Vidya Vox’s music blends western pop sounds with Indian notes

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Vidya Vox (Vidya Iyer) is an American-desi with over six million YouTube subscribers. Her mashups featuring western pop hits with Indian notes. In July 2019, Vidya Vox released her album Mad Dreams.

After I accidentally stumbled upon Vidya Vox (Vidya Iyer’s) videos on YouTube, I went on a devouring spree if you will, of her music for weeks afterward.

Every song I listened to demonstrated her incredible ability to meld western pop hits with Indian sounds. What’s more, her music is deeply rooted in her training as a classical musician. She sings in an array of languages: Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam, etc.

Even though this blog veers away from the geographic mandate of Toronto Desi Diaries, I hope I can get away with it.

Let’s start with the basics, so, who’s Vidya Vox?

Vidya’s an Indo-American artist and YouTube sensation. Her videos have amassed huge followings (600 million views and over six million subscribers). She made her debut on YouTube in 2015, since then she has had dozens of chartbusters. In 2017, Vidya dropped her debut EP of original songs in Kuthu Fire.

While on a pre-med track at George Washington University, Vidya began to indulge in her passion for music. She did so by posting YouTube videos. Upon graduation, Vidya took the leap and decided to pursue a music career full time.

With over 153 million views, one of Vidya’s most successful videos, Be Free, is an original song from Kuthu Fire. This song is mixed with the Malayalam folk song “Pallivaalu Bhadravattakam.” Vidya’s mashups have since gained worldwide recognition from the likes of Major Lazer, Diplo & Hrithik Roshan.

This Kerala boat song is my favourite. It evokes memories of my childhood.

What’s new with Vidya’s music?

In July this year, Vidya released Mad Dreams. This album features five original songs (songs written by Vidya and composer Shanker Tucker) that exhibit the American desi’s ease in both worlds —U.S. and India.

In her own words: Vidya Vox

About Mad Dreams

Growing up in the west as a first-generation Indian-American, I always felt like I was living a double life.

At home, I was immersed in a traditional Indian culture, eating dosas, singing Carnatic music, and listening to A.R. Rahman, and the second I stepped on my school bus, I would eat pizza and listen to Destiny’s Child and Backstreet Boys. At school, I was an outcast and felt embarrassed about being different. Mad Dreams represents a pivotal time in my journey to reclaim and embrace my bicultural identity while sharing messages of hope and empowerment.

Here’s what she says on each of the five tracks

Appadi Podu Di

Is incredibly personal. As only 1 of 2 Indian kids in middle school, the other kids had many questions for me. ‘Does your house smell like curry?’ ‘Why are your elbows so dark?’ All questions were about why I looked different. To this day, we are sold products and images to cover these “differences.” I took all the things that were said to me and reclaimed them in this song. My favorite line is Dark knees, dark eyes, no powder, my sun-filled skin holds power. The lyric Appadi Podu Di, in Tamil literally translates to “Give it back!” and my uncle often said it to me growing up as a reaction to one of my snarky comebacks. As a South Asian woman, this song is an anthem about loving the skin you’re in.

Indo-American singer/songwriter has amassed some six million followers on her YouTube channel. Vidya Vox released Mad Dreams, an intensely personal album featuring five songs. Image courtesy, Vidya Vox.com

Mad Dreams

was inspired by the story of Indian goddess Parvati, who was doing penance to gain the affections of Lord Shiva, the Destroyer and Lord of Dance. The mridangam and chalanga dance bell sound in the chorus are traditional sounds used in traditional Shiva songs. Hearing this story growing up, Parvati’s concentration always amazed me. I always wondered, would this infatuation and chase drive her mad? She’s in her world of mad dreams. 

Butterfly

is about the process of taking risks and finding your footing, which is difficult but always worthwhile. I always feel better in the end. I tend to hide in my cocoon when the going gets tough. However, it’s important to be proud of who you are, take a leap of faith and find your wings!


Lose the Night

is about a particular memory of when Shankar and I were visiting New Delhi many years ago. We were in an auto-rickshaw driving around at night. It was hot and hazy, and although the streets were crowded, it felt like we were the only two people in the city. 

Look at the Lights

Brings me back to when I was living with my mom. I had big dreams of moving to Los Angeles. Some days, I felt that I’d never be able to leave home. Other days, I was more hopeful. Making the move to Los Angeles was life-changing, but once the lights went out, I still missed home. The instrumental sarangi line that echoes throughout the chorus represents a longing for home, wherever you may be. 

