Find comfort here.
Too often, we are taught to split our lives in two: past and present, male and female, good and evil, young and old. Anju’s latest album, “Rind + Seed,” challenges those binaries.
She told Kajal she thought of the title before she created any of the music, and that became a theme for the album.
“I think of rind as something you shed. Something that eventually is pulled loose. And seeds are rebirth. They’re whats in there, under the rind,” she said.
The first track, “Girlhood,” is an uninterrupted minute of Anju reciting Sanskrit chants as a child. It is excerpted from an old, 10-minute cassette tape her grandfather–or as she addresses him, Abba–gifted to her on her thirteenth birthday.
“I want my younger self to always be present in what I am creating,” she said. “It’s me checking in with the kid version of myself to assess where I’m at now.”
Her process is one that captures the fluidity of her evolving identity. She creates to process her reality. For Anju, her past isn’t a moving reel of black-and-white photographs preserved in a mind-vault. The remnants of it are not artifacts to be gazed at in her waking life. Rather, they are threads that continue to be woven into her creativity. Vladimir Nabokov and Pablo Picasso testified to the genius in children and the radical work it takes to honor our childlike perceptions into adulthood. This is the work that Anju is doing.
“Girlhood” was a way to open this personal discourse, which is unique to every listener. But in the personal, there is also the political. When Anju found the cassette tape, she was struck by the complexity of her emotions. She still knows the Sanskrit chants by heart, which is partly a result of her upbringing. But as she grew up, she began to pick apart the ways spirituality can be innocuously packed within dangerous rhetoric.
“I have complicated feelings about Hinduism and being raised Hindu. [I saw a lot of] casteism, Islamophobia, transphobia, homophobia and anti-blackness within the Hindu community I was raised in. [But at the same time,] that was very much the brown safe haven that I needed when I was growing up. But I was becoming critical of it and thinking of all the ways that religion was being used as a tool for social control, even in really subtle ways, too” she said.
The tracks that follow are perfect illustrations of the ways young Anju informs adult-Anju. “Cassiopeia” opens with a symphonic piano solo. She sings about dragons in a parking lot, clementine rinds, and a lover that tastes like pennies. Her metaphors are beautiful because they are simple, literal and apt– like a child’s. They unfold in a clear knack for language.
with you i feel grapefruit juice/ running in my blood/ i’m just a little confused/ what to think of us.
“Grapefruit juice” and “confused” have like long-vowel sounds, while “running” and “us” pair short-vowel sounds in the A-B-A-B form typical in English song-writing, which the human brain is programmed to love. (This is why pop music will never get old.) I also can’t help to taste her penny-flavored lover as I lick the fresh blood from my chapped lips, and that serum, that metallic, alchemic medium–blood–is a delightfully dark element that reverberates the clean and deep piano music.
Here’s another great line:
constellate our fears with cinnamon sticks/ let’s connect the stars.
This is a track to play as you lay under the Perseids.
There is a powerful reckoning in this music, one that is impossible to replicate lest it comes from its creator. Anju hopes others find comfort in it. She is intentional about who she puts her music out to, who “hears her soul” as her twin flames find and cherish it.
“If people who are marginalized in some capacity–if queer, trans and people of color can hear this, and it resonates with them in any sense or they find solace in it, that makes me feel at peace. That’s where I want this to go. I don’t want to be famous and I don’t want to be on the radio unless it’s a very specific channel,” she said, finishing with a laugh.
Anju writes, produces, and records her own music. She releases new music every year around spring and summer to celebrate the mark of her birthday. You can find Anju’s music on Soundcloud, Bandcamp, and Facebook.