It’s frigid cold outside. Raveena Aurora, better known online simply as Raveena, and I have hurried across four blocks in the East Village to find a single bar that’s not overflowing with people on this freezing Saturday afternoon. By the time we stumble upon one, a small European-style pub with rich cherry wood furnishings, we’re in desperate need of hot food. In front of the small working fireplace, we chase the cold away with fries and mulled wine. Then we start talking about her seeming overnight success.
In the space of a few months, Aurora has debuted her self-directed music video for “Sweet Time,” performed at Nylon, received a glowing review from NPR, and saw her single played during the Ralph Lauren show at New York Fashion Week. The accolades are piling up for her music, but the young musician has been at it for years.
“I was really committed [to singing] from a young age. I used to audition for actual Broadway shows but they wouldn’t take me because I was a little brown child,” she told me. “Obviously. I had the nerve to audition for The Sound of Music. I was like ‘It’s fine, Mom. They’ll believe it!’ But they didn’t. Since I was 11 or 12 I was like ‘Bye guys, next year I’m going on tour. I’m getting a record deal.’ Literally since I was a baby. I was so serious.”
The 24-year-old’s movement towards music was completely natural, she says. As an introverted child, singing offered a less physical pathway for her expression. Aurora says she remembers falling “deeply in love” with the craft.
“Once I started, I couldn’t really stop,” she said. “I’d come home from school and sing for hours. I’d sing really loudly in the bathroom. I would sing from literally 4 or 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. at night. My parents were really nice about it.”
NPR called the young singer’s music “a good bottle of wine.” On this site, we’ve referred to it as a “daydream” and a “hypnosis.” There is something stupefying about Aurora’s voice. She invites you in and it takes very little coaxing to be submerged fully. That power, laid atop producer Everett Orr’s expansive world of sound, is intoxicating.
Aurora’s music is transporting. You could play her songs in the middle of a crowded subway and be a million miles away reliving the brightest part of your morning. Her songs feel like love. If train stops are missed in the experience, her music croons, that’s ok. “I’ve been meditating/I stopped medicating/I’m taking advice from the moon,” she sings on “Sweet Time.” It’s clear our concerns are no longer of this material world.
The lynchpin in Aurora’s sound was her education in jazz. Singers like Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, but also newer r&b and soul iterations like Corinne Bailey Rae and Amy Winehouse, were crucial to her discovery of her own voice.
“Jazz was a blessing,” she says, recounting how her teacher introduced her to 1930s and 1940s jazz music. “I’d sob. I was like ‘What is this?’ Magical. I was obsessed with the voice. Everything you could do with it. The subtleties in it. How you could express different emotions moment to moment. It still gets to me when I’m recording, listening to the voice. It’s just really enchanting.”
“It’s the closest connection you could have to a higher force because I believe there’s a god inside of us. So you’re singing to that spirit,” she continued.
As I talked to Aurora, I understood one thing fully–she is deliberate. She listened more than she talked. And she did not ramble. There is an air of mindfulness that surrounds her. All the while we were chatting, she encouraged me to eat more fries and speak about my creative process. Some of her favorite words to pepper into conversation are “healing” and “nourishing.” But from her they don’t sound like an Instagram lifestyle, they feel real. She makes them warm with life.
Mindfulness is part of her philosophy this year, she says. In addition to experimenting with a cocktail of spiritual self-care methodologies, like mediation, color therapy, and crystals, Aurora is also working on exuding happiness.
“I’m trying out a lot of things and seeing what works with me,” she said. “I’ve been really serious about it in 2018 and I felt like I’ve been walking around–my friends and I came up with this: like there’s ‘resting bitch face,’ we should have ‘resting bliss face.’ Just this kind of look of contentment.”
“My perfect morning would be waking up with two to three hours to myself in the morning to do yoga. I feed off sunlight. But there’s other forms of care like saying ‘no’ to things. Like if this person is not compensating me for my time,” she continued. “I find that as a woman of color, and seeing my mom in her giving kind of role, being so ok with unpaid labor but doing so much. I’m really trying to break out of the habit of that. You have to emit this energy out too, people want that from you. It’s too much sometimes.”
Aurora’s music often speaks to a need to find healing within. The lyrics touch on issues like unhealthy relationships and depression. They speak to political circumstance, like “You still don’t understand a woman is holy/Your fake apologies would work on the old me” off of “If Only,” and they invoke a whole world of daily injustices. But still poetically. Aurora is expert at bridging poetry and politics, skirting the edge of saying something outright but not straying from its core.
“I’ve always been super vocal about what I’m going through because I believe if you’re vocal then it gives other people the power to stand up with you. Making that intimate connection with people, and being truthful,” she said.
“It took a long time to find that balance. I definitely wrote completely the other way at one point and I had this more electronic sound. It was very harsh. And I talked about all my experiences really openly. It took me getting to healthy places, it was really more my development into a strong, stable, self-loving woman.”
Her music is a space to play and dream, she says. It provides an escape but it still has a message.