Raveena graced the stage on airy lilac silks while humming to a crowd of around 100 and bringing Bollywood-style dancing to DC at the 9:30 Club last Friday as part of her Asha’s Awakening tour.
Raveena, an Indian-American singer-songwriter, performed alongside a guitarist, keyboardist and bassist to present a mix of psychedelic songs ranging from jazz to R&B from her latest album “Asha’s Awakening,” which she released in February after spending four years creating this. Raveena’s performance combined slow jazz – allowing time for the audience to appreciate the power and soul of her music – and energetic South Asian songs to create a stunning assortment of music.
The experimental artist gained traction after releasing her debut EP, “Shanti” in 2017 for the album’s mixed genres and explored the concepts of self-love and self-care, especially from the point of view of a woman of color. Her 2019 debut album ‘Lucid’, which follows the journey of love and betrayal through a relationship, received critical acclaim cheerand Raveena continued to make a appearance on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert later that year.
Raveena said in a 2017 interview with Vice that she was exposed to jazz at an early age and strove to showcase her culture and promote self-love through mixed genres in hits like the dreamlike “Close 2 U” and “Temptation” by Eden. She said she strived to make her music a space for women of color, many of whom made up the crowd at the 9:30 Club who sang her lyrics throughout the performance. The crowd of around 1,000 people filled the hall but left room to breathe.
R&B artist Fana Hues opened the performance, warming up the crowd with a soulful vocal. Hues kicked off the night at 10:30 p.m. with heavy bass and a vibrato-rich vocal. Accompanied by a DJ, her set quickly elicited rhythmic swaying from audience members rocking to songs like groovy, gospel-heavy “BAD bad” and grungy, upbeat “Lay Up.”
Hues released her second album, “flora + fana,” a collection of soulful R&B songs in March, and previously provided backing vocals on Tyler, the creator’s Grammy-winning album “CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST.”
About two and a half hours after the doors opened, Raveena kicked off her performance with “Mystery,” a mellow song that continued Fana Hues’ cold but rhythmic energy. She delivered a theatrical performance, crouching dramatically on the stage floor as she sang her intense, relationship-focused lyrics.
A tower bearing Raveena’s name rose above the stage. The lighting, which oscillated between pinks and purples throughout the show, accentuated the large screen on stage which displayed pulsating color gradients and Punjabi space animations. Princess whose story became the focal point of “Asha’s Awakening”.
“Kismet,” an uplifting and distinctly South Asian song from the new album, stood out deeper overall with a catchy beat and a combination of vocals and vocals.
Raveena rocked her hips and turned her head side to side with wide-eyed, open-mouthed expressions for a theatrical touch throughout the show. The show created the feel of a Bollywood performance with rapid count-ins and brief lulls from the drumbeat. Her physical performance, natural enough not to seem too choreographed, was clearly thought out.
Raveena’s vocals were reminiscent of artists like The Marias or Billie Eilish–light, but with a vibrato. His backing guitarist provided a strong, brassy sound and his drummer provided a light, distinctly South Asian-inspired beat.
Raveena covered the song “Dum Maro Dum”, a psychedelic Bollywood song from 1971 that she said people would get high with lyrics that translate to “Puff, take a puff”. Its cover split from the original with strong guitar chords and an increased tempo.
As she de-escalated from the song’s high energy, Raveena led the crowd through a silent meditation of approximately two minutes, telling audience members to calmly inhale and exhale.
“I want to see how far we can silence twelve hundred people,” she said.
Keeping the crowd involved, Raveena gently handed out bouquets of fresh purple flowers during “Petal,” a slow, dreamy song, and even brought an audience member onto the stage for a dance. The flowers matched Raveena’s athletic lilac jumpsuit and makeup with light purple highlights.
After stopping the energy, Raveena energized the crowd by shouting “Get ready to dance!” and began his performance of “Secret” as his drummer rapped rapper Vince Staples’ part of the song.
Towards the end of her set, audience members brought their vinyls back on stage for Raveena to sign.
As the audience screamed for an encore after Raveena left the stage, the crew set up an approximately 8-foot-tall pyramid made of metal bars and lilac silks falling from the top, creating suspense and excitement in the public. Raveena came back on stage and grabbed the silks, swaying gently as she performed “Endless Summer,” a smooth, relaxed song. She took her time in a quiet performance, giving the audience a chance to calm down and listen to her dark lyrics of loss and unrequited love.
Raveena capped off the night with “Tweety,” an audience-favorite R&B song that gave her one last chance to show off her sweet yet strong voice.
Raveena created an evening of soulful songs, jazzy beats and smooth vocals enhanced with South Asian flair that audience members followed late into the night.