my God. And I remember at the time feeling like I had to do something and I didn't know what to do, but I just knew that I had to do something. And I remember making a poster about it and saying that we're going to protest, we're going to show up and we're going to protest. And I put it out online and people started to share and I had, in the meantime gotten in touch with a bunch of people who connected me to the fishermen from the area who were protesting.
As well, because they said they, by doing this, you're killing our livelihood because it's going to kill the ecosystem around around the coastline and we're not going to be able to survive. And I had spoken to them, I knew that they were going to be at this protest and I was like, great, we're all going to be together.
And and then this was like two or three days before, and this poster is now getting passed around, and then the night before the protest I'm calling my contact with these fishermen, I'm going to contact them and no one's answering the phone. And I'm like, okay, this is weird.
And I have another number. So I called the other number. No, one's on phone. And I'm like, okay, what's going on? And I tried, I kept trying. I was like, okay. And I started to feel responsible. I was like, oh my God, I made the poster. No, I couldn't get in touch with these guys. What do I do?
And I made a poster saying that it's canceled and then I sort of passed that around The next day. I was, I thought, okay, I need to go and check it out. What's up. And I showed up at the spot. It was me it was a friend of mine and I found two other protesters. That's it who showed up .
And there were the four of us and the spot that we were meant to meet there was these massive police vans that were parked there. And there were these, male and female police in uniform, not allowing more than four people to gather at one spot. We were like, okay, these guys are prepared, for something to happen. And so we left from there because that was the meeting point. And then the March was supposed to take place from there all the way to where this was happening on the shoreline. We said let's take a drive and it's, let's just drive around check out what's going on.
Like what's happening. And we got there and I had a poster and all I had done was on the poster. I had written, no, that's it. And we got there and there were so many people that there was so much of security. You couldn't go close to the other side of the road, which was against the water.
And there was cops everywhere. And at one point there was a boat that was going out to drop this foundation stone for the statue. And and there was a lot of people collected towards the shore was an extravaganza. There was this massive, these massive elephants. They burnt them on the beach.
And it was, there was a lot of people, a lot of press. And we were on the other side of the road and when they, the boat went out and everyone lost it. And so all the people from the other side of the ran towards the beach side of the road. They were just so many people that came in at that point and they all came in because they just wanted to get a closer look at this boat, going out into the water.
And I was standing there and I looked left and I see 200 meters away. It's like this whole bank of media people were there with their cameras. I just saw them. And I opened my poster and must've had it up for five seconds before the cops caught me. And he was like, what is this?
And I was like, oh no, I'm not saying anything. And I had a little, like a little scuffle and then, and that was it. And I was like, Okay that's it. Okay, cool. And then, we went home and the next day in three news papers, there was pictures of me with poster that said no. And because there were so many people standing next to me who had come to watch the show, the newspaper said the citizens are protesting, and they didn't, no one recognize me.
They didn't recognize me. They didn't know that it was like none of the press, because the press recognize me in at least in Bombay, when I would go out and that hadn't happened. I also found out later that all of those, the fishermen and that entire crew had been picked up the night before and put into jail as like a preventative detention, something like that.
And I saw my picture in the newspaper and I was like, oh my God, what have I done? Oh my God. And then I remember calling my manager at the time being like, I don't know, I was scared. I had this genuine, this fear. I was like, what have I done? And I'm going to put my family in danger. I don't care about myself, but if someone sees this is me and that I did this and what if they come after my parents?
What if they show up here and at the time it was happening like this. There was someone who put a Facebook post and these goons that showed up at that person's house. so the fear was real. I was like, oh my God, what if? And at that point of time my manager at that, he was my ex manager.
He said to me, he said, look you have to make a choice. You can either be an artist or you can be an activist. You can't be both. An activism is like a black hole. Once you're in. I would recommend to you that use the gift that you have been given of art and see what you need through your art. And now when I think back to that conversation, I think, yes, you can be an artist and an activist both. Absolutely. For me, I realized that music is a tool that I can use to talk about the things that I want to do or to start the conversations that I want to .
