Kootenay musician Dréa Drury was studying Buddhist dakinis, a series of goddesses that embody fierce compassion rather than using force or weapons, when she was inspired to create her four-song EP Warrior.
She hoped to explore the esoteric application of sound with her compositions, weaving in aspects of her own shamanic and spiritual background. The end result is a little difficult to categorize.
“It’s a mix between dark ambient, world tribal and shamanic. There’s progressive metal in there too. Some people have said it’s like Dead Can Dance meets Tool,” said the 32-year-old singer, whose work will soon be featured on HBO’s show Vikings.
Currently based in the Selkirk Mountains, Drury acknowledges her connection to nature as being her primary teacher. She believes that music is medicine. For her latest album she has adopted the moniker Anilah, which roughly translate as “wind energy”.
“The etymology is really complex, and it has many different meanings. But to me it’s the energy behind wind, or the energy behind breath. In yoga it can be described as prana, and basically it’s the energy behind breath which propels us,” she said.
Drury aims to channel that elemental energy, drawn from nature, into her artistic practice. Having grown up in Argenta for the first 17 years of her life, she said she derives inspiration from her natural surroundings.
“That’s probably the thing that influenced me the most. I spent a lot of time in the mountains and in the forest just listening, and that’s where the first music came to me when I started composing around 15. Being in the silence, being in the forest and not having the options a lot of city kids have, I had to create my whole world,” she said.
“I see my creative process as symbiotic with nature. I’m taking in from my environment and then also expressing through gratitude.”
The four tracks on her album are called Rolling Thunder, Warrior, Calling the Others and Medicine Chant.
Only one of those, the title track, features lyrics and traditional singing. The others primarily consist of ambient music and chanting.
Drury, who has played in a number of Nelson bands and graduated from Selkirk College’s music program in in 2004, said it’s been a while since she’s performed locally. Her primary audience is overseas in Europe, but she’s hoping to play some local shows now that she’s living in the Kootenays again.
“As long as I can maintain a lifestyle where I’m living more rurally, it’s fine. I’ve tried living in cities and it doesn’t work for me,” she said, noting that she’s formerly been based in San Fransisco, Montreal and Vancouver.
She’s currently at work on her second album, which is a collaboration with her mentor Einar Selvik, a composer for the Norwegian group Wardruna. It was Selvik who took the track “Warrior” and adapted it for use in Vikings. The song is scheduled to make an appearance on the show sometime next year.
“He basically took that whole song and made it into a complete, fully orchestrated piece with Norwegian instruments and strings, so it sounds like a Viking war song,” she said.
She’s thrilled with the end result, and can’t wait to continue her work with Selvik. She said one of the driving impetuses behind her music is a passion for helping those struggling with mental health.
“I’m a really strong advocate of art and creativity as a means of transformation, for using our creativity to move through dense emotional states,” she said.
Drury herself has struggled with depression in the past, and used music to self-soothe and heal. She said one of the most rewarding parts of her musical practice is receiving letters from fans worldwide who say her music has helped them with their own struggles.
Partial proceeds from Warrior’s Bandcamp album sales will go to the charity To Write Love on Her Arms, an American non-profit organization which aims to present hope for people struggling with addiction, depression, self injury, and thoughts of suicide.