#Interviews

Meet Avanti Nagral, the Musician Challenging Stereotypes And Vlogging with Her Aaji

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Avanti Nagral, a dual-degree student from Harvard University Boston, is making waves in the international pop music circuit. Avanti, an artist and creator based in Bombay and Boston, flourishes at the junction of pop and soul. She is making music that challenges the patriarchy norms of society. The music Avanti creates bridges socioeconomic impact and seeks to reestablish the way young girls around the world see themselves. Inclusiveness and transnational songs are the key to make an impact. SheThePeople talks with Avanti Nagral about vlogging with Aaji, creating music with a message and questioning the society around her.

1.What has your journey from Bombay to Boston looked like as a musician ?

I have grown up across two places and had an interesting journey. I have grown up in the US listening to bhajans. I received formal training in music in India. I observed the Indian cultures from a different eye. I got a sense of objectivity after living abroad. I tend to value classical music and our rich inherited traditions much more. 

2.What does feminism mean to you on a personal level?

Feminism has a bad rap, mostly because people confuse it with misandry. It is about gender equality. But I think that true equality is not possible because of the physical differences.

A Bombay To Boston Limited Edition Duet: Avanti Nagral in an Exclusive Chat with SheThePeople

So I advocate gender equity. I believe the physical differences shouldn’t translate into social differences. I have been very fortunate to have parents who treated me and my brother as equal. We were never treated differently. However, I understand the place of immense privilege I come from. Many women in India face conditions which are much worse and face difficult situations in their immediate environment.

3.How do you deal with negativity on social media? What is your take on the concept of cancel culture?

Social media is a boon and it helps people connect with others. However, at the same time people sit behind the comfort and anonymity of their screens and type anything without empathy. Once we start consuming a particular kind of information, the algorithm is so screwed that we receive only that particular information a lot of times. Women specifically face online much more harassment than men. They are called slut/randi whenever they post or say anything. I think women have to stand up for each other online and share their sisterhood.

4.You have pursued a dual degree from Harvard. Does your academia shed more light on the social issues you concentrate on in your music?

Absolutely. Impact and change can only come when it is combined with education and proper understanding. There are liberal arts and a variety of subjects which are greatly valued in the West. I was able to read and work on subjects like environmental policy and gender studies which helped me understand the roots of society and I try to form educated opinions from that. I hope my work and my messages are educative and informative.

5.What inspired you to vlog with aaji, your grandparents? What did you learn from your experience with them?

My mom always told me that in order to bridge the generational gap, both of the generations have to come together. So when the lockdown began, I tried spending as much time as possible with my family. My Aaji used to come and watch a movie with us, probably a Marathi film about modern and contemporary issues. I also watched the series Bandish Bandits with her. She was extremely comfortable talking about sex and mental health. I guess one has to start the conversation, take the ball in their court and try talking about it. It may be awkward initially but then it gradually goes away.

6. Do women pay the bigger price for taboos like sexuality and sex? 

Totally. The slut vs stud mentality is always present. The idea of a man having sex does not bother a lot of people but the idea of women exploring their sexuality does. The idea of purity is often slapped on women. They are kept at a pedestal which works against them. It also shows the side effects of colonialism. Like in ancient times, love was accepted in all forms. Westernization has made us scapegoats of a pedestal which does not exist. It is utterly misogynistic and futile.

7.What is your opinion about sexism in music?

The feminist in me gets really offended about it but the business-mind in me understands why this music is made. It is definitely because this music sells. I have tried making music which takes into consideration the female perspective and working with as many women artists as possible. Hopefully, change will come and one day women will be seen more than sexual objects.

8.What would be your advice to someone who wants to make it in this field?

Don’t let anything stop you. People will say things. Let them say and work on your thing anyway. There will be labels and objections. People will tell you stuff you shouldn’t pay heed to at all. Stand strong with your sisterhood. If there is no seat at the table, make another one for those who deserve it. It might seem like the pie is small and there is only one place above the glass ceiling. But that’s not true.