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Standout Track: No. 1, “Shivranjani,” from Exit 1, the debut album from Alexandria violinist Nistha Raj. The tune fuses a lulling classical North Indian melody with Wytold’s electric cello and the racing beatboxing and spoons of hip-hop artist Christylez Bacon, who fills the tabla role. “Christylez is very quick at picking up rhythms,” Raj writes in an email, “so I explained the basics of how the tabla accompanies a song like this, and he was able to imitate the sounds on his spoons and [with] human beatboxing.”
Musical Motivation: After earning a B.A. in music from the University of Houston and studying Hindustani classical music in India, Raj moved to D.C. because her sister was living here and she had no desire to return to Texas, where she was raised. Still, it was a childhood memory that inspired this song. “‘Shivranjani’ is based on a melody I learned during childhood visits to my temple,” Raj writes, “and it stuck with me all these years later sort of in a haunting way.”
Asian Overground: Combining South Asian sounds with hip-hop and drum ’n’ bass gained a lot of traction in 1990s Britain through Asian Dub Foundation, the State of Bengal, and Talvin Singh, but Raj is concerned about creating her own tradition rather than continuing someone else’s. “Although my music is not electronica-based, I appreciated how Talvin mixed various sounds successfully,” she writes. “While it did not directly influence the music I created on my album, it inspired me to follow my own voice.”
Due to an editing error, the headline of this post originally misspelled Nistha Raj’s first name.