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A multifaceted flurry of audiovisual creativity, Raveena’s second full length project cuts no corners in its holistic approach to world building. Approaching her signature themes of love and healing through a narrative metaphor, the singer breathes a new life into the concept album genre with her fresh, retro-futuristic inspired cultural piece. Using the narrative journey of an ancient-princess, Asha, as a backdrop for her own emotional voyage, Raveena illustrates the shift in her psyche by experimenting with more jovial sounds than ever before.

Your recent singles Rush and Secret marked the first taste of your new project, Asha's Awakening, your first full-length release since your debut album Lucid. Why did you pick these tracks to serve as the introduction to the world of your second project?
They both introduced the new sounds I was going for, and the world of this character really well. The album is a pivotal shift for me, into exploring South Asian sounds–and the way they've intersected with Western music and all the R&B, pop, soul and rock that I grew up on. I think Rush and Secret do a good job of integrating a lot of those influences. The album is also a concept album based on a Punjabi Space Princess (Asha), and a lot of the lyrics of Rush and Secret have to do with that character.
Those two tracks really did set the scene for the sound palette. As you’ve just mentioned, Asha's Awakening is a concept album about a cosmic princess, from ancient Punjab, who navigates the worlds of love, healing and destruction. How did you come up with this idea?
I came up with the concept during quarantine, in March 2020. I was in a very deep state of boredom in quarantine (as all of us were) and I was watching a lot of sci-fi movies, animated shows and Bollywood movies. Since I couldn't go to the studio to make music, I had a lot of time to think about all of these other facets of creativity that I love–like visuals and performance. That's really what the character was born out of, this childlike boredom that we're not really afforded as adults. The pandemic gave me an opportunity to sit with that kind of boredom and create dreams and magical fantasy worlds out of it.
How did you find the process of welding this narrative together within the experimental R&B and Bollywood sonic sphere that you've created for yourself?
It was not an easy album to create. Because Indian music is so far removed from Western music, I really had to dive deeply to study all of these different artists and their collaborations. I was studying the 60s and 70s–with Alice Coltrane, Asha Puthli, The Beatles and the psychedelic rock movement. I was also looking at a lot of 80s Bollywood soundtracks by R.D. Burman and the whole disco era of Bollywood, and when they were inspired by rock music as well. I was also looking at the early 2000s with Timbaland and M.I.A. In all that research, I found that there was a lot more crossover than I ever imagined. That crossover is where I took a lot of inspiration. I also wanted to create something new. I like to describe my music as Magic Surrealist–it's meant to bring you into dreamlike spaces. The inspiration was taking a lot of influence from these areas and collaborations, but also the intention of bringing people into this fantasy space through the music.
How was the experience of constructing an album this time around compared to the first? Did taking a conceptual approach come easily to you?
It was really joyful this time around. My previous project Lucid was an album about trauma and it was very painful to make. I cried in a lot of those sessions. It was a really hard and taxing album to promote too, because I was divulging into all those really hard experiences. In Asha’s Awakening, I was really tapping into this inner child space of dancing and allowing myself to be this fantastical character and being very loose about what I wanted to include in the album, which was many different genres, moods and sounds, which was really just born out of fun, because I really love making all types of music. I love making pop upbeat music as much as I love making a sad ballad, like Time Flies. It all speaks to me and is as important to me as one of the others. So I felt very free, independent and happy when I made this album; it was like stepping into joy after going through all that healing from that really intense pain.
You've mentioned that the ending sound on Petal, the last track of your first album, is actually the opening sound on Rush, creating some kind of chronology for your projects. Could you tell us about how the worlds of your album's linked to each other at all? Do they touch upon similar themes?
My goal with everything that I create is that it's all connected and they touch upon and reflect on different periods of my life, so each one will look very different. The overarching theme is just wanting to get closer to spirit and flow. Whatever that looks like, whether it’s something more soft and introspective like on Lucid or something more in your face, central and fun, like Secret. I think all kinds of music can lead you closer to spirit and to a universal life force, which is my goal through music, to stay connected to that.
Aesthetically speaking, the visuals that accompany your music are testaments to the clarity of your vision. Having directed a large portion of your music videos, how did you find the act of translating the audio into something visual?
It was a really long process. I wanted to work on the visuals of this album as long as I worked on the music, which I wasn't afforded the time to do on Lucid. It was something that I really wanted to actively step up in this album. So I just got really detailed with the world building, I did a lot of work on researching and I had an amazing illustrator, Lili Tae, create concept art. A lot of time and effort went into making sure all of the different collaborators were on board with the same vision, in the same way that making sure all the producers and songwriters were on board with one cohesive idea. So it took a lot of time and carving out, also trial and error.
For the Secret music video, you talked about undertaking lessons for the aerial dance portion. How did you find that experience?
I was training in Bollywood dance for almost two years. I had this vision of being this Bollywood goddess in these music videos, and knew I was going to do whatever it took to convey that. I also knew that because I had never danced before, I'd take a really long time to be able to learn how to make it look natural in my body. So luckily, with all the time I was afforded in the pandemic, I just kind of went in and discovered this whole new art form. It was really beautiful and then I picked up silks about four or five months before the video.