I remember when I was, and I said this before, when I was growing up, I thought that the worst thing that could happen was that I would have my heart broken and all of my songs were the songs about heartbreak. I had a song called, asshole. I had a song called, I fell in love. I had all these songs and I started to realize that no heartbreak is not the worst thing that can happen there, like far worse things that are happening in the world. And this is pandora's box. And once you open the books, that's flying out of you and then you can never close the box. I have been through that arc of being really the first, just the influx of information, just I didn't know who to talk to, what to do. It was just so much of information.
And then just being super angry about it.
Adam: [00:17:53] Okay.
Nuka: [00:17:54] Fighting with everyone around me, just because I felt like they didn't get it and being aggressive about it, even on social media. And then from the anger came a lot of sadness and darkness. And I had taken it upon myself. Especially, when it came to animals suffering and in the environment, I realized that this is for me I started to see that equality was really important because that's how it'd been brought up
Adam: [00:18:20] Was this around the same time that you were in the Angry Indian Goddesses?
Nuka: [00:18:25] It was all overlapping. This is all happening on the same time angry. Angry Indian Goddesses, what a powerful film was for me. I was surrounded by these strong opinionated women. And it was amazing how we were able to work together.
Adam: [00:18:40] And the movie itself dealt with some really challenging topics.
Nuka: [00:18:44] Yeah. You know, the movie wasn't scripted.
Adam: [00:18:46] Really.
Nuka: [00:18:47] Yeah, the director knew exactly what he wanted to do and they were editing every night and then they was setting us up for scenes, but we had almost two, three weeks of training where we learn to be a character. We wrote our characters.
We learned to be our characters. We did meditation together and trust building exercises, and then, when we would shoot, it was obviously the first day that we shot, we had to re-shoot because everyone was talking over each other. And the day we finished that shoot, we had an exercise in the evening where we had to all sit in a circle and then each one of us would say something.
And the person next to that person would say, it's interesting that you say that because, and then add onto it. Because, we needed to learn how to listen and not just speak, so this was the way that they've built the film on the back of a lot of homework and a lot of the stuff that we talked about and it came to women where we were speaking from our own experiences, which is why it felt real and why it felt authentic.
And I remember that we were shooting a scene and there's a lot of pork, people eat pork in Goa. And pork was my favorite meat to eat. And then I'm in the middle of a short, I heard like a pig crying and it was being slaughtered somewhere close by. And it went on. It was the most haunting sound that I have ever heard.
And it was like, everything had to stop. I was sitting there and I was crying and we couldn't shoot. And I was like, oh my God, I can't. And I decided, I was like, I'm never going to eat pork again.
If that's what it means,
And then that was the start of, and it was on the set of Angry, Indian Goddessesthat was the start of my journey in veganism as well.
Right after that, I stopped eating beef and then chicken and dairy. And at the end of it fish, after watching blue planet, I was like, oh my God, fish are so smart.
I think for me I am always on the side of the ones that are oppressed.
I would always stand alongside the ones who are oppressed. Animal rights, animal activism, environmental activism. That's just who I am. That's just, a huge part of me when I was growing up.
I used to say that I love animals, but I never made the connection between, what was on my plate and where it was coming from. And then as I started to understand the connection between animal agriculture and the environment, I was like , why the hell? Don't they tell us all of this stuff?
What, why are they teaching us geometry in school? What am I supposed to do with this trigonometry? What am I supposed to do with this now? Where does all this information? And I found also that I was in a position , I could speak to people where people were listening. I think I misused that at the beginning.
It just in, in my anger, the way that I was communicating, it was aggressive. And my manager also heard back from some people that we've worked with, they told her that, what's wrong with your artist? She's always talking about plastic or, animals or pollution, why don't you talk about work?
it took me a long time to realize that communicating in the way that I was wasn't really working, obviously, because it, it came also from a place of anger. So what was I expecting?
Adam: [00:22:09] People just didn't react to the anger and be like, oh, okay, I'm wrong. I need to change my ways.
Nuka: [00:22:16] How do you make someone feel something? How do you communicate so that the person that you're talking to is receptive to what you're saying.
Anger is not gonna elicit compassion from someone.
So then what's the other way.
Adam: [00:22:32] Sounds like the anger is, relevant because it's, the reaction to seeing what's happening in the world that's unjust or unhealthy or damaging. And so it sounds like you had to learn how to use that anger in a different way.
