On a Friday morning here and a particularly late Thursday night in the US, a rather candid 27-year-old Raveena Aurora who goes by the stage name Raveena lets me into her creative world. The previously independent artist whose debut album Lucid got her noticed on the musical world map is now signed with Warner Records. As she continues to go about her evening she engages in a conversation with me that is as honest, raw, and insightful as it can get.
Growing up in a Sikh household in New York, she isn’t one to shy away from her love for Bollywood, whether it is jamming to the tunes of DDLJ or films like Pakezah, Rang de Basanti and Devdas, Bollywood seems to be something that gets her really excited. Perhaps that is the reason why it has influenced the pop music that she continues to create.
All Things Bollywood & Growing Up As A South-Asian
“My family aren’t musicians but there was always a love for music in the house. They are all bathroom singers so I think that’s definitely what sparked it.”— Raveena
“I was always surrounded (because I grew up in a Sikh household) by Sikh Shabads like from the womb and also Bollywood music was always playing in the house whether I wanted to listen to it or not so I was just inundated by that growing up,” she tells me. “I was like 9 or 10 then I started exploring like American pop music and RnB and jazz, so on my own time as a kid I was just exploring so much music and at home I was surrounded by Indian music.”
“My family aren’t musicians but there was always a love for music in the house. They are all bathroom singers so I think that’s definitely what sparked it (her interest for music). I think it was just in me since I was really young, I don’t know how to describe it, it was almost like a destiny that I had. I just remember that I could sing when I was like 10 years old and since then I haven’t stopped.”
A Moment Of Epiphany & The Creative Journey Beyond
“I think the moment that I discovered that I could sing I was like ‘oh this is what I’m going to do with my life’ and this was not a question after that.— Raveena
While her experience of growing up as someone from the South-Asian diaspora is incredibly similar to many, I’m almost curious to find out whether there was ever a moment of epiphany or an ‘I should be a musician’ moment or was it just something that was a part of her.
“I think the moment that I discovered that I could sing I was like ‘oh this is what I’m going to do with my life’ and this was not a question after that,” explains Raveena. “It was very strong since I was young but it was also a very impossible dream.”
As microwave beeps on in the background she tells me rather casually, “I feel like I’ve had like 10 rebirths as an artist since my first project.”
Further talking about her creative process since her 2017 debut EP Shanti to now, she adds, “I feel at the core my music is always about a story of healing, especially about the hard things we go through in our 20s and teens and especially as women and people of colour. That’s always been the core of it but the way I approach it and the amount I’ve learnt about production, about songwriting and just about how textures and sounds of different cultures in terms of how to identify them and how to have the tools to incorporate them into music; it’s all grown so much.”
From Being An Independent Artist To Being Signed To A Record Label
“Having a strong sense of artistry and world-building is going to help you so much. Beccause the more gaps, you can fill in yourself the more complete you’ll feel as an artist.”— Raveena
While Raveena started off as an independent artist, recently she has signed to one of the worlds biggest labels, Warner Records. Talking about that journey she says while she’s only been on Warner for a couple of months and wasn’t even with them when making her most recent album, Asha’s Awakening, its tough to assess the difference or impact but Raveena believes the project is ready to have a major label partner.
“I think I wanted to be really sure that it was ready for that before signing because I’ve been so DIY for so long. I think it’s good when it’s done at the right time.”
As far as her advice for other independent artist goes she says, “I stayed indie for the longest that I possibly could and I would say that in the beginning it required a lot of patience, a lot of collective effort of many. It’s not like a one-person thing. When something really takes off, it takes the dedication of a couple of people really giving it their all.”
“Often not for loads of money, they just believe in the project. Having those people who believe in it since the beginning and are also with you in the highs and the lows, it’s really important I think. Having a strong sense of artistry and world-building is going to help you so much. Because the more gaps you can fill in yourself the more complete you’ll feel as an artist to other people and more things will catch on faster.”
Asha’s Awakening & The Sonic Evolution Of Raveena
“I think it’s just hard to understand how to make a good pop song that does well in the West, that in itself is such an art form.”— Raveena
Taking a further glance into her upcoming album, Asha’s Awakening, we discuss the sonic evolution of the album as well as Raveena’s sound across albums.
“I think the biggest difference from Shanti to now I think there has been a lot of maturity in the songwriting and what I cover especially in the context of a pop song. Also, I just think sound-wise I wasn’t lost but it took me a long time to understand how to marry east and west. It just felt so challenging to do in a way that felt that it worked in the West and people would understand it. I think we really struck that balance in this album but it took me a long time of creating because I think it’s just hard to understand how to make a good pop song that does well in the West. That in itself is such an art form.”
“I was trying to master that for so long that I wasn’t even worried about taking my sound further, experimenting more, genre-bending, and now that I felt I’ve mastered that, I really felt like I could do that on this album.”
Talking further about what people should look for in this album, Raveena comments, “I think people should know that whatever idea they have of me, I’ll always try to break it as an artist like in terms of what they think I’ll be making.”
“I feel like I’m an artist that always wants to transform and I think people should also know how much I loved world-building and doing conceptual thought out albums because that’s at the core of everything I do. I think every project that I’ve ever done has had a really clear theme and aesthetic to it.”
The Visual Grammar, Aesthetics, & Art Direction Of Music Videos
Ethereal, imaginative, and vibrant.— Raveena on three words that describe her music.