Asha's Awakening features contributions from Vince Staples, Asha Puthli and Tweaks. How was it working with those artists, and how did these collaborations come about?
All of those collaborations came about in a very serendipitous way, like the universe was connecting us and making sure that it happened, especially with Asha Puthli. That one was really special because this NPR contributor Sidney Madden had interviewed Asha Puthli for an early interview of mine in 2019, and she got us connected. Then Asha became my fairy godmother and she was super down to be on the album. It was honestly completely unreal. It felt like a connection that was very much meant to happen, like we were connected on a soul level.
Was the experience of writing the track difficult, or did you find it cathartic?
With Asha’s Kiss it was surreal. That whole track felt very blessed with a different kind of energy than making the rest of the album. Everything flowed really easily, it was a very spiritual kind of track.
The final track on Asha's Awakening is a guided meditation. What inspired the decision to have this activity close out the album?
It mirrored the character of Asha's journey. She goes through thousands of years of being the space princess on this planet that teaches her spiritual wisdom and teaches her how to survive these very apocalyptic events on their planet. She comes back down to Earth and looks for love, her reincarnated lover from the past, and that ends up being a very hurtful experience. In the end, having lived for so long and having gained all the spiritual wisdom, she comes to a point of peace finally at her death. The track reflects that process and journey. I also wanted to create a useful tool for listeners, for those who may be new to meditation this could be an intro to it, and for those who were already into all that, and for it to be a supplement to their daily practice. I wanted to share a tool.
Many of the themes that you feature in your work, such as spirituality and healing, rely on a certain amount of introspection and personal reflections to fully grasp. How has your relationship with these ideas changed over the years? Are the spirituality and healing of Lucid different in Asha's Awakening?
They are honestly entirely different. I think that Lucid was a lot about confronting shadow and working through trauma. It was more rooted to earth, and Asha's Awakening is very much a loud celebration of life and stepping into joy after all of that. I think both of those things are necessary in that process.
I'm excited to see what you have planned as far as promoting your new album. What kind of things can we expect to see from you following the release of your project?
Definitely live moments. It's going to be really interesting taking such a new sound for me and translating it into the live space and I have a lot of ideas that I want to execute. Hopefully a few more visuals here and there. This whole album kick started a new facet of my artistry and my sound and everything that I do here on in will be growing upon all that.
I wanted to mention some of the producers who are really incredible and very integral to the making of the album. Aaron Liao and Everett Orr were the main two producers who helped me shape a lot of the sound and the album, and were really there throughout the whole three to four year process. I also made all of Lucid and Moonstone with them. Jeff Kleinman was another really amazing producer who produced Kismet, Love Overgrown and New Drugs with me. Rostam brought a beautiful knowledge of Persian and Middle Eastern music into Time Flies, and we were finding a lot of similarities in Bollywood. I worked with one of my favourite artists Yeek, on Magic. There were so many incredible collaborators. And of course, Happy Place the producers of the videos, and Panch who did the DP work. Furmaan who did the photography. Bijan Berahimi who did the graphic design. There were so many new collaborators and people I worked with on this project, but also people I’ve worked with for awhile who I wanted to give a shout out to above.
Spending that long on a project, three to four years working on an album, how does it feel once it's actually out into the world? Is it a feeling of excitement?
I definitely went through some depression when I first released Lucid and I was really trying to avoid that in this album. I think for every album or project that you put out after working for that long–it's hard, especially when the initial high wears off. That period of around two to three weeks later is probably the hardest part. I also feel very grateful and I'm trying to look at all the positivity I've received, and the abundance of response that I've seen for this album. Taking all of that into consideration, I think it's easier as an artist to always want or feel like there has to be something more. But even if one person listens to the album and they're really affected by it, I feel like the job has been done. I think that once the art lives in the world, it's not really yours to worry about, it's just its own living, breathing thing that you have to completely let go and surrender to, wherever it goes. Kind of like a baby, you really have no control of them after a certain point.

Luis Castro

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