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SALEKA: Her Story, South Asian Representation in Music, & New Single "Seance"

Interview & Photos by: Orchee Sorker | July 4, 2022

What made you want to get into music coming from a film background?

I started playing classical piano when I was four. I don't really remember a time where I wasn't really playing. From the beginning I took it very seriously, my teacher was amazing. She really guided, mentored, and helped me take it seriously. She really made me feel like this is something that I could do…that I could be a musician and showed me that it's like a real option. My parents because my dad is in film and my mom dances…I think the arts were definitely very supported in my household. They were able to kinda appreciate it and accept it and support me in that.

Your new single “Seance” was recently released. What was the creative process behind the song & the message you wanted to convey to your audience?

This song is really about me feeling disconnected from my culture and my roots. Coming from an immigrant family, it's something that I continue to navigate. I have had ups and downs through my life. As a kid, I grew up in a predominantly white school and environment. I felt very insecure about being too Indian or something like that. There were often times where I would kind of suppress aspects of myself to try and fit in. Even quirky things would be considered nerdy. I was really rejecting myself then. Now as an adult, I'm feeling different about that. Especially as an artist, the things that are unique and different are the things that make you be able to create, value, and add things to the world. If you're just trying to fit in, then you won't have anything to add. I'm struggling to come out of that now. It's definitely a pattern that I set for myself. As an adult, I'm trying to navigate those things and reconnect with my history and culture now because I never really appreciated it before. You know, I never tried to understand the traditions. I just accepted it. I'm trying to actively talk to my grandparents, learn about them, hear their stories, and just absorb it. I just wanna take it in and recognize it's a part of me. That song is really about that kind of bringing my true self back.

Congrats on going on tour with Giveon! What is one thing you look forward to on tour?

It is my first full tour. I've opened for people on the pieces of their tour before but not a full tour. I'm very nervous and very excited. Giveon is my dream artist to open for. I literally had a list of dream artists to open for and he was there with like stars next to his name. I love his music and think he's an incredible vocalist. I'm just excited to be part of that show, to learn from him, and meet new people. It's gonna be a huge learning experience for me.

What is it like being an Indian American female in this industry? Do you think representation matters? Do you think your dad [M. Night Shyamalan] helped the way you see/value diversity in the entertainment industry?

Has he helped the way I see and value diversity? Oh, definitely. I would say it's all very connected. My dad being a filmmaker…he kind of roped the representational stereotypes that we have here and was one of the first people. His parents obviously grew up in India and being a filmmaker was just not on their radar…they were like be a doctor or an engineer…anything outside of that, it's the unknown. They found value in that. Because of my dad’s history, my generation felt inspired by that from my cousins to myself. We knew we could do that too. Whether it was acting, singing, performing, writing, whatever it might be, we can follow these artistic careers. It's a real thing to be able to see yourself in that form. That's why representation matters. It's such a weird thing because like when you don't have representation you're not even conscious of it. I didn't even realize how much representation mattered until I started seeing Indians in TV shows and seeing them on screen in music. Then, I would suddenly feel so connected and be like, oh, they're telling my story. There's something I can relate to. This is a family like mine. I realized that I had never felt like that before. I'm realizing how important it is, and I'm lucky to come from a family that I have a great representation. There's a lot of growth that needs to happen, especially in the music industry for South Asian women but it’s starting. I get so excited every time I see another South Asian artist. It's coming and I'm happy about that.

Do you have any advice for any POC females wanting to get into the industry?

In terms of the family aspects, even my parents who are doing amazing things and crazy things, they felt hesitant. There was a transitional period when I stopped playing classical piano, and started singing and performing on stage. Their fear and their kind of resistance to it always came from just wanting to protect you and make sure that your child is safe. If you're going into a field that they know nothing about, it's unknown. They're scared for you and worry about you. Sometimes it doesn't come out in the right ways and may seem like trying to hold you back, but the intention is always protection and love. I try to remember that like with my parents I feel very lucky that I've been supported, but I see that my friends and my cousins are struggling with that with their parents.

Then I would just say, there's gonna be a lot of extreme imposter syndrome. I don't know if that comes from being Indian in an industry that there's not been too many Indians or women. I'm in mostly male dominated spaces. I feel a lot of imposter syndrome, but I'm trying to work through it. I haven't gone to the point where I would like to give advice to people cause I'm still struggling with it. When I first started writing songs, I was 16 and would be in these studios with like all these huge producers. I would never know how to assert myself. I never knew how to communicate. After studying my craft and feeling very confident in my work, I know that I can communicate with people and that I'm a valuable asset in those situations where I'm feeling diminished. I'm learning how to communicate.

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