Nuka: [00:22:49] Honestly , I didn't know where to direct it. It was taking over a lot of the not decisions, but just the way that I was communicating. And also the way that I started to look at people, I was just ultra disappointed by human beings. I was like, oh my God, we are just shit.
This is horrible. Until I found a community of people who are like me, and that's really what will get me out of the darkness, it's really what I finally found. People who understood how I was feeling. They felt the same way that I did , no longer was I talking to a wall.
I would say that, this makes me feel like this. And the other person is I understand, because I feel it too and I think this is so important. And it just, it doesn't just apply to this. But I think a support system is, to have some kind of a support system is so important and it can be for anything.
I've often also spoken about this in terms of women or, people who identify as women, that for us, we need to build our support system with each other. I think a lot of the industries. The media industry, or maybe the film industry pits you against each other.
It's more about competition. And I know that a lot of this is like it comes from, and I don't want to say this loosely, but from this kind of patriarchal way, the things have been set up. How do you get rewarded for the things that you do? Why do you get rewarded for those things, what you're encouraged to do and what you're not.
And I think that for us to find each other and have our own circle, I think is really important. This is what I have with my family. And then this is what I found also outside of myself.
Adam: [00:24:39] And I think this point is very important of so many people have something inside of them, but they don't have a community where they're getting that validation or that support. How did you find this community?
Nuka: [00:24:51] There was a farmer's market and I went there. Because I was very interested in organic food because I was like, oh my God, I don't want to eat the foods and the vegetables that we're getting at the regular supermarket. I went to this farmer's market and while I was there, I saw. Someone across the park with a t-shirt that said vegan.
And then it said all the different reasons, vegan for the animals vegan for the environment, vegan for my health, vegan for my spirit. And I saw this and I was like, oh my God, I want this t-shirt. And I went up to this person and I started to talk to them and they're from an organization of of individuals who come together for it's an animal rights organization.
And that's how I met the first person. And then they were like, Hey, you want to meet my friend. And then they called this other guy over and he said, these t-shirts are out of print now. And I was like, this is such an amazing to, he took his t-shirt off. He had another t-shirt, he put it on, he took his t-shirt off and he gave it to me. So you can have it. You know, Cut it up and made it, and I wanted at my gigs, I wanted at shows I wanted for shoots everywhere. I was like, oh my God. But that's how I actually met these guys and that they introduced me to, more people. And eventually I also ended up at a vegan festival.
And I was like " ahh!"
Adam: [00:26:09] So it sounds like as you got more clarity on who you were, you found that in the world around you and that connected you even deeper to a supportive community.
Nuka: [00:26:18] Yeah. I also think that age has a lot to do with it. When I turned 30, I was like, okay, now what something is going to happen? Nothing happened. And I think, okay, whatever. And I turned thirty-two, and I was like, wait a minute. This is amazing.
I have found myself in this place of confidence and it wasn't the confidence that I had in my twenties in a way I was like, I'm the queen of the world.
It was this quiet confidence, this acceptance of my own self, this place where I didn't need validation from other people.
I felt so empowered by this feeling and the realization that. Not everyone is going to like me and actually being okay with that. In my twenties I wouldn't have let that fly. I've been so nice. Why doesn't this person like me? And then in my thirties, I was like, that's okay, because people are different and it's okay you know, if they don't like me and it was, I would say it was quite liberating actually to feel like that.
Adam: [00:27:32] The way you say that it makes it sound really easy, but you've done a lot of work on yourself too.
Nuka: [00:27:36] I feel like I always had questions to ask and I've also grown up in a family that is spiritually inclined. My parents both belong to different faiths. And they're both not super religious in that sense. it has always been more about spirituality than it has been about being religious. Just from having these qualities that I've, I feel like I've learn from my parents. I think a lot of doors open to me in terms of, knowledge in that sense, and even being open just to picking up things from people around me. I actually have always liked to go into a space and just become a part of that space and experience it a way that, the people who are already there are experiencing it.
Adam: [00:28:21] Taking a moment just to reflect on this last year, what are some of the changes that came around with the pandemic for you?
