I am a singer driven towards the performance and creation of exploratory musics. The exploration is informed partially by aesthetics but includes core values of community, diversity, equality and humanity. The search is also aimed deeply inward, using music as a tool for spiritual investigation and a way to tap into the abstract and mystifying aspects of the universe. Growing up in a South Indian family in the Bay Area, I was heavily exposed to Indian traditional music and Hindu chanting, devotional singing and prayer. These sounds form a basis for my entire approach to music, both sonically and philosophically. They are my “blues”, so-to-speak. With a pantheistic spiritual upbringing based on service to underrepresented and undervalued members of society, I found music to be one of the deepest points of connection and kinship between myself and others.
I began singing further back than I can remember, soaking up like a sponge 90s rock, r&b, hip-hop and anything I could get my hands on. A formative moment came after a viewing of the film Sister Act II and this scene in particular, featuring the young Lauryn Hill:
The great musical milestones of my life are memorable. In 1994 I purchased a CD of J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations. I remember sitting in my room by myself crying, without really understanding why. I air conducted Beethoven on our first home stereo system, turned up to 11. I somehow convinced my parents to help my buy a Takamine acoustic guitar so I could play my favorite Weezer songs and began to write my own elementary tunes. I rapped Biggie and Tupac verses in front of the big mirror above my parents dresser and sang Mariah Carey and Michael Jackson into a giant flashlight that I found in the garage. In high-school I dug through stacks with my friends at Amoeba records finding alternative and indie music, music from other parts of the world and got deeper into jazz. My personal discovery of John Coltrane completely turned my entire universe upside down. Coltrane’s musical philosophy and mission to always push forward had a lasting impact on my psyche that underlies everything I do artistically, to this day.
I went to music school because I wanted to learn everything I possibly could about the thing I cared so deeply about. I didn’t know what music school was. I didn’t realize it was entirely concerned with the Western canon or that classical technique was the only way to sing. Still, I found value in it and worked as hard as I could and went as far as I felt could go, earning a Master’s at Brooklyn College in New York. I started a band with all of my friends called Sequins and Skeletons, and though we didn’t really make any records it was some of the most beautiful, reckless and unfettered music making I’ve ever experienced. I became very attracted to the avant-garde after listening to Edgard Varèse, becoming increasingly curious about the revolutionary sound of it. The interest I had in the avant-garde was fueled by that same forward thinking inquisitive mindset instilled in me by Coltrane.
After going to graduate school with a focus in contemporary music and participating in festivals such as Darmstadt, I became increasingly weary of the institutions that housed this so-called cutting edge music. I realized that institutions and aesthetics are not what defines truly great and meaningful music for me. I found that curiosity, open-mindedness, self-reflection, community, generosity, honesty, and personal relationships are the things about music making that are most dear to me. I do not feel an allegiance to any one genre or style of music, and feel deeply connecting to a number of different ways of singing. I was lucky enough to find people in New York City that share these same values. People like Dave Ruder, Ellen O'Meara, Joe White, Cory Bracken, Ian Munro, Charlie Looker, Darius Jones, Robert Ashley, Pat Spadine, Muhal Richard Abrams, Amina Claudine Myers, Tom Hamilton, Peter Evans, Cloud Becomes Your Hand, the good folks at The Silent Barn, my work with Issue Project Room and countless other people and places have shaped my musical thinking. I have gratitude everyday for what I get to do. It’s insane, it’s fun, I get to hang out with a bunch of weirdos; there’s really nothing in the world I’d rather be doing. Thanks for reading.