Hrishi As He Dives Into The Deeper Meaning of Identity
Hrishi is an artist you want to put on your radar lovelies! Having just released “Levitating (Carnatic remix),” this Young Hollywood is showing us what he is made of! A song that holds a special place in his heart, it reflects a moment in his journey where he realized “how valued and accepted (his) culture and Indian traditions could be.” Born in India and raised in America from the age of three months old, Hrishi has been in a balance between two cultures, he realizes that every part of his identity is equally important to showcase to the world. Reminding us to embrace and celebrate our differences, Hrishi sings and dances his way through life with love, talent, and purpose!
What does “Levitating (Carnatic remix)” mean to you?
This piece is incredibly special to me because it marks a spot in my journey where I began to realize how valued and accepted my culture and Indian traditions could be. Growing up, there was always a feeling that I had to be more “American” in public in order to fit in, and I’d felt a similar way about my music too – “can’t make it too Indian or too weird”. It was ironic and beautiful to see that my most successful piece of content was also my most unapologetically Indian one, and it’s been a blessing to be able to introduce more people of all backgrounds to South Indian tradition.
In what ways does this song reflect who you are?
Life as a second generation immigrant is full of dualities, and “Levitating (Carnatic remix)” is definitely a reflection of them. I was born in India, but I’ve grown up in the United States since I was 3 months old. My parents strived to teach me about South Indian culture and language and traditions, but simultaneously I was placed in a world that had an entirely different palette of experience and culture. It’s a beautiful thing to inherit two worlds, but also a constant battle of balance and accepting your identity.
As a child, my relationship with Carnatic music was tumultuous, going to class after class only for my parent’s sake, to make them happy. Later in life it became more for myself, as I really dove deep with my guru R. Suryaprakash. Yet even then, there was an inherent shame in it; a feeling of not wanting to fully reveal this side of me because it was “too weird” or “not cool”. This remix and the beautiful moments surrounding it on social media really mark a journey within myself of accepting that every part of my identity is equally important to showcase to the world, and that’s what I aspire to do with this piece!
Share with us what inspired it and how the process evolved. What was most important to you in producing this song?
I’ve been pursuing carnatic music and pop music separately for years, but the idea to mix carnatic swaras and pop songs actually came super off the cuff. I was brainstorming Tik Tok ideas with my friend Josiah Tombley, and casually threw out the idea of singing carnatic over the drop of a song called “Astronaut in the Ocean”, which was blowing up at the time. He loved the idea (which funny enough I didn’t expect at the time), and the next day I made the remix and put it out. It blew up to about 150k plays pretty much overnight. I couldn’t believe it- what started as a half-joke had turned into my first viral moment, and it happened in the most fulfilling way I could’ve imagined. I made 5 remixes the next day, of songs called “Peaches”, “Castaways”, “Good for you”, “Build a Bish”, and “Levitating”. Each one created a splash of its own, but I never could’ve predicted how much “Levitating” would blow up. I started getting hundreds of DMs a day for the first time, from complete strangers who were telling me how my remixes made them feel proud of their culture and heritage.
When the time came to produce the video, it was important to me to bring in as many tenets of Indian culture as possible, and that’s why we went with the idea of bringing in multiple Indian classical dance styles as well as more modern, Bollywood styles, to represent a part of the vast selection of art forms India has to offer. Initially, I was worried about being able to find enough willing dancers, but the casting came together like magic. I put out an Instagram story on Tuesday to scout dancers for the Saturday shoot, and over 200 dancers in LA reached out offering their talent. It was so incredible to see how much the community was behind the whole project, and ready to go out of their way to support.
In a day and age where social media allows you to become famous from the comfort of your home, in what ways is this a positive change? A negative one?
I think social media allows for an incredible opportunity for small businesses and small creators, who are now able to reach wide audiences simply by cracking the code of content creation, rather than dealing with companies and red tape and the different politics that have been associated with fame in the past. It’s also a wonderful tool for networking, that really puts the whole world at your fingertips if you’re able to showcase a unique skill.
That said, there are negatives as well, but I think they can be safely managed as long as you don’t allow your self-worth to become tied into your social media success or “fame”. It can be a VERY dangerous game to play with fame and social media without a lot of personal grounding. These platforms present people and ourselves as numbers, and it’s important to remember that every single like and comment and interaction is someone out there living just as important a life as anyone else.
Like everything in life, it all comes down to balance, but I really think the amount of opportunity offered by social media in our society is close to unparalleled.