Nuka: [00:28:29] I've become a softie. I have always had a lot of masculine energy and I grew up a tomboy and I actually thought I would look at a girly girl and I'd be like, that's weak. I thought that it was weak to be feminine. And through the pandemic, I started to connect more with my feminine energy, and I realized that I could be soft and gentle and strong at the same time.
And this was really eye opening for me. I started to really enjoy this. And again, I don't know, it's also the thirty's and it's also, this moment of pause where suddenly there was no deadlines. And, I had this time to really look inwards and this is how I feel.
We're all made up of masculine and feminine energy, but I think that the world really needs feminine energy right now. It would be so nice if we could look and say that says and find that because we need that feminine energy of compassion and intuition and love and growth and healing, and that's what the planet needs.
That's what we need. And that was what my realization was over the the pandemic.
People are suffering. And I was making graphic art. Like I wanted it to be shocking because I thought that this is the way to elicit a response , those were the lines of my song. It's only when you burn it, the state of the world that we live in, the system that swallows you don't fucking give in.
You've got to get my burn. There's enough reason to make your blood churn. And that's what I thought that it's only when you burn is when you're, when you feel like motivated enough to, create change when you're angry. And through the pandemic, I realized that you can also motivate change through love.
And it doesn't mean that I'm not angry because there are a lot of things that make me angry. And it doesn't mean that I'm not going to make art that's like that anymore. I know that it does happen to me and it will happen. But , it was like something clicked. I was like, okay.
What do you want, what do you want? You want to save the environment? The planet doesn't need saving the planet could take care of herself.
Adam: [00:30:41] Okay.
Nuka: [00:30:41] Who do you think you are? first of all. What do you need to save is your home, your place in this planet? That's what you're trying to save.
And then I thought to myself, I'm not going to be around for that long. But just the fact that a species dying out, just the fact that they're being suffering for nothing. I was like, no, this is my purpose. I want to change the world. So what are you going to change the world on your own?
What do you think, how much do you think you can do? And if you really want to change the world, you need to do it with people. We need to get together and do this. And how exactly , planning to convince people to do this. Are you going to shout and scream and expect that they would do it.
And also this understanding that wear your own oxygen mask before you put it on someone else. Do you have to take care of yourself? You have to be okay with yourself or you to actually go out there and make things better for someone else and for the people around you, for the planet, for the environment, for animals, for nature. There also has to be a space of healing and I'm not a healer but I understand the power of sound. I understand, what a big part sound frequency can play in our health, our spiritual health, our mental health. And I'm sitting in a studio, I have access to all this information. My mother's been doing this, alternative healing therapy. If I'm not going to tap into that, then what am I doing?
This was all of these thoughts. And I was like, Okay. It has to be both of these things. Like I have to create a way to talk about these things and to start these conversations, but I also have to create art that also makes you feel good.
And I remember this conversation that I had with, my best friend and I told him I was like, art should open people's eyes. And he said, you said, times are rough, should help you to escape. I should be able to take you into a different world. And I was like, what are you talking about yaar? But I thought about what he said later, and I was like, he's not wrong.
And then. I thought, maybe it's the thing about the times that we live in, like, when is it that we need to be elevated out of the spaces that we're in and when is it that we need to be inspired to lose our apathy? These are all different times. And then something that I've learned, when I look at my plant-based community, it takes all types. It takes all types. It takes the ones who shared graphic images and it takes the ones , who post beautiful pictures of vegan food with recipes, it takes the ones who were inspiring you to work out and talking about health and fitness, with a plant-based lifestyle, it takes all kinds.
Adam: [00:33:30] So it's not just one type of person to create that change. It's applying yourself as you are.
I love this analogy of on the airplane. Like how , you need to put on the oxygen mask on yourself first, before you put it on your child.
What have you done just to understand your own personal values more and become more in alignment with those?
Nuka: [00:33:52] I spent some time with myself. And that only happened because I was traveling. In the space that I'm in. It's the setup. Everything is already set up, but six years ago I started to travel every summer and I was always afraid of traveling solo because I couldn't find other people to travel with.
I didn't travel for a long time. And one day I found myself in Sri Lanka for a friend's wedding and then the entire wedding party was leaving. But the morning that we were supposed to leave, we went out to take a surf lesson and I got on the board on my first try, and I was like, I want to do this. And then I said to trying to convince my friends, please stay someone to stay for a couple of days. And I remember talking to one of my closest friends at the time over the phone. And he said to me, he's look, you're in Sri Lanka, you're not that far away from India. Just stay and see if it works.
