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
“For you, I sing: to remind you of your ability to transform this world. You are divine light.” These are the opening words to Daughter of a Temple (2019), composed, written and sung by Ganavya.
Tamil Nadu-raised and New York-born critically acclaimed vocalist Ganavya lives, learns, and loves fluidly from the nexus of many frameworks and understandings. Hers is a deeply profound and rooted voice. A multidisciplinary creator, she is a soundsmith and wordsmith. Trained as an improviser, scholar, dancer, and multi-instrumentalist, she maintains an inner library of “spi/ritual” blueprints offered to her by an intergenerational constellation of collaborators, continuously anchoring her practice in pasts, presents and, futures. Much of her childhood was on the pilgrimage trail, learning the storytelling art form of harikathā and singing poetry that critiques hierarchal social structures. She is a co-founder of the non-hierarchical We Have Voice Collective.
Hers is a life of nonlinearity, and singularity. Despite not not being schooled traditionally as a child, she carries degrees in theatre (Broward Community College) and psychology (F.I.U.), with graduate degrees in Contemporary Performance (Berklee College of Music), ethnomusicology (UCLA), and Creative Practice and Critical Inquiry (Harvard). Both as an educator and student, she “wishes to study and bring liberative techniques into this world… study certain dyads: what empowers, who is disempowered; what heals, who is ailing— and wishes to wed the two.”
Recent works include: a film made during the pandamic titled this body is so impermanent... (2021) directed by her close collaborator Polar Music Awardee Peter Sellars, featuring Ganavya (composition, solo voice), legendary calligrapher Wang Dongling, and acclaimed dancer Michael Schumacher (choreography, dance). The piece was created over a 6-month intensive collaborative period, where Ganavya worked from the rural mountains of Oregon, Michael from Amsterdam, Peter from LA, and Wang Dongling from China. Additional works include: 64-hour piece titled Atlas Unlimited: Acts VII - X (2019) where she continuously generated material from the narrative of Zakaria Almoutlak, a Syrian with refugee status; Daughter of a Temple (2019) a 56’51” composed piece for two loudspeakers that drew from Alice Coltrane-Turiyasangitananda’s Monument Eternal, as premiered in the 13th Havana Biennial for Carrie Mae Weems’s The Spirit That Resides; Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra Chapter 7: The Goddess (2019) directed by Peter Sellars, featuring Ganavya (composition, solo voice) and Michael Schumacher (choreography, dance). Her written work includes a collection of 101 short essays titled ether, will appear in the forthcoming issue of Arcana: Musicians on Music, edited by John Zorn.
Selected forthcoming works include words for Wayne Shorter and Esperanza Spalding's forthcoming opera Iphigenia; leading How To Cure A Ghost: The Album, songs made from Fariha Roisin’s poetry; Sister Idea, an album made on WhatsApp with bassist and composer Munir Hossn, and Let’s Go Out and Play, commissioned by the Jerome Foundation for Roulette Intermedium.
(Last updated: 2021)
"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