Photo courtesy of Nail City Records.

Wheeling Made Music: Ananga Martin Releases New Album

For those who have found themselves enjoying a courtyard music night at Later Aligator, or lounging at the Purple Fiddle in Thomas, W.V., or any other place guitars are strummed, you may have heard the music of Ananga Martin. What luck you would have possessed to have heard this Wheeling-based songstress sing out her ethereal ballads. Her music sounds like nights in late September when your jacket smells like a campfire and your fingers are stained with the last of the summer fruit. Or, that could just be me, listening to her music in the fall. Either way, having her making music in The Friendly City is an absolute treat. This Saturday at 8:00 p.m., you get the chance to relish in her music as she celebrates the release of her new album “Santa Ana” at the Towngate Theatre.

Ananga Martin at Later Alligator.

Ananga hasn’t always called the Ohio Valley home; she grew up in California before moving here in her teens. This gives her a unique musical perspective she describes as “from orange groves to Appalachia.” She discusses how her music “reflects both of those landscapes that raised, and are still raising me.” While I am less in tune to the Californian aura in her songs, the imprint of West Virginia on this new album is palpable. Not only is Ananga deeply inspired by the nature of the region (being outside almost always fuels her creative words), but you can literally hear Wheeling in the work. Recorded at Jay Demko’s studio on Chapline Street, the album is rooted in Wheeling. That is perhaps seen most beautifully in the song “Hippocrene” which includes samples of thunder rolling along Peters Run Road.

Appalachia is only part of the story of “Santa Ana.” She speaks of water and cycles influencing her. She also relishes in the mysticism of creative action. It seems that the flows of water and of creativity move in similar ways to Ananga, hard to pin down. Like water slips through fingers, Ananga can’t quite summarize her creative cycle; “sometimes talking about it dampens the mystery.” Whatever it  is, her work has created a piece of beauty that seems perfectly timed. “With this group of songs, and especially the title track, I am marveling at the timing of the release! This was recorded two years ago, and I wasn’t sure exactly how/when it would come to be as a record. It can be a long process. I deeply trusted that it would come out when it was supposed to.”  Ananga finds the timing of this so significant because “Santa Ana”, the woman named in the title track, “was a Palestinian grandmother, the mother of Mary”. She goes on, “Also, I am becoming a grandmother in a few months, so again, the timing is just right!” 

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Ananga acknowledges that the album wasn’t written altogether, “but there is definitely a theme, and the songs have connected themselves.” Ananga talks of writing songs for a long time “before ever sharing them with people.” She first shared some of her songs with her close circle of friends, such as fellow musicians and band members, Adrian Niles, Matt Smith, and Chad Burrall. “It felt easy and natural playing with them, not just because of their amazing talents, but they are all really good people and our collective vibe was just right. They held my songs very tenderly, and that just means the world! It takes a lot of trust to be vulnerable with others, and my songs express the most vulnerable parts of myself.” At the heart of this album is Ananga’s hopes of bringing a spirit of beauty into this world. “I love saying ‘do what you can, with what you have, where you are’. What I have are songs, and all of them are meant to contribute to the greater good, in honor of Mother Earth, in the spirit of liberation for all.”

Some of the artwork for “Santa Ana”

If you would like to see some of those vulnerable and beautiful parts Ananga chooses to share, the album release party at Towngate will give you the chance to. The event kicks off at 8:00 p.m. and has a $10 cover charge, with tickets available online or by calling 304-242-7700. Along with Ananag’s talent, enjoy music from Adrian Niles, Chad Burrall, Matt Smith, Logan Seidler, and Jay Demko. Additionally, all evening, Olivia Michele (who painted the album cover for Ananag’s first album) will be doing a live painting during the show. The finished painting will be raffled off at the end of the night, with all proceeds going to HoH Share, Inc. Physical copies of the album (CD and vinyl) will be available for sale during the show. You can also snag a copy at Nail City Records, which helped Ananga release the album. The album is also available on streaming platforms. However you chose to dig into the tunes, this Wheeling-made-album is certainly magical.


• Makayla Carney, a Wheeling native, is the 2023-2024 AmeriCorps member for Wheeling Heritage, where she will get to write all about the history and culture of her hometown. She has a B.F.A. in Film and Television from DePaul University in Chicago. She adores all kinds of art, a lavender latte, and the occasional performance on the Towngate Theatre stage.