Trina Basu is a violinist, improviser, and educator based in Brooklyn, New York. Trina is trained in Western Classical music, later studying jazz and Carnatic music. Her path as a violinist is influenced by her South Asian and North American roots and her experience working with musicians across genres and disciplines. Trina co-leads raga chamber folk ensemble Karavika as well as Nakshatra, a violin duo with Arun Ramamurthy. She is co-founder of the collective Brooklyn Raga Massive and founder/curator of Out of the Woods, a NYC festival focusing on women led projects working in South Asian music. Trina has appeared in venues including Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center, and Raga Sudha Hall, performing with artists such as Urban Bush Women, Mos Def, and Imani Uzuri. She is a trained Suzuki teacher (School for Strings in NYC), holds a BM in Music Therapy from Florida State University, and is a 2007 recipient of the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute Artist Fellowship.
Interviewed by Tamar Sella, 10/07/2020.
Originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota and now splitting time between Minneapolis and New York, singer, rapper, and writer Dessa has made a career of bucking genres and defying expectations—her resume as a musician includes performances at Lollapalooza and Glastonbury, co-compositions for 100-voice choir, performances with the Minnesota Orchestra, and Top 200 entries on the Billboard charts. She contributed to the #1 album The Hamilton Mixtape; her track, “Congratulations,” has notched over 16 million streams. As a writer, she’s been published by The New York Times and National Geographic Traveler, broadcast by Minnesota Public Radio, and published a memoir-in-essays (My Own Devices, 2018) in addition to two literary collections. As a speaker, Dessa has delivered keynote speeches and presentations on art, science, and entrepreneurship; guest lectures at universities and colleges across the US; and a TED talk about her science experiment on how to fall out of love. She’s been covered by Pitchfork, Forbes, and The Wall Street Journal among others. Interviewed by Holly Hobbs, 10/05/2020.
Emi Grate is a drag artist, event producer, and illustrator based in Brooklyn, New York. Emi Grate was born and raised in Mandalay, Burma, and came to the United State in 2011 for college. She is an LGBT asylee in the U.S. Emi Grate is a classically trained tenor vocalist. She holds a liberal arts degree in theatre and is trained as a stage manager. Emi Grate is the producer of A+ the Pan-Asian Drag Revue, and is Mr(s) BK 2018 and Miss Brooklyn Pride 2020. Her drag involves community organizing and is centered around themes of identity politics, looking to her own upbringing and cultural background to validate and celebrate queerness.
Interviewed by Tamar Sella, 09/22/2020.
Marika Hughes is a cellist based in Brooklyn, New York. Although trained in Western classical music, Marika has worked with a wide range of artists and musical genres including Whitney Houston, Lou Reed, Anthony Braxton, Adele, Henry Threadgill, D’Angelo, and Idina Menzel. She was a founding member of the Bay Area-based bands 2 Foot Yard and Red Pocket. She is a teacher and director for Young Arts, a teacher at the Heifetz Institute, and a teaching artist at Carnegie Hall’s Lullaby Project. Marika has released a number of albums, including The Simplest Thing (2011), Afterlife Music Radio (2011) and New York Nostalgia (2016). She has led her own bands Bottom Heavy and the New String Quartet and played as a cellist in the Tony award-winning show Hadestown on Broadway. Beyond playing music, Marika has been a guest host for All Ears on WQXR and is a featured storyteller on The Moth.
Interviewed by Tamar Sella, 10/07/2020.
Soni Moreno (Maya/Apache/Yaqui) is a vocalist, actress, composer, and poet, based in New York City. She began her career as a cast member in the original San Francisco production of Hair, and has appeared on Broadway plays including Hair and The Leaf People. Off Broadway, she has performed in plays including Aladdin, America Smith, and Blood Speaks. Soni is the co-founder of First Nations a cappella women’s trio Ulali, touring extensively throughout North America and beyond from 1987 to 2010. She is a member of MATOU, a group of Native American and Maori musicians and performers, performing original compositions that celebrate culture and traditions. Soni has toured with musicians including Buffy Sainte-Marie and the Indigo Girls and performed with Martha Redbone’s concert performances of her play Bone Hill. She has contributed to soundtracks in multiple films and television shows and performed at the Sundance Film Festival Native Program: Celebration of Music in Film.
Interviewed by Tamar Sella, 10/13/2020.
