The Home Stretch: Zoya Mohan
Indian-American singersongwriter Zoya Mohan is returning home for an ongoing social project to provide electricity to rural schools and to collaborate with local musicians
On her first day of sitting in forÂ her songwriting course at Boston’sÂ Berklee College of Music, ZoyaÂ Mohan’s professor proclaimed toÂ the class that he would “teach them how toÂ write a hit song.” Instantly put off by the factÂ that they were trying to transform studentsÂ into “little robot hit-song-makers,” MohanÂ changed courses and eventually graduatedÂ with a degree in music business. The Indian-American folk/fusion artist has since beenÂ managing her music, American tours andÂ most recently, a fundraising campaign thatÂ aims to bring electricity to schools in Udaipur,Â Rajasthan.
Dubbed ”˜Power for Power,’ the collaborativeÂ project has Zoya teaming up with nineÂ different electronic music producers. EachÂ will rework nine of her acoustic tracks fromÂ her previous releases ”” the 2013 EP LettersÂ To Toska [EP] and the latest album TheÂ Girl Who Used To Live In My Room. TheÂ campaign, which kicked off on OctoberÂ 20th, aims to raise $5000 for underprivilegedÂ schools in Udaipur, Rajasthan throughÂ digital sales and donations.
“Initially my friend remixed one of myÂ tracks and I was blown away by it. I decidedÂ I had to do more of those remixes and theÂ idea just grew from there. The campaignÂ angle came in later. Indie artists don’t makeÂ a lot of money off records, so we decided thatÂ we’d rather do something useful with theÂ money rather than spending it all on beerÂ in one night,” explains Mohan. Her father’sÂ contribution to schools in the past inspiredÂ Mohan to start her own initiative.
Born in India and raised in California,Â the 22-year-old singer-songwriter has recentlyÂ moved to Mumbai to manage theÂ ”˜Power for Power’ campaign and exploreÂ the local independent music circuit. WithinÂ a month of reaching Mumbai on a onewayÂ ticketm Zoya was meeting and jammingÂ with city-based independent musicians,Â including singer [and her fellow BerkleeÂ graduate] Vasuda Sharma and multi-instrumentalistÂ Jose Neil Gomes. MohanÂ has also put together her own three-cityÂ maiden tour. Says she, “I’ve been meetingÂ with a lot of musicians, some from even theÂ Bollywood industry, but I’d like to stick toÂ the indie scene, because that’s the kind ofÂ sound I want to maintain.” The singer willÂ also collaborate with Raj Verma of Mumbai-based a cappela group Voctronica andÂ guitarist Randolph Coreia of electro-popÂ outfit Shaair + Func.
Mohan is known for incorporating soundsÂ that range from jazz to Hindustani vocal toÂ dreamy pop, all while maintaining a signatureÂ Indian folk sound. Is her music a consciousÂ attempt at proving her Indian roots?Â Not really. “I think what set me apart inÂ America was the fact that I was Indian andÂ currently there aren’t too many Indian singer/songwriters who are recognized outsideÂ of India. When I put out my first EP, peopleÂ began tagging it as fusion and that gotÂ us thinking. I think it was all these nuancesÂ in my voice and the instruments thatÂ made it sound like that, so we thought ofÂ doing something on those lines for the [next]Â album with instruments like the tabla.”
Mohan also manages her schedule onÂ her own, an ability she owes in part to herÂ Berklee training. Although the singer admitsÂ that she was approached in the pastÂ by record labels and PR companies, she prefersÂ to remain independent. “I think theyÂ [commercial labels] try to control the kindÂ of sound you’re putting out,” says Mohan.Â “Sometimes it all gets very tiring and IÂ would really rather not send emails andÂ spend more time on my music I prefer itÂ that way.”