Lucid Dreaming: Raveena's Soulful Meditations

Lucid Dreaming: Raveena's Soulful Meditations

Potent and personal songwriting that pushes R&B to the limit...

Spirituality is the driving force behind New York-based artist Raveena’s music. Her debut album - released last May - is titled ‘Lucid’ and tracks such as ‘Hypnosis’ and ‘Nectar’ taken from the album are positively dreamy, and feature her mesmerising, hazy vocals.

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Spirituality is important to Raveena in her personal life too as she regularly reads Buddhist, Sikh and Hindu texts as well as focusing on meditation and mindfulness. Self-love and self care are also important to Raveena.

“I always want to make [music] meditative,” she tells us and also talks about how she views music as a “power source”. “It’s such a sacred space to me and a big part of what helps me heal”.

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When we speak to her, 25 year old Raveena has just finished day three of shooting her next music video. The days are long (13 hours) and tiring but she is enthusiastic about the process, and excited to get involved. As the Creative Director on her most recent music video ‘Petal’, Raveena came up with the concepts and vision for the psychedelic video.

“I loved it. I just directed this past video and I think, with every video, I fall more in love with the filmmaking process. Just the feeling of having this really clear picture in your head [and turning it into a video]”.

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‘Petal’ is actually her personal favourite track from the album. “It’s the one I’m most proud of” and also the one that “felt most experimental” although she listens to ‘Still Dreaming’ the most as it “reminds [her] of being 21”.

‘Still Dreaming’ carries a certain nostalgia of being young and carefree (‘I don't want to lose that feelin'/Sleepin' in your arms, still dreamin'’). The inspiration behind her music is “definitely just a deep love for life”. “I feel like when I’m making music, I feel the most alive. Exploring all facets of my emotions and honouring all of them and making space for all of them…”

Raveena embraces life wholeheartedly and transfers that joy and zest into her music, but she doesn’t shy away from difficult topics such as death. Her Nani (maternal grandmother) speaks on a touching interlude on ‘Lucid’ (aptly named ‘Nani’s Interlude’) about her thoughts on finding peace with death.

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Raveena then sings “I am weightless / under sunny sun / I am weightless / knowing death is soon to come” on ‘Petal’. Asked how important it was for Raveena to have her Nani on the album, she says simply: ”It was so special. I’m so grateful every day that she’s still with me. It’s important to honour all of them [family members]”. 

Raveena’s tranquil and introspective sounds are combined with a desire to convey a message and also to share past traumas. For example, “‘Stronger’ is about me overcoming and coming to terms with sexual assault and abuse. It came from a really intense place. [I wrote it during] a really crazy acid trip, at the peak of it, around 4am. The lyrics ‘Almost sacrificial how I'm laying/ Here trembling’ reminded me of those past moments. It’s really powerful”.

‘Lucid’ is a 12-track escape into honeyed soul. It’s an incredibly strong debut album, with the artist firmly establishing herself and her sound. It “feels really amazing [to have released the album]”.

“I think that’s something you work towards your whole life. You just have so many hopes and ideas for the first album”. She also speaks of a certain “freedom” which comes after having released a debut album. There don’t appear to be any second album anxieties for Raveena, but rather an excitement to continue and pursue new creative ideas. Making the album itself required a lot of Raveena.

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“It was really emotionally taxing. I was digging back all these intense memories but I felt very safe because I made it in a family environment. In a safe space with a small group of people who are my best friends”. Opening herself up like that can’t have been easy but it may also have been a cathartic process, one in which something sonically beautiful was born. 

As far as Raveena’s musical influences go, they are “all over the place”. From M.I.A. and Bjork to legendary Bollywood singer Asha Bhosle. Seventies artist Curtis Mayfield also got a mention. She appreciates “all kinds of genres”. “I love indie rock, I love Wilco, and Feist, and I also love Jai Paul. He’s a big influence on me. I love people who experiment and push boundaries within their genres”.

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She also grew up listening to iconic singers Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. Growing up as a first generation Indian-American was “definitely difficult”. Raveena felt like “such an outsider” and adds that she “feels like that, even now”.

“I didn’t quite fit in with anybody growing up and spent like most of my childhood isolated and studying music in my bedroom. I always felt like a lil brown weirdo. Even now, I feel that same “out of place-ness” some times. I’m in a unique and privileged place as a queer female Indian artist, but it can feel isolating at times.”

“I’m slowly finding my people though and I feel very surrounded by love and wildly creative and imaginative people these days. I’m so grateful for that. I think a lot of my fans identified as ‘outsiders’ too at one point, and we connect and empathize with each other and have created our own communities out of that experience.”

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This loneliness was channeled into her songwriting and Raveena now finds solace in the fact that her fans also identify as ‘outsiders’. “I love that my fanbase feels just as [weird]”.

The New Year brings new opportunities as there are plans to “tour a bunch” in the US and internationally, with a new project to be released in 2020 too. We’re excited to hear more from this rising star.

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'Lucid' is out now. New material from Raveena is incoming.

Words: Narzra Ahmed
Photographer: Alia Romagnoli / Instagram
Make Up: Salwa Rahman / Instagram

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