Raveena’s experience as an Indian American influenced her place in the mainstream music industry, but it’s only one facet of what she aims to deliver with her debut album Lucid.
The singer weaves experiences of healing and elements of her culture into the fabric of a surrealist universe she presents on the project.
Ahead of her Austin show on Sept. 26 at the Parish, the Daily Texan spoke to Raveena about her music and her experiences as an Indian American musician.
The Daily Texan: Your debut album came out in early June, what’s it been like since then?
Raveena: It’s a unique feeling releasing a first album. A lot of hopes and dreams tied into it, but once you release it, you are ready to move on to what’s next, new ideas. The coolest part is being on tour and people knowing the words and singing along.
DT: Going through the album, I get a cinematic sense from the work. Is there a particular world you’re trying to create?
R: So when I was making the album, I actually drew out the actual world. I was drawing a lot when I was making the album, so I put down what I imagined the plants to look like, what colors would be there, what environment the world would be in. It reflected a lot of my life at the time. I want it to be this warm, ethereal space. In my mind, it’s a dreamworld that draws from surrealism and escapism. It should feel almost like another planet, a utopia where you can feel what you want to feel in an accepting place.
DT: You’re one of the more prominent Indians in the music industry right now. Do you like talking about that identity or does it get annoying when people focus on that rather than just your music?
R: There are so few of us that are breaking into the mainstream, so it’s just a part of it. There is such a huge community of us in the U.S., and when people can really identify what the intersection between South Asian and American art looks like in this concrete way, I think we have to do the work of telling people about our ethnicity and what it’s about.
DT: Can you tell me more about that intersection? What role does Indian culture play in this world you’re creating?
R: My parents are first-generation immigrants, so it’s a natural part of whatever I do. It’s exciting to blend those worlds and create this unique identity within western music.
DT: Speaking of your parents, the track “Mama” discusses your mom’s early life. How do you think your experiences differed from hers growing up in India?
R: I think a lot about if she was born 25 years later, there would have been a lot more opportunity for her to break out of all these expectations of being a mother at a certain age or wearing certain things and behaving in a certain way. Indian women especially are still deeply embedded in the patriarchy of Indian culture. She had to deal with all these barriers and sacrifice herself in a lot of ways so I could have a lot more freedom, and a big part of the song was recognizing that.
DT: What is the balance for you between an Indian culture that comes from heritage and American culture that comes from day-to-day experiences?
R: For me, it’s about creating what feels natural, nobody should feel like they have to incorporate an identity into their work. When I first started making music, I didn’t want to be type casted as “that girl who blends Bollywood with American music.” But I feel that South Asian culture has been represented in such a narrow way in American culture. As I got better with my music, I found a nuanced way to incorporate all these things I love about my culture in a way that feels peaceful.