Rituals And Revelations: An Essay By Raveena

"Music has always been that outlet; music has always provided healing..."

I underwent many shifts in my life making my album, ‘Asha’s Awakening’. Things converged at once; we were in the midst of a pandemic, I went through a major break-up, I moved from New York to LA, my Saturn return happened. It felt like the right time to tap into a new energy and take my artistry in a place that I had never known I could take it before. It was at this point I had a spiritual transformation: I had the freedom to really explore my heritage, push boundaries and present a new side of me.

As a songwriter, I look to the hardest, most challenging moments in my life as the root of what I should be talking about. It's like therapy for me. Growing up in South Asian households where feelings are stifled and you're not allowed to talk about what you're going through leads you to seek outlets of expression. Music has always been that outlet; music has always provided healing. It is all masked in a song. We need these tools because they are essential. They make us resilient; they make us stronger.

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Being open and vulnerable is one of the main struggles we have as children of immigrants. When you're at the junction of two different cultures, you hear a lot of different opinions about who you should be or how you should act, whether it's societal stereotypes or generational pressures imposed on you. But ask yourself: do we live their dreams or our own?

There’s a whole culture, sound and community around South Asian art that has been ignored for a long time. But we’re on the cusp of a beautiful emergence of sound, feeling and colour in the diaspora. With this album, I really wanted to study all the ways that South Asian and western culture had met: the conflict and the synergy. My core producers and I studied a lot of Bollywood tracks, looking at the early 2000s but also the 70s and all the different collaborations and collisions that were happening in those time periods. It's a tricky feat reconciling the east with the west but out of marrying contrasting cultural identities comes something new and novel.

I often think of the scarcity mindset: that only one of us can succeed. It's just not true. There's a need for so many different types of voices. South Asian culture is not homogenous, it is diverse. I represent a more dominant part of South Asian entertainment culture which often comes from North India. There’s not nearly enough representation of that in both the East and the West.

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This particular story centres around the protagonist, Asha, and in telling Asha’s story I had to do the inner work. I had to figure out what I was afraid of, what the root cause of that fear is because I couldn't live my life fearing the external world. It all started with mindfulness and nurturing my inner voice; a daily return to self that began with the practice of affirmations and small rituals like taking a minute out of my day, breathing, connecting with the universe around me. It’s about intentionality and consistency; performing it day after day to the point it becomes second nature. If you believe in God, if you believe in the divinity of nature – something that connects you to this larger force – finding and forging that connection is the very essence of mindfulness because you’re reminded, you’re a very small part of the universe.

Because of this, I now have a strong and unshakable sense of self-worth. That sense of self runs through ‘Asha’s Awakening’; it’s loud, proud, chaotic but full of joy. Asha’s at war with keeping her inner peace and her physical form. She’s been hibernating in the cosmos for years yet she yearns for Earth because she's still human; she yearns for love, sensuality, music and all the beautiful things that Earth has to offer. She forgets how destructive Earth can be at the same time. When she returns, she's grappling with the fact that being human is a non-linear experience; it’s imperfect, it’s messy, it ebbs and flows. I want listeners to experience this sense of joy, this celebration of feeling, of being alive, of being flawed. Even in the darker more introspective moments on this record, there is hope. There is always hope.  

I overcame my fears by finding my inner voice and finding it took a lot of time and a lot of pain. Healing is a lifelong journey but I can say I'm in the best place I've ever been personally and creatively. Saying that out loud is strange and even now I ask myself is it a completely honest declaration? It is.

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Interview: Shahzaib Hussain
Photo Credit: Furmaan Ahmed

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