Priya gets a Grammy nomination

FIRST-time Grammy Best New Age nominee Priya Darshini did her album, Periphery, “live” in an unused church in Brooklyn, New York.

“Yes, live albums are not common. These days most music is recorded and produced in studios, which allows one to overdub, edit, mix and change any sound to achieve a perfect track. A live album is an entirely different beast,” says the 37-year-old Mumbai-born artiste in an email before March 15, 2021.

Album cover Periphery

“Being a skilled musician with a lot of experience playing live, becomes very essential as you don’t have the ability to edit or modify anything in post-production.

“The most challenging part about recording this album live was the fact that this music wasn’t lived in. We wrote the music in the 12 days leading up to the recording, and recorded the entire album in 12 hours.

“We weren’t recording with headphones or to a click. So we really had to trust, listen intently and respond to each other, stay in the moment, and make confident musical choices. Some parts of the album were also improvised.”

Priya, who is trained in Hindustani classical music, collaborated with her husband and hammered dulcimer player Max ZT, percussionist Chuck Palmer, cellist Dave Eggar and drummer Will Calhoun, for this album.

The venue, she adds, was chosen by the record label Chesky Records. “Their recording style aims at bringing the three dimension space into the recording. The architecture of this church was just perfect! You can hear the space in the recording, especially if you listen on headphones.”

Priya is no newbie to music and has collaborated with Pearl Jam and virtuoso ukulele player Jake Shimabukuro, amng others. Her album is a musical mix with Carnatic vocals and American pop. Songs include Sanware Sanware , a Lata Mangeshkar number composed by Ravi Shankar in 1999, Home, Jahaan, and The Banyan Tree.

The choices in Periphery, she says, came about very organically. “Once I learnt about the nature of Chesky’s recording process, and that this would be live — I knew we had to keep the instrumental arrangements minimal, and focus on the compositional aspect.

“Considering I had the 12 days leading up to the recording to write a whole album’s worth music —  this was a daunting task.  I trusted myself and stayed authentic to my own voice and story. I was going through an emotional difficult time and this album was my healing process.

“I, of course, love all the songs on the record (but)  I have a special relationship with the songs Home, and The Banyan Tree (which was an emotionally challenging song to write for me in that moment).”

According to her website,, Periphery  explores the various connotations of what ‘home’ means to her as she introspects on her cultural identity as a South Indian growing up in Mumbai and transplanted to New York City.

“I was born in Chennai and grew up in Mumbai. As a child, my interests and my personality was always a little different from all my friends.

“As it goes, I’d be made fun of for looking, and acting like a boy, for the clothes I wore, or for being weird, for being South Indian. It was of course not meant to harm, but that rhetoric of othering people that were different from us was evident to me from the start.

“As I got older and started travelling, and living in different parts of the world — all of these cultures and lifestyles became a part of me. When I moved to America, I was asked almost every other day ‘where are you from?’

“The anti-immigrant rhetoric in the past few years aggravated that need to understand my identity, even more. I wasn’t American enough for America, and I wasn’t Indian enough for India.

“This constant societal ‘othering’ of people that are different from us — be it based on religion, caste, colour, gender, sexual orientation…  is what formed the basis of this album. I wanted to give people who like me, felt on the ‘periphery’ something to connect to.”

She is filled with gratitude that her album has been nominated, by peers and the music industry. “I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams that my debut album, a live album no less, would be recognised by my peers and such a prestigious organisation in this way.

“Personally, I hadn’t really looked into this style of music (New Age) until this nomination announcement. That said — I believe that New Age has an element of ambient sounds, explorative music, and healing; it’s more of a sensibility.

“Considering the very challenging year we’ve had during this pandemic around the world, and that this album came from my own process of healing, I’m grateful for this album to be categorised as such. I hope it brings healing to anyone who listens to it.”

You can follow Priya on her performances on Facebook, and other social media platforms. The 63rd Annual Grammy Awards was held March 15 in Los Angeles, and online like YouTube.

**This article also appeared in the New Straits Times, March 12, 2021.



Filed under Arts, Music
Subhadra Devan

A journalist who has been writing about culture, arts and heritage since the 1980s. She is herself gobsmacked to have started the Sunday arts pages for English newspapers in Malaysia, in the new millennium. The passion for these genres rages on.

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