What does music mean to you? Share with us a time music helped you overcome a difficult period in your life.
Music is magic, nostalgia, and passion all in one. It lets us explore emotions and feelings, and bottle them up in a tangible form. I think one of the most beautiful things the internet has given us is the ability to experience different traditions and palettes of music side by side. Every single kind of music, whether it be modern, classical, or instrumental, has the minds and passion of thousands of people behind it, and represents a part of their humanity. To experience and learn from that collective consciousness is one of the greatest blessings we have as modern humans.
I think of music as my best friend and mentor that stays with me through all the ups and downs of life. Every human emotion and state of difficulty or bliss is transitory, but music gives us this crazy ability to encapsulate them and re-visit as we please.
Favorite part of discovering new artists? What is the first thing you look for in new music?
Great artists give us worlds to fall into and relate to and feel seen through. They give us new ways to interpret life around us, and new soundscapes to attach our memories to. When I hear new music, I usually start automatically analyzing the lyrics and melodies and production. After years of trying to study each of those things, the “analysis” part seems to start happening without thinking. The moments I really live for nowadays are when I hear a song and all that goes through the window, and I’m back to listening just like I did when I was a kid. And whenever that happens I have to go back and figure out why it did that, but it’s the most fun time ever. I still remember my first times diving into artists like Coldplay, or Jon Bellion, or Joy Crookes – I felt like I didn’t know anything about music and needed to start again from scratch. And that’s my favorite feeling when discovering new music.
Growing up, what was your family dynamic like? What role did you play in your family?
I’m an only child and my parents’ attention was definitely all on me growing up. I’m so grateful to them for raising me not only with love, but also for working day and night to teach me how to dream, and help me make those dreams come true. Amma is an absolute perfectionist with everything she does, and continues to teach me how to be resourceful and work as hard as I possibly can. Appa is the source of all my music and taught me how to sing by exposing me to all kinds of music and always singing around the house. My role in the house was always as the third decision-maker; growing up my parents always took my thoughts a lot more seriously than they needed to. I realize the value in that a lot more now than I did as a kid – it gave me a lot of freedom to express my thoughts and develop a lot of confidence in myself. Love you Amma and Appa <3
Tell us more about your dancing side!
Before this video, it was pretty much common knowledge among everyone I know that I can’t dance for my life. Me dancing it was actually a very very last minute decision, it was the day before the shoot of the video when I visited the first (and only) dance rehearsal to meet all the dancers before the shoot. Our choreographer Joya Kazi asked me if I’d be comfortable trying out a few small moves to interact with the contemporary dancers, and I decided to try it out as a challenge, but definitely wasn’t going to actually dance in the video. To my surprise, Joya really pulled something out of me and convinced me to try dancing throughout the video. Seemed crazy in the moment, but I decided to take it on, and she eventually choreographed the piece around my natural movements. I never in my wildest dreams would’ve expected to see myself in a dance video before this, but here we are!
In what ways do you believe you have a broader perspective on life and why?
I was lucky to be exposed to a lot of Hindu philosophy and spirituality very young and had a lot of deeper discussions about it with my dad growing up. That helped me develop systems of staying grounded and keeping tabs of my emotions and thoughts whenever they leaned on the negative side. I’ve always had a fascination with astronomy and the cosmos, and remembering how small a blip in time and space our lives occupy, can provide a lot of perspective and relief during the moments when life feels heavy.
What comes next?
There’s so much coming in the next year that I can’t wait to share. Expect an album of original music, and a lot more remix content headed your way. I’ve spent the last 4 years developing as a songwriter and crafting a sound with my producer Matthew Boda that blends my two musical worlds. It’s involved a lot of trial and error, but I’m excited to say I’m finally ready to put it into the world 🙂
Talent HRISHI @hrishisongs
Creative Director/ Lead Stylist AMBIKA “B” SANJANA @styledbyambika
Photographer ERIC LAROKK @ericlarokk
BTS Photographer SAHIL ROHIRA @sahilrohira
Videographer GEORGE MASIN @perspectiveout
Grooming VICKY GARCIA @vickygmakeup
Assistant Stylists SHELBY WATSON & BRIANNA JENNINGS @shelbswats @breezastyles
Talent PA VERÓNICA ADLER @veronica_adler JOSIAH TOMBLEY @josiahtombley
Production PA CORBIN SAWNLUND @aviansapien
Interview ALEXANDRA BONNET @alexbonnetwrites
Locations THE BOXIE STUDIO @theboxie.studio