Artist Voices: Elena Piras

 Tell us about your music, when did you start making it and what inspires it?

I was born in Sardinia. I was brought up listening to wonderful folk music. People sang all the time. We sang in the car as a family. People would sing together with wonderful harmonies during family gatherings after a meal while sitting at the table. Or after harvesting the grapes in our vineyard and making the wine.

I started singing professionally at the age of seven. My first solo performance was at a children’s diocesan event, singing for about 200 to 300 people. Singing is one of the few ways I could feel equal to my peers. There were no differences between children who sang together. My sight problems disappeared. I knew straight away I wanted to do this for the rest of my life. When I came to the UK in 1995, I heard Scottish Traditional Music, and I was hooked. I knew I was going to do something with it, although I had absolutely no idea what and how this was going to happen. I listened to it regularly since that intoxicating afternoon at the College for the Blind in Hereford. Ten years passed until my life changed forever. Hearing one of the bombs explode at King’s Cross Station on 7 July 2005, made me realise I could no longer live in London. I was in desperate need of peace. At the beginning of 2006, I moved to Scotland. Music was my only guide. The spectacular landscape, the weather, and the people, made it possible for me to be completely immersed and finally begin my journey towards my very own first album in 2010.

What impact would you like your music to have on the world?

I would love my music to reach people and transport them to the places portrayed in the songs I sing. I would like the world to see the beauty of Scottish music. The passion I have for this can show it is possible to achieve much by being myself and following what is in my heart.

Have you faced any barriers within the music industry?

The barriers I faced in the music industry are countless. Sadly, despite the fact, we have an Equalities Act in the UK. I find it is a paradox to know that music itself brings down barriers and yet, people cannot bring themselves to treat each other as equals. I face three difficulties because I have visual and hearing impairments; I am a woman, and I am an immigrant. Doors close for me because of these reasons.

What improvements would you like to see in the music industry?

First, I would like to see a clear path towards a musician’s development in their genre. A lot of it is left to luck and people’s ability to make the right connections. Music should be open to all, not just those with money. There are very few musicians with an advanced music education. Disabled people face even more difficulties because of the lack of funding and resources. I don’t know whether there is a recording or scoring software, which is completely accessible. There needs to be a place where musicians can make their voices heard when experiencing discrimination. People should be held accountable for their actions. Rosters at venues and festivals should represent a diverse number of musicians, which represents society. Musicians should never be expected to work for free.

Do you include your disability in your music?

I do include disability in my music. I certainly don’t hide the fact I have a disability to anyone.

Can you tell me about a positive experience you have had with a venue, festival, or organisation?

In 2015 I was invited to Leeds by Opera North and an organisation called Live Italy, which was part of the Italian Department of the University of Leeds. I was really amazed and surprised to receive the invitation. I held an interview in the afternoon and a concert in the evening at the Assembly Rooms. It was a wonderful experience from start to finish. I never felt belittled. People had no difficulty helping me and making me feel included and respected. The interview and concert are on my YouTube channel.

image of Elena Piras sitting on chair playing an acoustic guitar and singing, she is wearing a blue cardigan and a colourful dress. The image has the text 'Artist of The Month' on it and the Next Stage logo.