Known for her fusion of different genres and cultures to create soulful music, Mumbai-born and New York-based singer, Priya Darshini, has been nominated for the 63rd edition of the annual Grammy Awards.
For those who may not know, the Grammys are a prestigious award given by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States to recognise outstanding achievement in the music industry.
This multi-talented girl from Goregaon, a Mumbai suburb, is driven by passion with her hands in several pies. From creating cross-cultural music, supporting cancer patients to funding government schools in rural Maharashtra, here are five things to know about Priya:
- Carnatic Music Meets American Hip Hop
Priya’s latest album, Periphery, comprising nine songs have been selected under the Best New Age Album award. The album, manufactured by Chesky Records, is a melting pot of American pop and traditional Carnatic music with songs like ‘Jahaan’, ‘The Banyan Tree’ and ‘Sanware Sanware’.
“A live album, recorded entirely on one mic getting a nod from the Academy is quite surreal….I’ve dreamt of this day since I was little, but I never really thought dreams like this could come true for someone like me – a tamizh ponnu (tamil girl) from Goregaon! I thank the universe for proving me wrong,” Priya wrote in an Instagram post.
According to Chesky Records, Priya has banked on her Indian roots and explored music from all over the world to create the Grammy-nominated masterpiece.
“Priya displays an exciting combination of range, technique, unconventional compositions, a feminist perspective and a prodigious voice that truly sets her apart from other vocalists. She has the ability to both intrigue and captivate any audience. Priya has collaborated with a wide range of artists from Pearl Jam; Grammy award winners – Roy “Futureman” Wooten; Jeff Coffin, Philip Lassiter; to virtuoso ukulele player Jake Shimabukuro and many more,” the record writes.
- First Love
Born to a South Indian family, Priya’s grandmother, who was also named Priya Darshini, was an accomplished Bharatnatyam dancer and a classical vocalist.
Naturally, her first musical inspiration came from her grandmother who would often encourage her to make classical singing her profession. Like every South Indian family, Priya too was enrolled in classical singing when she turned four and there has been no looking back.
She has sung for more than a hundred television and radio commercials and recorded for several award-winning and chart-topping Indian movie soundtracks. Her collaborations boast of groups like Karsh Kale, Grand Tapestry and Women’s Raga Massive.
Though her first love remains to be music, she has not shied away from exploring other artforms including acting. She essayed the role of Shubhashini Das in The Letters, a 2014 movie based on Mother Teresa’s life.
- Aiding Cancer Patients
Priya’s tryst with cancer patients began early on when her mother would often bring strangers into their one-bedroom flat in Mumbai.
“She wanted to serve. She would bring home patients who were getting treatment and didn’t have anywhere to live. These were underprivileged and underserved people travelling to Mumbai from other parts of India,” Priya shared in a podcast.
Having imbibed her mother’s quality, in 2004 she formally launched an NGO, Jana Rakshita. It provides holistic medical care and offers rehabilitation services to underprivileged cancer-affected children and adolescents.
- Girl Child Education
Through Jana Rakshita, Priya has adopted government-run schools to provide necessary infrastructure and prevent girls from dropping out of schools.
“We have adopted a school, which is a dilapidated building with just two rooms, in Maharashtra. They don’t have potable water or electricity. The building might fall apart at any time, and yet these kids are so invested in their education,” she said in the same podcast.
She further goes on to elaborate on the lack of sanitation and hygiene, which is a major reason for keeping girls away from school. The NGO constructed toilets in the school and within no time the attendance of girls increased.
- Giving Sherpas Their Due
Priya is also an ultramarathoner and holds the record for being the first and the youngest Indian woman to run a 100-mile race in the Himalayas.
She has been on several expeditions that introduced her to the exploited lives of Sherpas (porters/guides). She saw how giant corporations paid them very little for their services in high altitudes of the Himalayas.
Priya launched a social enterprise called The WindChasers that organises ultra marathons. Through the revenue generated, the company supports Sherpas and their families, “Because of WindChasers, we’ve been able to support many Sherpa families and pay them way more than any of these other expeditions would,” she says.
All images are sourced from Priya Darshini/Instagram
Edited by Yoshita Rao