Artist, among others, is part of docu-film ‘Ascending – South Asian Artists at Coachella 2023’
A documentary titled Ascending – South Asian Artists at Coachella 2023 has been released on YouTube, revolving around artists like Ali Sethi, Diljit Dosanjh, Charli XCX, Jai Paul, Jai Wolf and Joy Crookes, as they or their managers walk fans through their individual and personal journey’s before landing at this point their lives.
“It’s surreal, it’s super surreal. I don’t think anyone ever thinks they’re going to be here and then one day, they’re here,” says Jai Wolf, kickstarting the 25-minute-long docu-film. The video goes on to shed light on Coachella 2023 line-up being a record-breaking manifesto of brown representation with faces like Rupi Kaur, among others, highlighting how a growing diaspora is attending the festival like never before.
“Music was in the air in Lahore, where I grew up. It was a part of the people. You would hear in shrines, on the streets, in homes – it was kind of, a spirit of us,” sharea Ali Sethi about his introduction to music in the docu-film. “As a child I kind of intuited that music was the way we came together as a people. So, I think I always wanted to study music, the music of my culture, the country I grew up. It’s been marginalized over time, it’s been deemed somehow less important than other forms of knowledge,” he laments.
Sethi’s manager Aroop Sanakkayala adds, “What really drew me to him was his vocal. He had this video for Ishq and it was just incredible. I don’t understand the language but his vocal I feel transcends all these different areas.”
Sethi further revealed that part of what drew him to raags, which is what he was drawn to as a child, were the feelings they evoked. “The feeling that whenever someone performs a raag or a traditional melody, everything feels okay all of a sudden. Everyone not only calms down but they start to dance and express themselves, move their head in a certain way, uncles start to move their hips in a certain way, aunties throw their dupattas off, all the good stuff starts to happen,” he elaborated.
The Pasoori hitmaker also shared that he was bullied a lot as a child because of his eccentric nature. But whenever he started performing, he felt like he had the license to thrill. Introducing his childhood friend Leo Kalyan, who was also a guest artist, Sethi continued, “We connected through music and theatre and here we are today at Coachella doing our queer brown thing.”
While on stage at Coachella, the artist is heard saying that Pasoori was a song about forbidden love… between nations.
British singer-songwriter Joy Crookes, who was born to a Bangladeshi mother from Dhaka and an Irish father from Dublin, shared that while growing up, she always listened to a lot of eclectic music. “My dad introduced me to qawwali music while my mom introduced me to Nelly Furtado. “I always listened to Reggae and Rock bands from the UK.” About her inspirations, Crookes mom recalled, “She used to listen to qawwali, to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. She’d always turn around and say that she wants to be a musician. It was the rhythm. We have a rhythm.”
“I never knew that I could do this professionally,” shared Crooke. “I never knew anyone around me who was that creative or had that kind of money so it didn’t seem viable but I always loved performing. But I can play at the biggest show in America.”
Jai Wolf informed, “I’m from Bangladesh and the Bengali people are very arts oriented. Whenever we have community events, get-togethers, there’s always a lot of music, there’s harmonium and singing. That’s the backbone of Bengali culture. Coming to America, my parents were always afraid that I would lose touch with that. So, for the first 18 years of my life I was a classically trained violinist. And while that was happening, my mom would transcribe Bengali songs with me into Western notations. I would play Bengali folk songs on violin.”
Wolf shared that like most South Asian kids, he grew up believing that pursuing music as a full-time profession would not be very lucrative because the parents always say, “Become a doctor, have a stable job.” Thankfully, though, Wolf told himself that ‘if I never tried, I would regret it for the rest of my life.”