Avanti Nagral has stunning vocals, and she brings a beautiful sense of collaboration between Indian and Western sounds. Her songs, including “thank you (pls)” and “sneaking around” are doing wonders online. Here’s our chat with the singing talent:
All of your tracks have an Indian sound, yet your vocals give the tracks a fusion like quality. What inspires the unique sounds?
I've lived exactly half my life between Bombay and Boston, and feel like this idea of "fusion" or "duality" has just become second nature to me artistically and personally. Of course, my musical background reflects these dualities too. While my primary training is in Hindustani Classical music (under the tutelage of Dr. Prabha Atre), I also have a background in church music (I went to a Christian high school) and Broadway-style singing through my professional theatre experiences in India. To me, it is important to have a global sound in my original music, but to also respect my musical and cultural traditions, and to represent them in a way that one day is internationally mainstream.
One of my favourite tracks is 'thank u (pls)' and it seems as though aspects of your own personality are in each one of your songs. Is that true? How much as an artist do you open up through your music?
Thank u (pls) is definitely an incredibly personal song, inspired by the aftermath of a breakup in which my primary emotion, strangely, was gratitude. I was definitely upset, but all I could think of was all the things I had learned from it, and I remember quite literally the day after the event, sitting at the piano trying to do riyaaz for an upcoming show, and feeling this song coming out of me. The final record is actually very close to what was written on that day. That being said, while my music is definitely personal, I try keeping the lyrics broadly universal so that they can be relatable to people across experiences and backgrounds. The best feeling as an artist is when someone else uses that song as a soundtrack to their life experience, because that's when you know you've created something beyond you.
Tell us about Sneaking Around and the inspiration behind it.
Sneaking Around is a global pop track with Indian and Latin influences, with a danceable energy and feel. The reason for the name is because of the "sneaky" elements in the production, in the feel of the lyrics and in the overall vibe of the song. I knew I wanted to create something that was a little unexpected based on my previous work, but still empowering, which is why the visuals were so important to me. It was essential to represent different sides to a woman, and to find that balance between tradition and modernity, just like the audio did. The first part upon which we built the song was the whole "na na na na" part, which is still one of my favorite parts of the song.
Mudassar Khan is a huge name in choreography. What oomph factor sis he being to the visual treatment of the song?
Not only is Mudassar ji a huge name in choreography, but he's also incredible to work with. Of course, he brought a signature hook step to the song, but he also constructed the whole plot line with the arranged marriage setup at the beginning. We conspired together, but a lot of it was his creative direction. More than that, this song pushed me out of my comfort zone personally, and I think that was an important inflection point for me in my career, but also as a person.song.
You are pursuing music at Berklee and studying at Harvard. What made you choose the program?
So I'm actually studying Psychology and Global Health at Harvard, and Voice and Music Business at Berklee. The way the program works is that you get a Bachelor's degree at Harvard, and a Master's at Berklee, and during your undergraduate years, also get to take some classes at Berklee. For me, it's been the best of both worlds, and has allowed me to satiate both my creative and intellectual passions, and learn with some of the best minds in the world. Since I will be the first to graduate from this program, I am also the de facto guinea pig, which allows me to navigate it in a very special way, and essentially help create the precedents. It's not easy balancing the two institutions, let alone the music career in addition, but I think if you're motivated by passion and purpose, you can do anything you put your mind to.