Maya Banatwala is the co-author of “Rocktails: An Amped Up spin on Mixology,” "Cincinnati Rocktails," a member of Heavy Hinges, Mynah Tones, and has a solo project - MayaLou. Catch her tonight at 7p on Women in Music Wednesdays with CincyMusic LIVE!
We were excited to get to know Maya better prior to her performance tonight!
How did you get into the Cincinnati Music Scene?
I started performing at open mics in college when I was at University of Cincinnati. Towards the end of school I went through a bad break up that left me with lots of time to write, sing and play Ukulele. Then I lost my father and it made me break out of my shell and throw myself into the Cincinnati music and arts scene! I lost him in a really disturbing and tragic manner so music and art was therapeutic and essential for my existence then and even now. That set me on a path of falling in love with our arts scene and starting my band Heavy Hinges and Mynah Tones as well as my solo project MayaLou. For several years I also owned a vintage boutique called Chicken Lays an Egg where we often threw fashion shows and other fun events. I also wrote two music history mixology books called, “Rocktails: An Amped Up spin on Mixology,” with my dear friend who is an incredible musician, artist and teacher, Kristen Kreft. Our recent book of the series is called “Cincinnati Rocktails,” and it honors musicians with a Cincinnati connection through the art of mixology. Each chapter includes history about the musician or band and has a cocktail of our design that honors that artist. We are currently working on our third book which will honor some musicians from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! We have thrown exciting pop ups at venues such as The Listing Loon, Urban Artifact, New Riff Distillery and many more. Last year we even organized a fashion show at Urban Artifact in which we curated each model's look to be inspired by a cocktail or artist in our book! It was a really fun event! If it wasn't for my band mates, book partner, store partners and all the amazing and talented artists that i have worked with who make this City so beautiful, I’m not sure if I would have survived the intense loss of my father and become the person I am today. I owe everything to our scene and the stage.
For my live performances you can expect to be entertained and showered with love! I have really high energy! Sharing it with the audience gives me joy beyond words. My voice is big and loud and my stage performance matches that! I love to shock people with my sound because they don't expect a bellowing voice to come out of a 5ft no inches little woman! There is lots of movement and dance and I always dress in fun fashion forward outfits. Putting together an outfit is part of my art and expression on stage. I take my performances very seriously because I think it is my responsibility to provide an experience and an escape. Life is full of stress and sadness, especially right now, and I want to provide a carefree sanctuary to the people in my life, even if just for one night. Everyone in the audience chose to spend their time with me and I am grateful for their energy. Performing is where my heart is and I miss it so much!
How have the past 6ish months been musically?
The past 6 months have been soul sucking for me. Performing and being active in the music and arts scene is where my passion lies and it’s been difficult dealing with that loss! I never thought I’d experience a time in my life without the bustling activity of the arts scene. I had a ton of really amazing music and book shows that i had worked really hard to book for these last six months! It has been a big creative and financial loss! My band Heavy Hinges is very active in the music scene and we really enjoy creating music videos, handmade posters and all kinds of art projects. Art is intrinsically blended into the way our band operates. We’ve recorded several albums and we are always working toward the next project. The pandemic has not stopped us from writing new music that we look forward to sharing in the near future. Mynah Tones were in the process of recording our first album which we had to take a hiatus from due the state of the world. It was difficult interrupting that process and we look forward to resuming it. But I’m trying to make the most of my time by spending it in nature and with my beloved dogs and boyfriend. I am writing a lot and learning piano and guitar as well! It’s been hard but I’ve been trying to look at this time as an opportunity for reflection and meditation.
What is next for you?
I just recorded a live album with my band Heavy Hinges through the super supportive and talented crew at Radio Artifact. It includes some new songs that I am so proud of! You can find it on bandcamp! My next step is to record a live album with Mynah Tones through Radio Artifact as well. I’m really grateful for their support of local musicians! They are doing a great job at recording with all Covid restrictions in mind. It has been a nice distraction to work on positive projects with them. I hope to start pursuing my masters in education soon and I’m working on publishing my third Rocktails book. I'm also working on publishing a children’s book that has been really fun to create! I hope to finish my first solo album soon and I look forward to the day I can release Mynah Tones debut album as well as work on more projects with Heavy Hinges. Music and art is in my blood and it will always be my passion and my plight.