And if it doesn't, then you're just a flight away. What's the big deal. I ended up staying for a month by myself. And it was like a new door opened. And I have realized that I actually prefer to travel by myself than to travel with someone else. And so every summer I started to travel and spend longer longer time outside of India. It was one month and then it became two months and then three months to three months in a year that was out. And it was during those three, three months.
I did a lot of Berlin in the last couple of years, and it was the being in a different space, spending a lot of time by myself in a different environment that really helped me to grow.
Adam: [00:35:36] I'd love to hear just a little bit about how Kiss Nuka came about and what's behind this recent emergence.
Nuka: [00:35:42] I have to tell you the story of how I named myself Nuka first. And this was before I had any music. we were promoting Angry Indian Goddesses. It was playing at a festival in LA and I ended up staying back with a friend. And he actually, he was someone who had been introduced to me.
He was a friend of a friend. Christian, and we spend actually, I stayed with him and it was pretty amazing. It was again, I was there for a month and in one of our talks, we used to have long conversations. And one of our talks, I said, I want to do my own music. I wanna do something of my own.
And and he's what are you going to call yourself? He was like, it's already done. You're ready now. So what are you going to call yourself? And I was like, I don't know. I want to call myself something that means something. And I was like, oh, when I was really young, I used to refer to myself as Nuka.
I couldn't pronounce my own name. And I don't know why I talked about myself in third person, but and he said, oh, that's such a great name. I was like, Yeah.
but it doesn't mean anything. I don't want to have a name, that doesn't mean anything. And he said, oh no, but let's make it mean something. And I was like, Okay.
Nature. N for Nature.. Definitely. N for nature. Universe, definitely. U for universe, Nature's Universal Kinetic Ascension. And he was like, oh my God, I have to show you something. And he would he logged on YouTube and he showed me an animated video of this movement of the galaxies of the universe. That's like a spiral moving upwards. And he's Nature's Universal Kinetic Ascension. Oh my God, that's amazing.
Then we went to bed and it next day was my last evening in LA my last night. And I was really clear about what I want to do. I was like, you know what? I want to watch the sunset. I want to go somewhere where there are no human beings. And we left the house and we got stuck in terrible LA traffic. And I was so upset. I was like, oh my God, the sun, if the sun is going down and we're stuck in traffic, and this is so bad. And he was like, okay, we have to make a decision.
We're not going to get to the place that I was going to take you. But the Griffith observatory is close by and maybe we can make it there for sunset, but it's a tourist spot. There's going to be a lot of people. I was like, oh fine. Okay. Let's just, okay, fine. Let's go there. And we got there and it was so it took us to get there, to drive up in, slow moving traffic.
And he was like, we reached the top. He was like, okay, you get out, I'm going to park the car and I'm going to come back to you. And I got out and standing there and watching the sunset to barbed wire with a hundred people at our meeting by myself, why my friend was parkeing the car, I was like, this sucks so bad.
And then he got to me and he said, look, we're here. Let's, let's just make the most of it as fine. And we went into the observatory and it was all about the universe and all these planets. And there was some really cool exhibits. And and there was a show at the planet and we were the last people to get tickets.
Like they had the last two tickets and we got in and we watched it and it was amazing. And then we came out from there and we were standing at the back, like overlooking the city. And we were talking about Nuka. And about the universe. And we were like, it's cool that we landed up here. We were talking about Nature's Universal Kinetic Ascension, and now we're here at the planetarium watching a show about planets and the universe.
And while we were talking, there was this green flash over the city of LA. And we started really oh my God, are we high? Could we just see that? And then we looked around and a lot of people starting that a scene, I don't know. I still don't know what that was.
And you're were like, oh, maybe it's a sign. That the universe is like, Hey, you need to call yourself Nuka. And we left from there and we were like, Okay.
let's go have dinner. And we will meet you meeting a bunch of of my friends just to say bye. He was vegan. And he took me to Moby's restaurant, the little pine, which is a vegan restaurant.
