daughters, sons, all beings transcendent
you, forged by a union of worlds
walk the path created for you
knowing that it is you who create it
Vocalist, scholar, and composer Ganavya has carved a niche for herself at the nexus of South Indian vocal styles and contemporary music. Her own debut album, Aikyam: Onnu, ("Harmony: One") features the incredible breadth of her character: it draws from an amalgam of ancient Indian spirituals she learnt during pilgrimages as a child, with an anchor in jazz standards that she has translated to Tamil from English, showcasing a linguistic command over her two mother-tongues.
She holds degrees in theatre and psychology (FIU), and graduate degrees in contemporary performance (Berklee College of Music), and ethnomusicology (UCLA). She was awarded one of Berklee's first Post-Graduate Fellowships, for which she constructed a course titled Sounds of Indian Music, and published a text under the same name for the course. Most recently, she studied Creative Practice and Critical Inquiry at Harvard University.
She has learnt from, or performed and recorded with: Danilo Perez, Placido Domingo, James Newton, Victor Wooten, Wadada Leo Smith, Alain Perez, Perico Sambeat, Vijay Iyer, Zakir Hussain, Laura Karpman, Polo Orti, Victor Mendoza, Sandra Carrasco, Javier Limón, Ousso Lotfy, Tyshawn Sorey, Claire Chase, and Zebbler Encanti Experience, among other artists who have influenced her work. Recently, she sang on the Quincy Jones-produced Tocororo, which hit #1 on jazz charts.
During her time in South India, she learnt how to play the jalatharangam, a near-extinct instrument championed by her late grandmother, Kalaimamani Smt. Seetha Doraiswamy. Her Karnatik vocal guru is Karaikkal R. Jaishankar, a senior student of Kalaimamani Sri Vairamangalam Lakshminarayanan.
For over a decade, she learned extensively from, and toured with, the troupe of Sri Tukaram Ganapathy Maharaj, where she became well-versed in the varakari tradition of singing abhangs, which are devotional poems written by Maharashtrian Hindu saints c.a. 12th through the 17th centuries.
Ganavya graduated in the dance art form of bharatanatyam under Smt. Radhika Vairavelavan (née Ganesh), student of Smt. Ambika Buch, of the renowned Kalakshetra College of Fine Arts. In a publication titled Rasam for the Dancer's Soul, Ganavya worked on cataloguing many of the hand gestures as part of FIU's SRAI initiative.
"fervently creative vocalist
who wove soaring melismatic scales...
sung with aching emotional intensity" jazztimes
"most enchanting...soars over" npr
"haunting" all about jazz
"Ganavya creates a lush twine out of American and South Asian traditions, and on “Aikyam: Onnu,” this vocalist and scholar’s majestic debut album, the upshot feels more like an expansive invitation than any definable hybrid. Ganavya has populated jazz standards with lyrics from Tamil poetry and songs of anticolonial resistance . . . No matter the language or the content, Ganavya’s voice is a thick ephemera, like smoke as dark as ink, just coming off the fire."
New York Times