Ravenna’s Sikh Roots

Raveena Aurora’s music video for her new single, “Tweety,” mixes ‘90s nostalgia, psychedelic visuals, and South Asian aesthetics with an intoxicating pop sound that lives up to her past album. Her music video weaves together seemingly disparate parts to show –– once again –– the love, fun, and beauty of embracing her diasporic identity. Raveena is a powerful presence as she speaks up for her South Asian community in her videos as well as on social media. She shows up for her Sikh community, in particular, to share a much overlooked story about loss and trauma.

On December 13, 2020, Raveena tweeted about current inequality in India, writing, “250 million people are putting their bodies on the line in India demonstrating against exploitative new farmer laws. I stand with my Sikh community and all farmers.” Raveena shows both her solidarity with Sikh communities and her understanding of the trauma in persecution as a religious minority and femme-identifying person. Her album Lucid brings together her heritage and personal history of abuse and assault from a place of healing. The article, “The Lucid State of Raveena,” written by Anurag Tagat explains how her album connects to her Sikh identity:

Raveena looks back at family history in two songs, ‘Mama’ and ‘Nani’s Interlude’. Her family lost their homes and relatives in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, which she doesn’t hesitate to term as genocide. She explains, “The words chardi kala were always thrown around by elders in my household, which is the Punjabi term for ‘maintaining a mental state of eternal optimism and joy’. I think this spirit lives on through my music, which is often about healing and finding joy after experiencing pain.”

Tagat’s interview illuminates the beauty found in Raveena’s music through the discourse of chardi kala. His mention of “Nani’s Interlude” proves important, as it traces the intergenerational love and care among her immigrant Sikh family.

Raveena’s documentary on her album Lucid, entitled “Nani’s Interlude,” shows a crucial discussion of pain, loss, and proximity to death in relation to Sikh identity. She cites that she included Nani’s words because Nani, “has gone through her own traumas in her own lifetime and has used spirituality as a means to uplift herself out of that.”  Nani, in her interlude, talks about having endured the loss of her husband and son, in disbelief that she has stayed on this Earth for longer. She finishes by saying, “we should be thankful for every moment, and no regrets should be there. You will love this life more.” The words that Raveena includes in the interlude come from her grandmother’s experience of pain and loss during the 1984 Sikh genocide. Both Raveena and Nani use love as a transformational guide to living a more fulfilled, more realized life.

Raveena shows the remnants of pain endured by her grandmother, that have now melded into resilience and light. The representation of intergenerational responses to trauma, via loss and abuse, allows for a glimpse of hope for South Asian religious minorities. Healing, the transformation of pain into joy, is a touchstone of Raveena’s message to the Sikh community.

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