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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Who is Saaya?

Published: November 3, 2006
Section: Arts, Etc.

Nothing says diversity like a South Asian rock band, crooning to songs in Hindi and Punjabi, in a Waltham, Massachusetts campus community. But this is what happened when MELA 2005 needed a band, and a couple of students brought their musical talents together. Hence, Saaya was born.

It was a different and new idea. There arent any cultural bands on campus, and we thought we should add to the cultural diversity on campus by forming one, said the bands lead singer, Richa Sahay.

The group was created a year ago, specifically for the MELA show. (An unnamed band played at MELA 2004, but the Saaya with most of its current members really started started last year.) The performance was successful, and they decided to become, rather than a one-time coalition of musicians, a real band, called Saaya.

There are several interpretations of the word Saaya, but the meaning that we have adopted is that Saaya means Spirit, Sahay explained. We picked Saaya because music, like our spirit, follows us wherever we go, irrespective of [whether we realize it] It follows us, it accompanies us, and it gives [us] depth.

Since then, Saaya has performed for the APAHM opening ceremony, Culture X 2005 and 2006, the Mock Trial Coffehouse, and most recently, the Bentley College cultural show. Their upcoming performances will be at the Positive Foundation coffeehouse on November 8 and at MELA 2006.

What do the songs mean?
The group has four songs, as of now, and is working on more. The songs are somewhat slow and somewhat mellow pop-rock songs. Sometimes, the band alters the songs to pump the audience a bit.

Two of the songs are by a Pakistani band named Jal. Aadat, meaning habit, is about the habitual nature of a person who lives without his love and yet feels so close to his love, Sahay explained. The farther he goes, the closer his heart gets to her.
Who Lamhe, translated as those old moments, is a song about a lover reminiscing the loving moments that he shared with someone special. Sahay continued. This is his way of conversing with her and reminding her [of his love].

Another song is in the language of Punjabi, called Kangna, which means Bangles. Bangles are one of the very important ornaments that a traditional Indian woman wears every day, according to Sahay. In the song, a man talks about a woman whose bangles tease him and catch his attention every time she walks by. Their final song, Bheegi Bheggi, discusses a rainy night that brings back old memories about the singers lover.

Who is Saaya?
Auditions at the beginning of this semester brought three new members into the Saaya family, including a violinist, a bassist, and a saxophonist. The group practices at least twice a week with all its members.

When SASA needed a guitarist for the MELA show, the group came to Faiyaz Talukdar 09. Since then, Talukdar has stayed on with Saaya to play lead guitar and provide backup vocals. Most of our music has significant guitar work, and the modern South Asian blend of band music suits my style of playing, thus I feel the guitar is a natural addition to Saaya plus its wicked cool to headbang, he stated.

Juhi Chadha 09 also performed at MELA and found it to be an amazing experience. After that, since we got along very well, we decided to keep the band, give it a name, and make it official, she said. She plays the acoustic guitar, which gives depth to the music, allows for transitions and continuity.

Bharathi Radhakrishnan 07 plays the drums, and is responsible for the percussion. With her family hailing from southern India, speaking Tamil, she was not very exposed to Hindi or Pakistani music. I think this demonstrates how unifying music can be, even if it is in a different language, she said. The band has broadened her musical exposure.

Arun Narayanan 10 plays alto saxophone and electric guitar. As a freshman, he chose to audition for Saaya on a whim, because he always wanted to be in a rock band and wanted to learn something about his Indian culture. He is excited about opportunities to improvise on the saxophone with the group.

Chamith Fonseka 10 plays the bass guitar, providing the harmonic structure of the song as well as marking the rhythm and adding a countermelody. Our band represents a musical influence people are not accustomed to, but one that people can really enjoy. When music is played well, it is universal, she said.

Lastly, Sahay is the lead singer in the band.

A niche at Brandeis?
It is nice to have such diversity at Brandeis, but is there really a niche for this type of band? The members believe so.

This is a campus lead by diversity, and [what] better than to have diversity spread through music? The campus has been nothing short of welcoming and warm in each and every one of our performances, Talukdar said. I love the reaction everybody has when they hear our brand of music, something that they are not accustomed to.

There is no other band on campus that provides such music or any alike. Not only is the language representative of diversity, it is also the style of music, Chadha added. The underlying message of the music is energy, emotions, difference, and diversity.

During our previous performances, the audiences have been very receptive and seemed to enjoy our music, Radhakrishnan stated. We are always looking for opportunities to perform and expose others to our music.

The group is currently looking for someone to play a keyboard;

someone with a taste for South Asian music or just a desire to celebrate this culture, Sahay stated. Saaya is willing to perform at more gigs on and off campus. It would be our pleasure to spread our culture, our meaning, our Saaya to a larger community.