Naari is driven by the singer’s distinct voice and a melancholia inherent to her voice and melodies. The most striking song of the record is probably Pain is a Faithful Lover on which Naari sings over sweeping strings ad a slow drum beat “if you were earth, I’d water you like the rain”.
Formerly known as Neeraja – her birth name being Neeraja Narayanasamy – the singer chose to allow herself some more creative freedom and picked Naari as her moniker. “I thought it would be nice to have something that’s not so personal. To make a cavity between who I am, and what I present,” she says. “Naari is phonetically close to my actual name, and it means “good” woman in Hindi. And then there’s Naari, which is always with a prefix, like good or noble, yes, it’s noble. I liked playing with the ideas of nobility and goodness, perhaps subverting it, perhaps not, I don’t know.”
Power of Community
The record launched as part of an event organized by the Decolonoize music collective in Berlin. The release concert was accompanied by a poetry reading, a panel talk, and a DJ set. Now, working and writing from Berlin, Naari explains that her relationship to music changed in comparison to when she lived in New Delhi. Even though she does reflect her roots on the record with songs like the Invocation Song, the record is primality shaped by the diverse artistic exchange and dialogue that Berlin provided.
“It was an explosion of different people, everyone trying to do something new in their lives. I loved the support of different women here, and it is essentially where I could find confidence in my guitar playing, and I could experiment with it a little more… unobtrusively. I could play a little punk – noise without feeling judged for my shitty guitar playing.”
While Naari found her piece with playing the guitar, her first musical love was the voice. “It comforted me, to sing to myself. I understood that I could use music to say things that I wouldn’t generally say to anyone in a conversation. An ear to the inner world, made it easier to express.” Naari’s voice is the silver lining throughout her new album. The guitar present but it comes second. And the artist reaches further when it comes to instrumentation by incorporating a band-driven sound, alongside guitar-and-vocals-minimalism.
“Artistically speaking, I write emotionally, with confusion, through observations of other people, and understanding myself in this chaotic place.” Naari’s debut is the condensation of her perspective and observations of this Ordinary World that you and I are stuck in. In her mellow introspection lies a certain sense of wonder. The fascination of the tiny details of live, love, and the human condition. Naari maintains a gaze for the “small magics”. When the artist talks about magic, she does not refer to fantastic wizardry or spells, but as she explains; “more in the general strange existence of us and the small magics that surround us all the time. It does form my world, because I get devastated very often and need to find the small beauty in life to keep me going.”
The general strangeness of existence is something to grapple with, indeed. But it is also something that allows for great ease, when we can find ourselves mirrored and upheld by a community of people who experience the world in similar ways. In Berlin, there is a community for everyone, and even though it is not always easy to enter into the circles, Naari has found a support among the local artists. Inviting other acts like Mitsune and Oyèmi Noize to play at her album release show, showed how much Naari values the artistic exchange and the communal power of music.
“I did find a nice community here that consists of a lot of musicians, all of whom are kind of part of the industry in some way. The scene is diverse, blooming, there’s always something to do and look forward to. It’s very creative and self-organized and I admire all the work different little groups, communities and collectives are doing to keep the music scene alive. It goes against that mono-chrome idea of putting others down to raise yourself up and I like this city for that.”
Released via Mentrix’ Label House of Strength which aims to empower women and especially Black, Indigenous and Women of Color, Naari is in good company. This record is “a steppingstone, the first birth”, as the artist describes it. And the devotion to the craft and the art that this exceptional singer put into her debut can be heard on every note of the record.
Naari is out now via House of Strength.
Every Monday the NBHAP staff brings an exciting new artist to your attention along with a 30-track-strong Introducing Playlist over on Spotify. Feel invited to follow the playlist and give these talents a spin.
This week’s picks include brand new music from artists like Lucinda Chua, Hania Rani, and Meskerem Mees.