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Raveena's galactic journey back down to Earth

Furmaan Ahmed
Courtesy of the artist

"She lives in Punjab in ancient times," explains the artist Raveena Aurora of the titular protagonist at the heart of her new album, Asha's Awakening. As part of that epic journey, Asha "gets transported to a distant planet, called Sanataan. There, the aliens teach her highly advanced spiritual teachings and magic. She lives there for a thousand years and becomes a princess — but misses human love and sensuality."

So Asha returns home, to Earth, in search of a connection she could only find right back where she started. Raveena spoke to Morning Edition's Leila Fadel about the record, which debuts today.

Leila Fadel, Morning Edition: Let's talk about the song "Rush" – it seems like you took the orientalization, the fetishization, the othering that women of color often face and then turned that on its head with the lyrics.

Raveena Aurora: I love all things Indian culture – I love Bollywood, I love the brightness of it, the romance, the maximalism of it. I love being an Indian woman and I love sharing that part of my culture. But I also think there's a certain fetishization and exoticification that comes with being who I am, a very trope-y view of that culture ... very easily reduced to these kind of stereotypes of what it looks like, what it feels like. It's almost like she's self-aware that she's this character for people, but she has a power because she knows what her culture is and she loves herself.

'You want me to be this person, but I'm way more expansive than that.'

What does Asha's Awakening represent to you?

"I kind of just wanted to really tap into my confidence, and tap into my bravery as an artist, to take risks. That was kind of the awakening for me – I think this character was a beautiful vehicle for that because she is so bold, and so fearless. She goes through so many transformations, I found a lot of myself in her, and found a lot of courage in her."

You talk about finding yourself – so let's talk about you. Your parents are from the north of India, but you were raised in New York and Connecticut. Talk about your upbringing and how it influenced your writing and your music.

I grew up in a very traditional Sikh household. I also grew up in a family of genocide survivors – the 1984 Sikh genocide. And also people who are deeply spiritual, like reiki healers, my grandparents would meditate for hours, my mom was pretty lost in prayer a lot of the day as well. I grew up around, you know, a very traumatized family history but then a lineage that was also very powerful and very connected to their source.

So is that why healing is such a central theme in your work?

Absolutely. I think that because I've experienced a lineage that was so recently traumatized, and went through things that I could never imagine going through at that age, I have a lot of work in my ancestry to do, to heal and to make my body a safer and more inviting place for the next generation.

You meditate daily, and the album ends in a guided meditation. Can you talk to me about that choice?

I just felt super-natural, because meditation is such a central force in my life. I love to read guided meditations. I wanted to just offer people a very practical tool for their life, and be able to actually use it if they needed it – to go to sleep, or just to calm down.

I think that a lot of times, people don't even know how to sit still and meditate. But we all know how to listen to music. So putting it on an album feels like a way to invite people who don't even know how to do it yet.

To hear the broadcast version of this interview, use the audio player at the top of this page.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.