We checked in with Nivedita ShivRaj for more insight into her artistic endeavors.
What are some highlights of the past year?
Leading a veena ensemble concert with ten veenas at the Flushing branch of the Queens Library for Make Music New York, and an individual grant award from QCA for 2013. In 2011, a really momentous year of my career, I led my world music band Charanams to victory at WNYC’s Battle of the Boroughs contest. My band was the winner both in the Queens battle and the Ultimate Battle among the five boroughs. We performed my compositions ‘Himalayan Queen’ and ‘Hudson Ride.’ I also performed at Central Park SummerStage and Lincoln Center during the Mayor’s Arts Awards ceremony.
Can you walk us through your creative process?
My compositions are inspired by the beauty of nature. Every raga (a melodic tune) has a unique character and beauty. My compositions reflect the beauty of the raga on the broad landscape of nature that I experience. I compose pieces that do not have lyrics; they have only music solfèges called swaras based on Indian ragas. The pieces are not set in any language and have no words or story to tell. The emotions are conveyed in a manner akin to sign language. The compositions are woven with solfèges to create a tapestry in such a manner as to give the listener a unique experience, giving them an opportunity to perceive it from their viewpoint.
What are your secrets to finding balance between your work and home life?
Scheduling and multi-tasking. I schedule my errands and all my chores just like the way I schedule my classes, performances, and all other music-related work. My calendar is my most efficient tool. Next to that I always try to do more than one thing at a time. For example, my phone conversations—especially the lengthy ones with my family in India—are mostly when I am cooking and cutting vegetables or ironing clothes while watching TV at night.
Describe how you feel when you are composing and performing.
Composing is a very positive feeling. I am expressing the joy of life, beauty of the world, and humans as I see. It’s a learning experience, learning to appreciate and express it in the form of music, and also express my thanks for the blessings I receive. Performing is a very humbling experience. Every performance is a test, an exam where the audience is the master. There’s this challenge to give our best, to connect with the audience through compositions without lyrics and a story to tell.
What are you looking forward to?
I am now composing new pieces for my world music band Charanams and for my veena ensemble. I will be presenting them in my upcoming concerts in August—veena ensemble at Langston Hughes Library in Corona—and in the fall, Charanams at the Langston Hughes Library and the Queens Central Library in Jamaica. While the pieces for the veena ensemble are Carnatic-South Indian classical, the compositions for Charanams are multi-style.