Where artist Anjali Naik, aka Diaspoura, lives there aren’t any South Asian people around. Hearing her describe it, Clinton, South Carolina sounds like a town missing from time–untouched by the general progress of the rest of the country.
“This is where I grew up,” she said, panning the lens of her video camera around. I can see flatlands, yellow dirt, and motel rooms. “It’s the middle of nowhere. I grew up in a hotel like a lot of Indian people. I’m was the only brown person in my school, like a lot of Indian people.”
Since her town and her Title 1 school wouldn’t give her the tools she needed to find others like herself, Naik turned to the internet. There she learned about feminism and speaking up for herself, a necessary skill she didn’t realize she needed. She spent a lot of time on computers, she admits, but it’s there that she learned about herself and began crafting the electric collage style that would characterize her music.
In college she got involved with community organizing and activism. As she says on her site, her sounds and music have become a place to decompress after spending the day working on tough issues. Her music is “self-care,” she says, and a place to reflect.
Despite her confidence now in performing and creating, as well as mentoring younger artists, Naik wasn’t always certain about music as a future.
“I had always really wanted to do music but I had always been too scared to anything about it ever,” she said. “It was just my big, top secret dream…I got involved with an organization that mentors girls and trans youth and it pushed me to try music. I began to make the music I wanted to. It was when I was organizing I realized I could do whatever I want.”
Naik caught something of a break with the release of her single “GTF” about Donald Trump and his inauguration. It began making rounds online soon after. Naik says she started writing the song the day after he was elected and she found herself crying in the office.
“Everyone was kind’ve on stall. There were a lot of people not able to concentrate,” she said. “So I went home early that day and started writing some things down.”
The song blends harsh, grating lyrics with a hypnotic beat and ambient rain sounds. Her music is punctuated with simple but calming drum beats and a penchant for poetry. “Get the fuck away from me,” Naik sings. “Wanna boat cross the sea. But I pull up my sheets.”
Her stage name too conveys a sense of lyricism and clever masking. When I asked her about the poetry behind her chosen name, Naik confessed it was more of a signal to her community than an attempt at being clever.
“I remember two years ago when I found out there were other people talking about the “diaspora” I was just so amused and I had to name myself that just so I could send out an S.O.S.” she said. “It was honestly such a shock to find others like me.”