Listen: American Indian Fusion Artist Zoya Mohan’s New Track “Lunar Eclipsed”
Zoya, a music business graduate from Berklee College of Music in Boston, is set to release a three-track visual EP later this year
In another life, 21-year-old Boston-based singer Zoya Mohan could have played a character in a crossover Indian film. Mohan became a dancer when she was nine, performing at parties that her parents threw to the American-Indian community at her home town of Orange County in California. She then began training to be a singer and even visited India twice in the span of two years ”“ between 2007 and 2009 ”“ to record two pop rock albums in Noida when she was 13.
Mohan’s musical sensibilities took a turn when her father bought her a guitar when she was 13. Says Mohan over a Skype chat from Berklee, where she has just finished her undergraduate course in Music Business, “It was definitely a culmination of my parents supporting me.” After the pop rock albums, Mohan recorded what she calls her first “real” EP, Letters to Toska, which released in November last year. On a campus filled with musicians at Berklee’s, it was natural that Mohan’s EP featured a host of college friends filling in on mandolin, piano, saxophone and even the flute and bansuri. Says Mohan, who played guitars and sang on her EP, “I recorded Letters to Toska completely in my room. My bass player and flute player would come to my room and we’d spend time recording. It was such a good experience, because I had finally found my sound. It was a lot of work, but it was totally worth it.” Mohan underplays the elements of Indian music in her work. Drawing mainly from American folk, singer-songwriter artists such as Fiona Apple and Brit-Indian vocalist Susheela Raman, Mohan says her music, at least Letters to Toska, is folk fusion in one way, but more so world music.
For her upcoming album, The Girl Who Used to Live in my Room, Mohan added several instruments while recording in Boston ”“ from tabla to vibraphone. Says Mohan, “There are four to five songs that are new and two or three songs from the albums I had recorded when I was back in India. I’ve kinda rewritten them and it’s been reworked. We’re adding these different sounds. Some [artists] have experience playing African music and some play Indian instruments, but it’s still my sound.”
One among the list of collaborators is drummer and percussionist Kiran Gandhi, who is currently studying at Harvard Business School and has snagged a spot as a touring drummer with Brit-Sri Lankan rapper M.I.A’s group. Mohan met Gandhi at the latter’s drum clinic at Berklee earlier this year. “I showed her my song and we started collaborating on it. We went to the studio here in Boston and we recorded the actual version of drums for that song.” The result is “Lunar Eclipsed,” a track that starts out quiet but builds to a folky rock song with Mohan’s vocals shining through. The singer has pushed back plans to release her album, which was slated to release in November, to work on a three-track visual EP combining songs with videos. Says Mohan, “I would take three different songs and I’ve got three different dancers performing different dance forms for each track.” Working to finish and release the EP by November, Mohan says she definitely wants to return to India to perform, and keeps up with Indian artists, from fellow Berklee graduate, singer Vasuda Sharma to electro pop group Shaa’ir + Func. Says Mohan, “I want to come to India so bad. I want to come there and play. I was talking to my bass player and my flute player about it. My bandmates would probably be more excited. My bassist plays a lot of Indian, Carnatic stuff and he’s always dreamt of coming to India.”
Listen to “Lunar Eclipsed” ft Kiran Gandhi here