The first time I met Raveena was in 2018, at the Greek restaurant Kiki’s in the Lower East Side of New York City. I remember there was slush outside as I edged into the restaurant, late, as she waited patiently inside for me. At the time of our first encounter, Raveena had not found the acclaim she has now as a singer. Yet, four years later, her demeanor hasn’t changed.
There’s a youthfulness to Raveena that she emanates and it didn’t surprise me when I later found out that she’s a Cancer Rising, like me. We are said to have kind, round faces, with big eyes. I saw that in Raveena, too—but she wears her face with courage, which is a really cool thing to encounter in another femme person: their power.
As we speak in 2022, both resettled in Los Angeles, I’m grateful to see another young person contending with the shapeless terror of being perceived. I imagine for a commercially acclaimed musician, who is only 27, the epicness of that experience could also feel cajoling. Still, Raveena holds the responsibility with a level of grace and diplomacy.
When she speaks to the people who listen to her music, Raveena describes them as “soft.” She seems to crave softness, and in a culture that prioritizes the opposite, it’s quite astounding to see someone create corners of gentleness with their work. She mentions she meditates with her audiences; I can imagine how magical that world is.
Raveena’s latest album Asha’s Awakening is a conceptual milestone. As the album follows a space princess from ancient Punjab, Raveena laments being the South Asian anomaly, but she’s opening doors to new imaginations. There’s an act of service here. She’s trying to heal, and she’s showing you ways to do so, too.
How has the world of spirit grounded you? How do you see yourself within the realms of the spiritual?
That’s such a beautiful question. Thank you for starting off with something so intentional and sweet. I love that.
[Spirituality] is honestly the central force in my life. I think it guides everything I do. My biggest connection to it is through nature and space and the deeper I’ve gone into conversation with my family… because my family is highly spiritual, they were like, “In Sikhism, we believe that God is just like in space and Sat Sri Akaal means the divine omnipresent in me sees the divine omnipresent in you.”
So when I think about all of that, I think about how all of these elements are connected, how my ancestry has been building up into this beautiful energy for me to tap into. And that’s kind of my purpose, to do that through my own personal life, but also through my work and through music.
What are some of the biggest references in those early formative years that led you here as well?
Definitely those early 2000 soundtracks where I think A. R. Rahman was at his peak when he was doing the Taal and Lagaan soundtracks… They have such a heavy influence on my soul. I’ve been listening to them every single day for decades now.
It’s some of the most beautiful music in the world. And the colors in the South Asian films I grew up on, that’s part of my whole identity… This kind of colorful, imaginative, ethereal space I like to bring people into. It’s like my art and then also who I am is a convergence of spirit, color, and music.
So with the new album, firstly, how do you feel about it?
I feel like this album is an explosion and it’s a very unexpected explosion of life. And it’s messy and beautiful and chaotic and much louder than my past work. I’m really proud of it. It’s my baby.
I also want to note that a lot of this album, there are really subtle nods to how our homelands have been pilfered from, specifically with spirituality. Songs like “Kathy Left 4 Kathmandu,” the lyrics are “I can open up your third eye as long as you can pay the price. Rich hippie. Better check your balance.”
As somebody who’s orchestrating the trajectory and lifeline of your work, are you thinking about longevity?
In terms of being a commercial artist, I see maybe in the next decade producing a lot, but I also do have a lot of dreams of slowing down and just being a mom and also transitioning maybe into film or doing something more in the background. I think it’s a lot of energy being a public person and it’s not necessarily where my heart lies.
My heart lies in making albums and making music videos, but I’m a very simple and private person. I’m the happiest when my life is very balanced and [being a commercial artist] is kind of just an unbalanced life. So I’m looking forward to when things are slower.
What are dreams that you tend to and have for yourself?
Immediate is definitely just creating universes with every album. Asha’s Awakening is a whole world that you can really get completely wrapped up in the color, the story... Every sound you hear, everything just feels like it’s part of one cohesive experience. And it’s all very intentional in that there’s so much detail that goes into it.
And that is something I love doing as an artist, creating something that feels so holistic and something like a body of work that people can live with for a long time. It’s not just here for a month. It grows over the years and it breathes new life with every person who reaches it. So creating a few bodies of work like that would be a blessing and it takes a lot of energy, money, time, and teams to create those.
And then the long term is really to just be a mommy and explore different types of art and hopefully return to making music just for myself for a while.
With your work, do you feel like you’ve been represented appropriately? What’s your experience been like watching your career?
I think I feel a bit like a black sheep. Any time a South Asian musician starts to gain commercial success, it’s such an anomaly for us. And I wish it wasn’t. I wish there was actually a real community of us that was experiencing commercial success and able to lift others into it. I want to do my best to lift others but it just requires a lot of community. And that’s my hope: to make more space and form a larger community. At the same time, it’s something so special and there’s a fan base around it that is so honest and so real that I would never trade anything for it.
I’ve read every single opinion I think anyone could ever have on me, bad and good. I have learned that I have to center back into myself and what I know to be true about me because literally anything anyone says at the end of the day has no bearing on my actual view of myself.
How do you keep yourself focused?
This album took almost four years if I really think about when the genesis of it started. I had a lot more rebirths in this album and I think that’s why, once you hear it, it’s full of life and it sounds like a person who’s in different stages of rebirth.
The album is a concept album and it’s based on a space princess named Asha. She goes through, similarly, all these rebirths, gets transported to a planet with these highly advanced spiritual beings and they teach her how to meditate through anything. Through very chaotic, planetary situations she has to learn to breathe.
She lives there for a thousand years and becomes a princess then she comes to earth to find her lover in a reincarnated form. She misses life on Earth and likes how chaotic and sensual and colorful it is and she learns that the point of being human is not to be perfectly meditative—it’s to find peace in the knowledge we are messy and we are feeling and we are constantly rebirthing.
By Fariha Roisin for Audiomack