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Verve People
January 12, 2017

How Vandana Jain Is Hitting All The Right Notes

Text by Simone Louis. Photograph by Sioux Nesi

Inspired and unorthodox, the Brooklyn-based performer unapologetically belts out one composition after the other

Brought up in a musical family, she spent her evenings with her father, singing along to Bollywood songs. Brooklyn-based graphic designer-turned-performer Vandana Jain explored her passion for music further with a gospel and Latin language choir at her all-girls school in Bengaluru, but didn’t take it seriously until she started experimenting with it in New York. Only when she started performing live did it become a real career choice to her. A testament to Jain’s attention to detail, her debut EP Vandamner came with her own complex album art and bespoke record sleeve, sealed with red wax and twine, while her work — which she describes as “moody electronica” and a “cerebral pop hybrid” — reflects her journey from India to London and Brooklyn.

Formative quest
“Art and filmmaking were my foremost obsessions. When you’re out of school and working a job, you think it’s the career you’re supposed to have, but I had to question that. There’s no smartness to American advertising, I felt stifled even though I was really enjoying my freelance design work. I missed singing and playing far too much to ignore the impulse, but there’s societal pressure to strive on even when you don’t completely love what you do. That’s painful — to diminish your true calling. I’m blessed that I had the opportunity to develop my skills. The eclectic tapestry of both musical and aesthetic influences has informed my work. But the creative journey is not all glamour and fun, as we know. My journey, besides being a creative one, has also been a spiritual one.”

Stirring inheritance
“I use nostalgia from back home and inject it into my work. The smells, colours, the stunning auditory bliss I grew up around, but also the strange and dark truths about India inspire me like a constant dance of the yin and yang. My heritage has also taught me to keep a mystique about my image, commanding the audience’s attention without using my body as reference. Being provocative can be as simple as one’s approach to their work and doesn’t require old fashioned stimulation.”

Forward focus
“I am at a major creative turning point, literally taking everything I know and turning it inside out. I’m having a fantastic time parting with self-doubt and trusting my gut. There are two projects in the making — one is a solo effort, a part of an immersive performance piece, and the other is a collaborative record of experimental desert music by way of India. An American tour and festival line ups are in the works for next year.”

Invigorating legacy
“Home is warm and fuzzy, like a cashmere sweater. It’s also shrouded in mystery for me — ancient stories and fables, thoughts and rituals kept alive over centuries keep my head grounded and my work honest. I still consider her my homeland; I’m proud to call myself Indian.”

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