Sheherazaad is an experimental audio-visual artist who blends her cultural influences from the San Francisco Bay Area, India, and New York to create immersive and engaging experiences for her audience. Her latest album, Qasr, produced by Grammy winner Arooj Aftab, explores themes of institutional narcissism, insanity, language violence, and diaspora.
HER MUSICAL JOURNEY
Sheherazaad was born in wine country, a quiet and picturesque place that shaped her early sensibilities. Like most musicians, she was introduced to music by her parents. Her mother is a gifted singer who taught her how to hum along as a little kid. She also enjoyed the music of RD Burman, Lata Mangeshkar, and the Carpenters, among others.
Even after musical beginnings, Sheherazaad decided to study film in college, where she discovered her passion for visualizing music for the screen. She had trained as a vocalist, dancer, and actor since childhood, and her work became a result of combining these various forms to explore the South Asian American identity. In a quest for her origins and identity, Sheherazaad found her voice, “straddling both places and psyches of South India and the San Francisco Bay Area.”
Next, she moved to New York to pursue her career as an experimental audio-visual artist. She chose the name Sheherazaad, which means “The Free City” in Arabic. It is named after a revolutionary figure from a folk tale who fought to stop the mindless genocide of women. The name reflects her identity and aesthetic, which is “a bridging of zamanas (times), a collision of worlds and imaginations”. Think of her free city as “a fantastical landscape where radical ideas form and unleash, where eccentric people commune and scream without consequence.”
LATEST ALBUM: QASR
Her latest album is a collaboration with Grammy-winner Arooj Aftab. “I would drop Arooj love notes for her music sporadically over the years. One day she’d told me that she’d heard some of the music I had been releasing, and suggested she could produce the next project, to my utter surprise. The process of working with her was essentially feeling so seen and held, knowing that all the iterations would pass through her shared cultural understanding and raw brilliance.” Qasr is a sonic exploration of the soundscapes of diaspora, migration, and other experiences that Sheherazaad is obsessed with. She uses sound and visuals to create “a haunting and romantic aura” that draws the audience into her free city. The latest from this album is a track called “Mashoor”. “Mashoor” speaks to the glamour as well as the disease surrounding the experience of fame. The song is also a larger commentary on the values we are fostering as a world society, where particular people, institutions, or countries are celebrated, despite being inherently narcissistic and perverted.
Her future plans and goals as an artist are to continue creating music that reflects her free spirit and challenges the boundaries of sound and vision. Sheherazaad also admits that she faces some challenges in the industry, such as fitting into mostly English-leaning live venue spaces and audiences, and attracting her ideal listeners who are inherently dispersed, diasporic, and disjointed. Sheherazaad also admits that she faces some challenges in the industry, such as fitting into live venue spaces that lean more towards English language. And attracting her ideal listeners who are inherently dispersed, diasporic, and disjointed. But she says that these are also “the reasons why I do what I do”.
Words Hansika Lohani