And we got there and we ate and it was, it was great. And then, we asked for the bill for the check and they brought us a check with a postcard. And I looked at the postcard and I almost started to cry because it was a postcard of the Griffith observatory. We just looked at each other.
He was like, you know what? That means, I was like, yea, I know what that means. That means that my name is Nuka. That means, and I still have it actually the postcard , and he was the one who talked to me about this idea of dynamic structure for limitless flow.
And that's he wrote on the postcard. He said Dear Nuka, and then the postcard is dated 2016. And that's how I decided to call myself Nuka. The reason I changed my name from NewCo to Kiss Nuka is because there was a bunch of other artists in theworld called Nuka and their music started showing up in my Spotify list.
And I was like, I'm saying that I'm this audio visual artists that I take so much care with my artwork and the way everything looks and the way everything sounds and then this, I don't want to be mean, but just artwork that I would not want to call my own showing up on my Spotify playlist and then being tagged in different places like this is not happening.
When I started Nuka, I couldn't find on Instagram the name. And just on a whim, I said Kiss Nuka and that's it. So to me it's in a way, the idea of intimacy, the idea of softness. So the feeling is the same. It's just warmer now.
Adam: [00:41:31] Part of what you're bringing around with this is way through your music and art to express your values and this kind of empowering people to help each other and to lift up nature. Can you talk a little bit about how you do that?
Nuka: [00:41:47] I find that leading by example is one of the best ways to do it. And I also find that sharing information about how you got to that point and what you're doing helps. And you know what I'm saying, most of the interactions that we have is on social media.
So this is really about that. And I think it's also it also helps to share your failures and to be open about it and to be encouraging about it still, but it's okay if you can go from zero to a hundred, like in my mind, to be honest, I'm just like, okay, we need to go from zero to a hundred.
If we really have to do something now at the state that the world is in, we need to go from zero to a hundred. That's not how it works with people. And so you're like, okay, you made it to 30. That's good. That's good. At least you made it to 30. Now we can try for 40 or 50 and it's okay if you fall back to 10, once in a while, but and again, like I'm saying in my heart, I'm like, it's not okay, you can't expect or judge people by your standard.
And that's such a hard thing to do because everything is about perspective.
Adam: [00:43:01] It sounds like if you can find the right direction and get some momentum in that direction. Yeah. You might slow down, but over time you'll go in the right direction.
Nuka: [00:43:11] Where elseis there to go? No really think about it, if it is about book positivity, about finding like the good, because we do live in the polarity of this planet. There is good and there is evil. There is right. And there is wrong, that's how it is.
I also read somewhere that you laugh as much as you cry. Let me say that I cry free ly I think everyone is looking for encouragement. Of course, as an artist I look at the art that I created and I say, okay, how can I make someone feel something with this and still talk about what's important to me.
I also recognize that my aesthetic, like here, I'm in a country where there's a billion people and my aesthetic it does not match the the taste of the masses now I have to be true to myself. I can choose to create in a way that maybe reaches out to more people, but then I'm not going to be true to myself.
This is also something that I struggled with a lot. I was like, okay, that's my mission then?
What is it just all it's my aesthetic. No, but then it's not about my aesthetic. It's who I am. And I have to be true to myself.
Adam: [00:44:23] It sounds like for a long time, just in the music scene, a lot of the art that was being produced was for the masses and something where it was harder to question or push back against, Hey, why am I taking part in this? And while it was, favorable for a career, being able to stand up and say, no, this is who I am.
That at some level that takes some guts and that takes some honesty with yourself to say, no, this is who I am.
Nuka: [00:44:52] I think it also takes some savings because the industry it's a business,
And it took a lot of unlearning for me to step out of that, to look at myself differently and do understand that my uniqueness or my authenticity is really what made me special. And that's not how it works, in the business.
I worked in that business for so long and I saved money. And so I was able to take a step back and be like, I don't want to do this. I want to do it my way. And it took a long time to let go of that. Like, It was hard more for other people than for me, because it was like, oh my God, you so many years you worked to build your brand and now you don't want to do that kind of work anymore.
And now you want to start something fresh and I was not fearful, I would say, but yeah, I was willing to hold on to that as well while building this. And it was already happening. I couldn't do that kind of work.
