Vandana’s journey began in India, then moved to London and finally she found solace in New York where she is currently based. She saw vast differences between the cultures she experienced while on the move, ‘I also felt a strong lack of self-expression in India,’ she tells me.
Her move to New York, which was still quite diferent from London, stirred several sensory notes. ‘All that created a polarity, a wabi-sabi in my personality, a yin and yang of nature vs nurture’ and all of that comes through her expression as an artist. Music was always a home spirit. Her family would spend evenings singing and playing the keyboard. ‘Having grown up in India, it certainly felt like the spirit of the Motherland too,’ she says.
Vandana’s music is dark and mysterious yet tender. In equal measure, it’s comforting and heart-rending. Her style foats between dark-wave electronica and alternative music with a touch of Indian and Arabic metaphors. ‘I always get the sensation of running my nails and teeth through a forest covered in moss when I create music, or the sensation of biting into a hard, cold candy with a molten, warm centre.’ Vandana also feels very
strongly about womanhood and strongly expresses it through her music. ‘Having grown up in a patriarchal society, the most intelligent and sustaining lessons I have learnt have been through the women in my life. Everything I do is an ode to womanhood; our magnifcence is in knowing and expressing our primitive and innate power and I salute that within myself and all women I know, every day.’
‘My upcoming EP, Contra, comprises re-imaginations of Indian and Pakistani songs from the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, a lot of them being pretty ahead of the curve in that they still sound magical and I wanted to pay homage to my roots. Going back to my roots and connecting musically delivered some sort of cosmic liberation from my hard held beliefs. It’s been about detaching myself from the nostalgia, what almost seems like a past life experience, and subverting the original context and delivery. My attempt has not been to remix or cover these songs but to re-imagine a more self serving and intimate contemplation—a meeting of two worlds. It’s an interesting opportunity for art as play, and translating Indian and Pakistani artists and composers for diferent audiences, uncovering new possibilities within the familiar in both parts of the world. My aim has been to re-discover these songs which I grew up listening to, as an avant-pop, experimental expression,' said Vandana.
When asked about her process, she told me that, 'the whole process has been an inquiry, sonically and socio contextually with the awareness of a much bigger and complex picture at hand which is hard to articulate without going of on a tangential tale of sexism in the Bollywood industry. I am a lucky Indian person to have had the opportunity to express my craft and beliefs and hope that in some way can contribute positively towards the shifting gender typecasts, build cultural bridges and create space for dialogue and change.’
Text Hansika Lohani Mehtani