Picture by Dave Green

It’s barely been a couple of weeks since classes began but the Berklee Indian Ensemble is already rehearsing and gearing up for the upcoming performances this semester. After spending two intense hours working with the vocalists and learning the piece Charishnu, Harshitha Krishnan and I walked out of class, humming harmonies. Having known each other for over two years, I told her I wanted to interview her for the blog and she looked at me and chortled. We got a cup of coffee and sat down to talk about her and her journey at Berklee.

I know we’ve been friends for a while but I still have no idea what you’re majoring in.

*Glares* I’m in my 7th semester of Professional Music. I’m focusing on Performance and Writing.

And when did you start singing?

I’ve been singing since I was a wee little lass in the western part of the African continent. I grew up learning classical Baroque performance as a soprano. However, as I got older, the depths of my range started to emerge and my taste for classical performance dulled. But the vocal techniques from that help me perform jazz and stuffs now. And living in India taught me cool Indian stuffs. Stuffs is cool.

It seems like a rhetorical question, but why did you join the Indian Ensemble?

I joined it because the ensemble was doing things with Indian music that I’d never heard before. I am very interested in being a part of that evolution of contemporary Indian music.Through the ensemble I’ve met some incredible people who also happen to be killing musicians!

And of course, you know how Indians gravitate toward each other when they’re away from India! Brown people solidarity type!

Apart from meeting me, what has been your most memorable moment in the ensemble?

Pretty much every band and choir rehearsal we’ve had! In watching non-Indians try out these vocal styles, I’ve learned how to break everything down to the bone and reconstruct it, which is a really great skill to have as an educator, as well as for my own practice sessions.

Well, is there anything you’d like to say to the Indians applying to come to Berklee?

It is worth it. It is worth all the practice and all the preparation, the stressful audition and interview, the elaborate visa application process, the line at customs; it’s all worth it.

Is there anything else you’d like to say before our next class?

Yes, you are buying me this cup of coffee, right?


Purvaa Sampath