Like I couldn't sing songs that were, lyrically questionable or work with brands that were not ethical or vegan or cruelty-free or had the wrong messaging, oppressive messaging or that benefited of the oppression or of others, it was already happening.
To take that step and be like, you know what, to build something fully wholeheartedly, like I need to let this go., I have all the experience from it and I have all the contacts that I've made and people that I know and everything that I've learned and I have some savings, so I can take the step back and take this moment to.
I'm not worried that I'm not going to be able to like, and I moved because it was hard for so many musicians to this, No. gigs, that's how we all make our money. There's no gigs. And then what do you do? And that I had saved some money that helped me through the beginning of this time to be able to take that time for myself.
Adam: [00:46:59] Now one thing that you've also done is you have an artist spotlight to help lift up other artists. Correct?
Nuka: [00:47:05] Yeah. That came out of complaining. and I've been struggling with this for a while in this content creation, like making content for Instagram. And for YouTube making content, it was a lot like, oh, you have to make relatable content, This is what works. So you should make this, and I was really having a hard time with it because I couldn't do that.
And the stuff that I wanted to do, it wasn't really, what people consider oh, this is not going viral or it's not getting traction, or such, so this doesn't work, see this such less likes. You need to do stuff like this because that's what works. That's what people like.
And it goes back to the same thing of trying to fit you into a box and make everyone like everyone, and I found a post that said the worst thing that's happened to artist is to artists is that they're being called content creators. And it was a series of these by this arti st call Yana, Illustrator. I think that's what anyone's going to do. And I posted that on maybe. And it started a conversation. And I saw so many people writing back about feeling the same way. And I was like, oh my God. And I, and I made it, I said, I want to speak more about this.
So I made a video of myself talking about maybe a video for myself, talking about the fact that I am in this position and still struggling. I have a team and I'm still struggling with this. I have 107,000 to 8,000 followers on Instagram and I'm still struggling. And and this is the stuff that I'm being told that I need to do.
I need to post three times in the video sometimes in the day. And I'm just wondering, like, when am I going to make my art, if I'm going to be focused on this. And that started more of a conversation. And I started to read through all of these comments and I was just checking out like profiles of these artists.
And I was like, my God, these are these young new artists with two, 300 followers. You look at me, I'm and how must they be feeling and what can I do to help? I was like, I can share my space. And I put it out there that, this is not a curation. I'm not sitting here to decide, oh, this art, I like this art. And so I'm going to share it, or I don't like this art, so I'm not going to share it. No, it's whoever you are, whether you're like a designer or an illustrator or a singer or a jewelry maker, whatever is your artist, I've made a form, put your name in the form.
Every Sunday. We're going to share the work of 10 artists on my page. And then we're going to have a live session with the artists, like an IgG live on Sunday, evening and talk with each of the artists about their journey about. And the next thing, I looked at the form and they were 450 enteries..
And I was like, wow, I couldn't believe it. And I felt responsible. And I felt the sense of responsibility. And I was like, okay, you know what, we gotta do this and we gotta do this. Good. We're actually sitting in the conversations are so long. Like my team was like, okay, you're going to do five minutes with each artist.
And then, we're going to put that up on, on IGLive after two, three months, five minutes, each conversation is like 15 minutes at the least, because you're talking to another artists? How are you supposed to it's not mechanical, it's not like a yes and no answer. This is like emotional.
And it's intense. Because sometimes it's a lot of conversation. And I have to say though, that there have been some amazing reminders, talking to these young artists. Reminders of things that I am maybe sometimes too jaded to see. You're like having been done this for such a long time, have forgotten maybe some things.
And then someone would remind me and I'd be like, oh my God, I forgot. When thank you. That's this is great. So it's been good. And I want to do more and we'll be thinking about how we can help more. What else we can do. But this is the stuff
Adam: [00:51:08] How do people find out about that?
Nuka: [00:51:11] Instagram. He was really on Instagram. And I had been thinking about this, it's funny because it came from women's day. Like it was women's day and that month everyone starts to get in touch. Like all the brands they want to do activities on the platforms are like, Hey, women's day.
And I was like, where were you in the rest of the y ear? And then I thought to myself, I was like, who am I to say that to someone else? What am I doing about this? Am I talking about this all year round? Okay, what can I do then? The simplest thing I can do is share the work of other female artists.
