Ana Karen González Barajas: Expecting Mother, Musician, Activist, Designer, and PhD Candidate

Origins and Inspirations

Ana Karen G. Barajas is a remarkable figure, navigating the complexities of pregnancy while pursuing a PhD in social work, creating evocative music, and producing stunning artistic work. Her story spans continents, connecting the vibrant heart of Mexico to the bustling streets of Hong Kong. Barajas, who is originally from Mexico, has traveled through various landscapes, each of which has added depth and color to her creative expression.

Barajas' approach to songwriting and composition is fluid and intuitive. "Sometimes I'll come up with a melody and immediately record it on my phone before thinking about the lyrics. Other times, I prefer to write about a specific topic." Despite the evolution of her work from personal reflections to concept-driven compositions, Barajas believes that "they continue to resonate with my essence and perspective on life."

Barajas' social work experiences had a profound impact on her music, which cannot be overstated. She has worked with people with intellectual disabilities and mental health issues in Europe and Mexico, and she sees her work as a way to make the world better. "These experiences were immensely fulfilling, allowing me to introduce workshops centered on storytelling, photography, textiles, and music composition."

In the past, she dedicated herself to empowering people who are experiencing homelessness. She has encouraged collaboration by organizing exhibitions and raising awareness, which echoes her mission of "creating projects with a positive impact." Her efforts have improved their well-being, increased acceptance, and broadened their opportunities.

Hong Kong's vibrant landscape has also had an indelible impact on Barajas and her music project, "Karen y Los Remedios." As the lead vocalist of the band, which produces cumbia, downtempo, and trip hop music, she has been inspired by the city's unique architecture, neon lights, and natural scenery in her music videos and personal life. "The prospect of relocating here infused me with a profound sense of empowerment," Barajas says, reflecting on the origins of her project's flagship song, "Canario." Her studies of traditional Indonesian music at the University of Hong Kong demonstrate her insatiable curiosity and willingness to immerse herself in various musical traditions.

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Harmony in Dualities

Barajas reflects on her beginnings: "Throughout my life, I have consistently turned to the arts and creative activities." This inclination towards creativity became a sanctuary, especially during the rigorous demands of her Ph.D. studies. Music and the visual arts served as a therapeutic outlet, a connection to her roots, and a bridge to her culture when homesickness struck. What started as a hobby, born out of longing and the joy of reconnection during visits back home, organically evolved into an earnest pursuit. "Finding a balance between my academic and my creative endeavors has been challenging, yet not impossible," Barajas admits.

“The elusive” (ink on paper)

“What can burn” (ink on paper)

“Omen” (ink, acrylic on paper)

What was the most rewarding aspect of her dual journey? "Both visual arts and music have afforded me opportunities for growth and connection with others," says Barajas. The transition from visual arts to music was unplanned, mirroring her academic path, where school was once her sole avenue for advancement. Coming from a background with limited opportunities, education, and the arts became pivotal in shaping her trajectory, allowing her to forge meaningful connections and channel her creativity in profound ways.

Barajas's work is deeply intertwined with social causes, particularly women's equity, holistic health, and sorority among women. As she anticipates navigating motherhood, she becomes increasingly aware of the societal changes needed to support mothers, especially in the music industry. "The music industry is one such example, and I argue that society must evolve to meet mothers' needs and engage in open discussions about this subject," she passionately asserts. Through her music and academic work, Barajas aims to inspire conversations about less socially accepted emotions, such as sadness and nostalgia, challenging the contemporary narrative that often sidelines these genuine human experiences.

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Return of the repressed, Ana Karen González Barajas

Her compositions frequently draw inspiration from nature and herbalism, reflecting her deep-seated belief in reconnecting with our environment and embracing our intrinsic human nature. This connection extends to her empathy towards domestic helpers in Hong Kong, particularly those from the Philippines, with whom she feels a cultural kinship reminiscent of her Mexican heritage.

Ana Karen G. Barajas provides invaluable advice to anyone juggling the demands of their creative pursuits with professional or academic obligations.

Barajas emphasizes the importance of making time for what motivates one's spirit, even if it is in small increments.

"Making space for the activities you enjoy is always worthwhile, even if you can only devote small chunks of time on occasion because it nourishes the soul."

Barajas reflects on the transformative experience of studying abroad in Chicago, which marks a watershed moment in her career. "That experience significantly contributed to my personal growth," despite financial constraints, she embraced the opportunity, which broadened her artistic horizons and reaffirmed her connection to her roots and passion for the arts. While difficult, this moment has opened up new avenues for exploration and creativity, demonstrating that combining one's passions with one's professional life is both possible and extremely rewarding.

Barajas sees Hong Kong as a city brimming with artistic vibrancy and potential.

She notices a palpable resurgence in the arts, particularly in the music scene, where venues such as Visage One provide unique cultural opportunities. Her involvement with local artists' work, as well as the positive reception to her music, highlight the city's openness and diversity in the arts.

Barajas is also captivated by Hong Kong's visual arts, which range from street exhibitions to gallery showcases, revealing a city brimming with creativity. Her positive experiences exhibiting her artwork and her sense of community in Hong Kong demonstrate the city's welcoming environment for artists.

Barajas' advice and reflections serve as a guidepost for aspiring artists, emphasizing the importance of pursuing one's passions with determination and openness. Her story not only celebrates the richness of combining diverse interests, but it also serves as an empowering reminder of the transformative power of pursuing one's passions both within and outside of art.

Written by: Jeremy Chapnick
Photos: Raymond Chan, Ana Karen González Barajas