Mad Dreams is available on iTunes, Spotify, and all streaming platforms.

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Happy Dussehra, Thanksgiving, and Diwali 2019, Toronto

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Hindus across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA will celebrate Dussehera 2019 and Diwali across various venues. Photo: Pixabay

Saturday, Oct. 5

Event: Navratri Raas Garba 2019

Details: Saptak Musical Group will host a Navratri Raas Garba at the Mississauga Secondary School, 550 Courtneypark Dr., Mississauga from 6:30 p.m. onward.

Contact: For tickets, contact here

Event: Diwali Razzmatazz

Details: Indo-Canada Arts Council will host Diwali celebrations at Mississauga’s Celebration Square from 2 p.m. There will be dance performances, musical concerts, artistic displays and more.

Contact: For more information, visit here

Event: Bhangra and Gidda in the 6ix

Details: Shaan Punjab Dee will host its annual Bhangra and Gidda competition at the Living Arts Centre (Hammerson Hall), 4141 Living Arts Dr. in Mississauga at 2 p.m.

Contact: For tickets, etc. visit here

Sunday, Oct. 6

Event: Shaan’s Love in concert

Details: Well-known Bollywood singer Shaan will be at the Living Arts Centre, 4141 Living Arts Dr. Mississauga at 7:30 p.m.

Contact: For more information, visit here

Event: Aaru Padai Veedu

Details: The Shilompoli Shethra Dance Academy will present Aaru Padai Veedu, a dance drama based on the six holy places of Lord Muruga. The event is happening at the Chinese Cultural Centre, 5183 Sheppard Ave. E. Scarborough at 5 p.m.

Contact: For more information, visit here

Event: Hariharan Concert

Details: Padmashri Hariharan, a Ghazal, classical and Bollywood singer will perform at Brampton’s Rose Theatre, 1 Theatre Ln. Brampton at 7:30 p.m.

Contact: For tickets, visit here

Friday, Oct. 11

Event: Garba with Gujju Rocks

Details: Jagruti Bhatt presents Garba with Gujju Rocks at the Brampton Soccer Centre, 1495 Sandalwood Pkwy. E. at 7 p.m.

Contact: For tickets and more, visit here

Event: Sugar Sammy – Canadian tour 2019

Details: Montreal’s tri-lingual comic – Sugar Sammy (Samir) will perform at the Rose Theatre, 1 Theatre Ln. in Brampton at 7:45 p.m.

Contact: To purchase tickets, visit here

Saturday, Oct. 12

Event: Svarita Garba

Details: Harita Desai and Rajan Desai will perform at the Svarita Cultural Forum’s Garba. The event will take place at Bramalea Secondary School, 510 Balmoral Dr. Brampton from 8 p.m. onward.

Contact: Cost of tickets is $18/person and can be purchased here

Saturday, Oct. 12-13

Event: Navratri Garba 2019

Details: Ma Ambe Entertainment presents the Sri Atul Purohit Navratri Garba 2019 at the International Centre, 6900 Airport Rd., Mississauga Saturday, Oct. 12-13 at 7 p.m. on both the days. There will be an Indian food festival hosted by Veggie Planet at the venue.

Contact: Cost of tickets is $25 + service fee ($0.75) and can be purchased here

Wednesday, Oct. 16

Event: Mandala

Details: Sampradaya Dance Creations will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Living Arts Centre with a kinetic work that bridges the gap between Tibetan Buddhists and Hinduism through music and dance. The event runs at the Living Arts Centre, 4141 Living Arts Dr. Mississauga at 7p.m.

Contact: For more information visit here

Friday, Oct. 18

Event: Diwali Dhamaka 2019

Details: K.C Group will host a Diwali Dhamaka 2019 at Bombay Palace Banquet Hall, 200 Advance Blvd. Brampton at 6 p.m.

Contact: For tickets and more, visit here

Event: Sid Sriram

Details: Chennai-born, San Francisco native Sid Sriram blends eastern and western sounds with his pop/soul, alternative music. He will perform at the Danforth Music Hall, 147 Danforth Ave., Toronto at 7 p.m.

Contact: For more details, visit here

Hindus will celebrate Diwali 2019, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019. Image: Pixabay

Thursday, Oct. 24

Event: Festival of Lights/Queer-wali celebration

Details: The Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention will host its Queer-wali celebration at 459 Church St. (2nd floor), Toronto at 5:30 p.m. There will be drag performances by Seema Dikshit, a bazaar and more

Contact: For details visit here