This is the easiest thing. What is it? An Instagram story? You shared a post or on Twitter or Facebook or whatever. What does it take to do that? And It started like that. And I started to share, and I started to realize that this is what we need. If the artists come together as a community and support each other, that's all we need.
There are so many of us, if we share each other's work, we're guarunteeting being that more people are getting access to the art. I really believe that artists have a lot of power. You have the power to connect to people, to make people feel something, to affect them emotionally, mentally, that's a lot of power, and so if an artist has the ability to change people, then we need to empower the artist so that they can do that. And I think that this is one of the, this is one of the simplest ways, and I think it applies to everyone. Just share the work. It's the easiest thing to do.
Adam: [00:52:52] That's a very important point that, if you think back to a lot of the great social change that has happened, you know the music or the imagery that, that really communicates that comes from artists who are in touch with that and understand that pain or that suffering, or that, essence, which is blocked and needs to be transformed.
So being able to share that and lift that up, feeds that change.
Nuka: [00:53:19] You're able to help someone feel like they're not alone.
Adam: [00:53:23] One thing I've heard from this conversation is that, there's something in us that, shines through that, you know, some light of inspiration, right? And the more that we can cultivate that and be honest and true to that, the more natural change comes through that. And so if you're connecting with people and helping them share their light with the world, just as you've learned to develop yours, Something that's taken awhile and is continually refining, but through that, some really powerful change.
Nuka: [00:53:51] I do think that it's not easy to connect sometimes with yourself because it's just so much noise around us all the time. And I think one of the most helpful and life changing things that I have ever done is to write stuff down. I would recommend that highly recommend that to everyone.
Like you don't need to be an artist. You know you have these questions sometimes in interviews and people ask you, where do you see yourself in the next five years? And I'd be like five years. I don't know where I want to be tomorrow, but I think that if you sit down, you give yourself a couple of hours a couple of days, and you actually write down who you are. Like make an identity document. This is something that brands do for themselves. And I think That we should do it for ourselves too.
Who am I, where have I come from? What are the things that are important to me? And when you do that, it makes you realize what are the things that are important to you, which then help you to define the decisions that you can make for your life. And it doesn't have to sound like this massive major thing that you're doing.
Cause that's the amazing thing that change is constant. And you will always find yourself changing and growing and evolving through life and your goals and your dreams could change, but it's really amazing and it's super helpful to be able to put them down. And it it helps you to find out who you are.
It's only when you know who you are that can really live authentically.
Adam: [00:55:23] That makes a lot of sense. it also gives you some direction on making decisions, right? If you have a better idea of who you are, then it's easier to say yes, this is where I want to put my time or my effort.
Nuka: [00:55:34] Yeah.
Adam: [00:55:35] I feel like we've covered so much. This has been a great conversation. What's the best way for people to find you or connect with you.
Nuka: [00:55:41] I'm on social media. Of course, I'm on Instagram and I have all of my work on YouTube and I'm building my website, but I have now on kissnuka.com, there is an entry box where you can put in your email and that's how I really want to keep in touch with people.
Like I want it to be intimate and I want it to be personal. And I want to share, excepts from books that I've read, which I think are really cool or like songs that are really amazing. And, maybe like a recipe, if something comes up and, maybe some unreleased music and just to have that line of communication between myself and someone who wants to stay connected to me, And I'm actually surprised that people that are actually writing and putting them the emails there.
This is what it is to actually be able to connect with people. If we connect with each other and we elevate each other So that we can create change in the world around us. And this seems to me like one of the best ways to do it.
So yeah. Subscribe to my love letter.
Adam: [00:56:50] So visit kiss nuka.com to sign up for the love letter. But you can also find Nuka on Kiss Nuka on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter. I think my great takeaway from this is just understanding that life is always unfolding and that process of understanding who you are and being able to reach out and connect with the community.
To live in alignment with that takes time, but with persistence, you get there and that's how you create change.
Thanks so much for jumping on today and this great discussion,
Nuka: [00:57:23] Yeah. Thank you. I actually, it's so nice. To talk about these things, because when you're talking to someone about it, you also, get clearer as well.