Q: Tell us a bit about yourself
A: I consider myself an observer which has led me to appreciate many diverse experiences. I have always been interested in a little bit of everything such as the visual and performing arts, painting, foreign languages, team sports, writing, biology and world history.
I just graduated from a high school in the suburbs of Boston, MA and will be attending Barnard College of Columbia University in the fall, with hopes of continuing to observe, appreciate and contribute to the world around me.
Q: What draws you to music? What do you see in it as an art form?
A: When it came to giving a message out to the world, I had no problem using paints or choreography to express my internal resolutions. I used my painting ability to create logos and advertisements for various fundraisers at school; I used dancing to promote the beauty of diverse dance styles – most notably Bharatanatyam – as a way to connect with part of my heritage. There was however one form of art that was only ever timidly present – with its main stage being the voice memos app on my phone: writing lyrics and creating songs became a growing entity in my life.
Music was my way of expressing the emotions I have felt over the years and interpreting them into lyrical words, and melody. In a way it felt like I was tampering with the source of my other interests as someone who relied on music to emphasize dance moves and set the mood while working on a canvas. As I came to see, creating songs like “Started with the Rain” became an opportunity to both fundraise and connect to my community at the same time.
Q: How did you get interested in music? Have you been trained in this form? What do you listen to?
A: Music has been in our family. My (late) grandmother on my father’s side was a “Sangeet Vachaspati” trained musician in both Carnatic and Hindustani Classical music. My dad hummed Bollywood songs all the time at home – my initial interest stemmed from those early days. In middle school we were required to take chorus as one of our classes; then in 6th grade I auditioned for the honors singing group called the “chamber singers” and was one of the few 6th graders to be accepted into the program. During this time I was also interested in learning Carnatic music so I took lessons on the weekends in Carnatic singing (which was helpful as a Bharatanatyam dancer).
In high school, I started creating my own music outside of school after observing how impactful music could be on an entire population. I loved how music and the videos that came with them told a story and noticed how songs helped me get through the rough patches in my own life. I was also very much into writing poems before I started writing music so eventually it evolved into writing songs. I listen to many diverse styles of music – with anything that makes me dance or reflect on life.
Q: How was your interest affected by the COVID pandemic?
A: When the pandemic hit and schools closed in the United States, my number one goal was to do something about it. Using the fundraising experiences from the past, including breast cancer awareness and helping the homeless, I focused on developing digital fundraisers in order to connect our local communities with the appropriate access to food.
In the throes of it all I would then sit at my piano and filter through all the emotions the pandemic had stirred within me as a more personal project over the course of a month. I never planned on sharing it with the world but after seeing how people connected with it, I decided it was time to find a way to properly record it and go from there.
After a year had gone by from writing the song, the COVID crisis began in India. Pretty much everyone we knew in India had got COVID and was suffering losses. April and May were tough months in our household, as several members we knew in India succumbed to the disease in a matter of weeks. It was a whole new extremity of what we had originally felt twelve months before. There is still talk of a third wave with an even worse variant in India in the coming months. That is when I decided to take my goals that I associated with painting and dancing and channel them both into music.
Q: What images/stories of COVID in India stirred you?
A: Images of extreme loss and heartbreak affecting whole families, including ones we knew. My father lost 5 past classmates and at least a dozen close acquaintances in the span of 3 weeks. I couldn’t even imagine what others were going through (especially after hearing about the short supply of oxygen and seeing photos in the media of makeshift medical beds in cars, open pyres on the streets, and shallow burials near the rivers). Even as one can debate the sensationalism of the pictures, there was little doubt that there is so much pain all around from seeing everyone, including doctors, at the forefront of their own battles.
Q: What made you choose AIF?
A: I became aware of AIF through my parents and I knew AIF would put the funds toward their intended purpose so that the recipients that need it most will actually get the aid they require.
I released “Started with the Rain” as a fundraiser for AIF, to assist with COVID relief, and took the name “Vaniva” as my artist name. I chose this name as a reminder that the point of writing music was to express my voice (vani) in a whole new way and remind myself that music has always been a part of me with “Vani” being my middle name.
Opening lyrics (Started with the Rain)
“Four months too late, there was so much I forgot to say, now I think about it every day, even when there’s something stopping me.
Petals blown away by the wind, and told to stay by the ocean, needed to find a solution, to the floods that come by every day”
Q: How would you like people to support your song?
A: You can hear the song on Spotify and share. You can also follow and share my Instagram @its_vaniva where I will be doing most of my posting and updating about the song.
· Apple Music: https://music.apple.com/us/artist/vani/1568226568
The American India Foundation is committed to improving the lives of India’s underprivileged, with a special focus on women, children, and youth. AIF does this through high impact interventions in education, health, and livelihoods, because poverty is multidimensional. AIF’s unique value proposition is its broad engagement between communities, civil society, and expertise, thereby building a lasting bridge between the United States and India. Learn more about AIF at https://aif.org/
The overall impact of AIF’s COVID-19 Relief effort is available at the AIF COVID-19 Relief Dashboard: