Photos: Coughs for GAY TIMES

Raveena is here to share more of her spiritual journey.

Earlier this year, the American singer-songwriter released her sophomore studio album, Asha’s Awakening, to universal critical acclaim for exploring her South Asian heritage and the eclectic mix of dance-friendly R&B anthems and smooth ballads.

In her cover story for GAY TIMES, which coincides with the third annual South Asian Heritage Month in the UK, Raveena says she wants her music to resonate with “everyone” and not just “Brown people”.

I hope that non-South Asian people who love my music will just see how I’m inspired by both of the cultures I was raised in,” Raveena explains.

“The West and the East, it’s very much the marrying of the two. I love so many parts of Western culture, specifically genres like R&B, soul and pop. I would want them to know it’s not some mystical, very foreign thing. Ultimately, it’s just fun pop music.” 

A concept album, Asha’s Awakening is told from the perspective of a Punjabi Space Princess called Asha. The star says the character served as “inspiration” and gave her “strength” throughout the creative process.

“Earlier I had this idea that, to be peaceful and in tune with Spirit, that meant I had to feel peaceful all the time. I realised through this story that to be human is to be messy and imperfect; just having acceptance of that is where you find the peace. I don’t think we can escape our humanity and imperfections in this lifetime,” she says.

“I was looking to Buddhism and religions where it’s about going out of society and finding that peace, and being so present and in tune with the universe. Maybe I was idealising that. I’m human. I’m literally a pop singer. I have to find peace in the chaos.” 

With South Asian representation scarce in mainstream media, Raveena says she previously felt “expectations and pressures” to be a voice for her community. However, she’s now taken “all that language” out of her “daily narrative”.

“To me, it doesn’t exist. I just want to focus on the community and there’s so much love around this music. When I play live and I see how diverse the audience is, it’s queer kids, Black and Brown kids, it’s white men singing along to Asha’s Kiss. It literally is anyone and it’s so beautiful to see,” she explains.

“Obviously, there’s always going to be haters or people who project all their hopes and dreams on you. It’s really what you choose to focus your energy on. There’s always light and dark when you’re reaching so many people. If you choose to focus on that light, you are only going to attract more of that light.”

Although depictions of South Asian people are rare to find in all corners of the entertainment industry, Raveena says she feels the “lack” most in mainstream music, calling it a “desert” for Brown voices.

The singer tells GAY TIMES: “I feel like I haven’t even gotten there. 

“I think there is an abundance of us making art and finding the way to synthesize two cultures we were raised in as diaspora kids. Also, all the beautiful art coming out of South Asians born in India, Bangladesh, Sri-Lanka, Pakistan and all those places. I think there’s all these narratives that need to be shared.

“I feel like there needs to be more representation of all types of different South Asians; more representations of all the different skin tones and cultural background and experiences, social, economic backgrounds and religions. There’s no one specific story or look or sound to South Asian artists.

“There’s so much work to be done. There’s so much representation that needs to be had.”

Asha’s Awakening spawned two well-received singles: Rush and the Vince Staples-assisted Secret. In support of the album, which has been included on various ‘Best of 2022’ lists, Raveena embarked on a tour of the same name across the United States. It concluded 28 May in Los Angeles.

The brand new issue of GAY TIMES also features interviews with Queen of the Universe star Rani Ko-HE-Nur, Gaysians founder Reeta Loi, Birmingham-based artist Girth of Venus and Laks Mann, the LGBTQ+ Lead for South Asian Heritage Month.

You can read our full interview with Raveena from 14 July via the GAY TIMES app, Apple News+Readly, and Flipster.