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Exclusive Premiere: Brooklyn Singer-Songwriter Ashni’s Garba-Informed Song ‘Honey’

The Indian-origin pianist and vocalist sings about lineage on the first release off her upcoming EP, slated to release in early 2022

Anurag Tagat Oct 22, 2021

Brooklyn-based Indian-origin singer-songwriter. Photo: Katelyn Kopenhaver

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Indian-origin Brooklyn artist Ashni Davé (who goes by her first name as an artist) says a big garba circle has always been one of her favorite places. “It’s always been a place I feel rooted,” the singer-songwriter and pianist says.

That formative influence came to the front while creating her latest single “Honey,” an intriguing blend of sharp string arrangements, jazz-informed piano pop vocal melodies. Swelling from sparse sonics to trippy rhythms, “Honey” is anchored in Ashni’s emphatic and confrontational vocals. The song closes with a surprising injection of beats straight out of garba night, featuring dhol by New York-based Sonny Singh (from fusion band Red Baraat) and production by drummer Daniel Bloch and Almog Sharvit. Ashni says, “Ultimately, I wanted to capture the rush I feel in a loud room, running in to join one of the garba circles or trying to run past them – without getting trampled – to start your own.”

Thematically, Ashni says the song explores “the patterns passed down through generations of women: our relationships to our bodies, to shame, to power, to autonomy, and to ourselves.” The song marks her first release since a 2018 live performance record, the single “Weave” in 2017 and her 2015 EP Mask. Trained as a Kathak dancer as well as in western classical piano, Ashni also studied jazz for a short time to learn more. As she readies her next EP for 2022, Ashni name-checks everyone from singer-producer Thom Yorke from Radiohead to artists like Moses Sumney and Rosalia as inspirational and comforting. “Their music refuses categorization, integrating sound and form in unexpected ways,” she says.

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The upcoming three-track EP will also include a studio version of “Light Bends,” one of Ashni’s most streamed songs on platforms. She says, “We reimagined much of the arrangement and added new elements. I hope it provides a space for the listener to reflect and heal. And I hope the people for whom the live version resonated will also find connection and solace in this one. Finishing this song while honoring my younger self, and also embracing experimentation and innovation, felt like an act of love.”

A music video for “Honey” is also set to release in early 2022, a collaboration with choreographer Ambika Raina. It will blend garba moves as well as draw from “a modern lens on Indian classical movement.” Ashni adds that the release of “Honey” has also led her to tug on the thread of her South Asian musical influences. “I don’t think I’m quite done finding ways to bring this folk music with me. I want to keep exploring,” she says.

Listen to “Honey” below.

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