When it comes to aesthetics, there is a distinct visual grammar that dictates the music videos that Raveena pushes out, her involvement in those is from the start to the finish so much so that she believes that “now I actually want my second career to be outside of music, like when I’m older I want it to be art direction.”
Talking about the aesthetic that guides her, she adds, “I honestly think I didn’t know that I wanted to be a visual artist or that it was so important to me until I really started diving in and kind of managing all the art direction for my videos and music and album covers these last few years. It’s so important to me, it’s the kind of thing where I think it’s become a huge part of my artistry, it only grows over time.”
“I was trained in music but I had zero idea about visuals going into it. So every year I just learn more about this world and it feeds my musicianship in a way cause it’s like a totally new art form.”
“It’s incredibly important and I draw a lot from South Asian culture and Bollywood films beccause to me it’s some of the most beautiful visuals in the world; so ethereal and colourful and like imaginative.”
The Rise Of The South Asian Creative
“I think we’re at a really exciting cultural renaissance in terms of the appreciation of South Asian diaspora and our art.”— Raveena
Over the past few years, we have been seeing more and more South Asian creative talent finally getting their due and a global presence across sectors let that be music, art, design or film. This makes the coming decade an incredibly exciting time to be engaging with South Asian creativity. Especially for an artist like Raveena who enjoys a global stage.
“I talk about this all the time, I think we’re at a really exciting cultural Renaissance, in terms of the appreciation of South Asian diaspora and our art. I think there are so many more narratives than my own to be told. Like even if someone like me is gaining traction, there are many others who are too and I think there are so many other narratives from the South-Asian diaspora to be told. I don’t think mine should be a dominant narrative at all.”
“Because there are narratives to be told from darker-skinned South Asians, South Asians from different religions and different regions other than India and I’m really excited to see that happening. I just feel that there’s a beautiful artistic culture that has been so under-appreciated for so long from our billion-plus diaspora. Like we have beautiful art and almost a defined cultural aesthetic and sound to it that is emerging but we just need like different perspectives within it.”
“I’m just like one little one so I’m really excited to be uplifting other South Asian artists and watching them grow and adding them to this movement.”
Identity, Songwriting & Why Music Matters
At the confluence of US culture and a strong Sikh heritage, her identity as a South-Asian has undeniably impacted her craft.
“I think finally for the first time in my career it’s blending in a really fluid way and where I can confidently say the music is merging the two worlds. It took a long time for me to understand how to do that, it was really challenging to do, the marriage between the two especially in the pop space, cause I think there are just not a lot of examples of it and so it took a lot of learning and knowledge on how to produce pop music.”
“I think music is just an extension of my inner world and kind of like therapy for me. I work through a lot of emotions that I can’t always verbalise through my songwriting. I think it’s a reflection of my imagination but also like just healing through hard stuff and where I can be vulnerable about all the things I’ve been through.”
An Artist’s Social Media Paradox Of Living In The Internet Age
Having gained hyper-visibility in the internet age and being a direct product of social media, it comes as so surprise that Raveena simultaneously holds contradictory opinions about it.
“I think I have such a love-hate relationship with it, I think it’s been such a great tool for me to become a more known artist especially as an independent artist it all started on the internet so I can’t really hate on it.”
“But I also think my whole process of becoming a bigger artist has been about disassociating from that online identity because I think that it’s really, really toxic to read that much shit about you both the good and the bad, both are toxic for the soul.”
“In one respect it’s amazing but I think like when you’re a public person on it, it’s a very dangerous and slippery slope. At a point, you have to detach from the things you do online and just let them exist as a different person outside of you.”
Raveena, The Person Not The Artist
As the conversations dig deeper and away from the craft and artistry of Raveena, I’m intrigued to know who is Raveena as a person, what defines her outside of music.
After a little thought, she says, “I think I really know myself at the core, I think there are so many different perceptions of who I am to people in the public eye but I feel like I have such a strong sense of self and self-love. I think who I am at the core is a self-loving strong individual. My main goal is inner peace and peace for people, I am messy and imperfect in getting there like all humans are. I think I’m really goofy in my real life like everyone who knows me (I’m saying in my real life like being an artist isn’t my real life) but like in my personal life I’m really goofy and childlike.”
Well aware that we all have memories or moments that shape the person we become, I ask Raveena if there’s any particular instance she can think of, “A memory that has shaped me as a person… wow, I don’t even know how to pick one. I really think me being so inundated with spirituality as a young baby to childhood really shaped who I am.”
To elaborate on it she narrates an anecdote, “I just have this one memory of me playing in the house and somehow I had a tummy ache and I was like 8 years old. Then my grandfather came over, said lie down and started doing reiki on my stomach and it went away.”
“I was like amazed by the power of spirit in that moment and such experiences happened throughout my childhood; where my family showed me portals into really magical things and that’s like really shaped who I am.”
Goals As A Musician & What’s Next In 2022
“My end goal as a musician is just to do what I love. I have a very wild imagination and I really love to see things in that wild imagination come true. I think that people see that more than ever in this album in the sound and the visuals so I think that that’s one of the goals. It’s about having the visions in my head like look exactly and sound exactly how I want them to be in the music.”
“Just staying kind, staying collaborative, staying balanced and whole in this process. I think that being an artist comes from a very pure intention but existing in the entertainment industry is very challenging and my goal is to stay while being a good and sane person through that. I think it’s going to be a really crazy year. I’m most excited about playing these songs live cause that’s when you really feel and understand the impact of an album in a very beautiful and wholesome way more than reading comments online which is something I try not to do.”
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