Danielle Ponder is a singer and bandleader based in Rochester, New York. Her group was named one of the Top Ten Bands to watch by CityPaper and was a winner of the 2015 and 2016 Roc Awards for Best Band. Danielle has performed opening shows for musicians including George Clinton, Ledisi, and the Roots, and has toured nationally and internationally. Her recorded releases include the EP Blow Out The Sun (2016) and the single “Holding Me Down” (2019). Beyond music, Danielle is a former Public Defender and TEDx speaker, and has organized around issues such as education funding, women’s rights, and criminal justice reform. She has been highlighted by the American Bar Association and has been awarded the Public Interest Law scholarship at Northeastern University, the Teen Empowerment’s PeaceMaker in Action Award, and the Jessica Bain Community Excellence Award. In 2017, she created the multimedia show For the Love of Justice, where she examines the U.S. criminal justice system.
Interviewed by Tamar Sella, 10/09/2020.
Tarik Shah is a musician, bassist, music teacher, professor level martial artist, practicing Muslim, and student of knowledge. Born and raised in New York City, Shah began playing the upright bass at age twelve and was a student of Slam Stewart. He has performed and recorded with jazz legends such as Ahmad Jamal, Dakota Staton, Vanessa Rubin, Ellis Marsalis, Barry Harris, Pharoah Sanders and the late great songstress Betty Carter. Additionally, Shah performed with big bands such as the Duke Ellington Orchestra, and in small groups led by Red Rodney, Sir Roland Hanna, Abbey Lincoln, Harold Vick, Dr. Lonnie Smith and others. He has toured extensively nationally and internationally, including performing at the inaugural ball of President Bill Clinton in 1992. In 2018, he began rebuilding a career as a musician after wrongful conviction by the FBI in 2006. His group the Tarik Shah Quintet has performed in venues including New York City staples Smalls and Mezzrow.
Interviewed by Tamar Sella, 09/29/2020.
Sugar Vendil is a composer, pianist, and interdisciplinary artist based in Lenapehoking/New York City, on stolen land of the Lenape people. She is a proud second generation Filipinx American. Vendil has been awarded multiple commissions to write works, including the ACF | Create commission to write a work for Boston-based duo Box Not Found (May 2020), and the 2019 Chamber Music America commission to write a new work for her ensemble, The Nouveau Classical Project, which she founded in 2008. She has held numerous artist residencies in institutions including the High Concept Labs in Chicago, Mabou Mines, the Target Margin Theater, and the Marble House Project. She holds a Master of Music degree in piano performance. Vendil has collaborated with many artists including choreographer Emily Johnson and composer-saxophonist Darius Jones. She has performed at a variety of venues, including BAM Fisher, MoMA PS1, National Sawdust, and The Stone.
Interviewed by Tamar Sella, 09/24/2020.
Brooklyn based Fay Victor is an improvising vocalist, composer, lyricist, and educator working with musics that are improvisational and conversational in nature. Victor has released critically acclaimed albums as a leader, including Barn Songs (Northern Spy Records, 2019) and SoundNoiseFunk-Wet Robots (ESP-Disk, 2018). She has worked with musicians including William Parker, Roswell Rudd, Nicole Mitchell, Archie Shepp, Marc Ribot, and Tyshawn Sorey. Touring nationally and internationally, she has performed in venues including Whitney Museum and The Museum of Modern Art (NYC), The Kolner Philharmonie (Germany), De Young Museum (SF), The Winter Jazz Festival (NY) and the Bimhuis (Netherlands). She was the 2017 Herb Albert/Yaddo Fellow in Music Composition and a 2018 recipient of a month-long Headlands Center for the Arts residency. As an educator, Victor teaches her own singing classes and workshops and serves on the faculty of the New School of Jazz and Contemporary Music.
Interviewed by Tamar Sella, 09/14/2020.
Thanushka (Thanu) Yakupitiyage is a Sri Lankan born, Thailand raised activist, cultural organizer, and DJ under the artist moniker “Ushka.” She deejays from the perspective of a dancer, blending a wide range of club music from soca to dancehall, hip hop to South Asian rhythms, Baltimore/Jersey club to baile funk, vogue cuts to kuduro, azonto to Afrobeat and more. Ushka is also a political and cultural organizer. She has performed at venues such as the Brooklyn Museum, MoMA PS1, American Museum of Natural History, Rubin Museum, and has put out mixes and done live shows with Discwoman, The Fader, and Boiler Room. She was the NYU Asian/Pacific/American Institute 2018-19 artist-in-residence and was selected to be one of fifty-two artists to produce new work for The Shed Open Call in 2019.
Interviewed by Tamar Sella, 09/25/2020.