Raveena delivers aerial performance with soothing vocals at 9:30 Club

Media Credit: Erika Filter I Photographer

Raveena created an evening of soulful songs, jazzy rhythms and mellow vocals heightened with a distinctly South Asian flair that audience members grooved along to late into the night.

Raveena swung across the stage on lilac aerial silks while crooning to a crowd of about 100 people and bringing Bollywood-style dance to D.C. at 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 that varied between jazz and R&B from her newest album “Asha’s Awakening,” which she released in February after spending four years creating it. Raveena’s performance combined slow jazz – leaving time for the audience to appreciate the power and soul of her music – and higher-energy South Asian songs to make for an astounding assortment of music.

The experimental artist gained traction after she released her first EP, “Shanti” in 2017 for the album’s blended genres and explored concepts of self-love and self-care, specifically from the outlook of a woman of color. Her debut 2019 album “Lucid,” which follows the journey of love and betrayal through a relationship, was met with critical acclaim, and Raveena went on to make an 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 highlight her culture and promote self-love through mixed genres in top hits like the dreamlike “Close 2 U” and Eden-like “Temptation.” She said she strives to make her music a space for women of color, many of whom made up the crowd at the 9:30 Club who sang along to her lyrics throughout the performance. The roughly 1000-person crowd filled the venue but left room to breathe.

R&B artist Fana Hues opened the performance, warming the crowd with soulful vocals. Hues started off the evening at 10:30 p.m. with a heavy bass and vibrato-rich vocals. Accompanied by a DJ, her set quickly elicited rhythmic swaying from audience members swaying to songs like groovy, gospel-like “BAD bad” and grungy, upbeat “Lay Up.”

Hues released in March her sophomore album, “flora + fana,” a collection of soulful R&B songs, and previously provided backing vocals on Tyler, the Creator’s Grammy-award-winning album “CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST.”

About two and a half hours after doors opened, Raveena kicked off her performance with “Mystery,” a soft song that continued Fana Hues’ chill, but rhythmic energy. She delivered a theatrical performance, dramatically crouching on the floor of the stage as she sang her intense, relationship-focused lyrics.

A tower bearing Raveena’s name stood tall over the stage. The lighting, which shifted between pinks and purples throughout the show, accentuated the large onstage screen that displayed pulsating color gradients and animations of the Punjabi space princess whose story became the focal point of “Asha’s Awakening.”

“Kismet,” an invigorating and distinctly South Asian song off the new album was a particular standout deeper into the set with a catchy beat and combination of chants and vocals.

Raveena swayed her hips and turned her head from side to side with wide-eyed, open-mouthed expressions for a theatrical flair throughout the show. The spectacle created the feel of a Bollywood performance with rapid counts and brief lulls of the drumbeat. Her physical performance, which was natural enough to not appear overly choreographed, was clearly thought through.

Raveena’s singing was reminiscent of artists like The Marias or Billie Eilish–light, but with a vibrato. Her backing guitarist provided a strong, brassy sound and her 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 to with lyrics that translate to “Puff, take a puff.” Her cover split from the original with strong guitar chords and increased tempo.

As she deescalated from the song’s high energy, Raveena guided the crowd through a roughly two-minute silent meditation telling audience members to breathe in and out calmly.

“I want to see how quiet we can get twelve hundred people,” she said.

Keeping the crowd involved, Raveena gently handed out bunches of fresh purple flowers during “Petal,” a dreamy slow song, and even brought an audience member up on stage to dance. The flowers matched Raveena’s lilac one-piece athletic-looking jumpsuit and makeup featuring light purple highlights.

After bringing the energy to a standstill, Raveena re-invigorated the crowd as she shouted “Get ready to dance!” and began her performance of “Secret” as her drummer rapped the portion of the song by rapper Vince Staples.

Near the end of her set, audience members handed their vinyls up to the stage for Raveena to sign.

As the audience screamed for an encore after Raveena left the stage, the crew set up a roughly 8-foot-tall pyramid consisting of metal bars and lilac silks cascading down from the top, stirring suspense and excitement through the audience. Raveena re-entered the stage and grabbed onto the silks, gently swinging as she performed “Endless Summer,” a relaxed, sweet song. She took her time in a quiet performance, giving the audience a chance to quiet down and listen to her somber lyrics of loss and unrequited love.

Raveena capped off the night with audience-favorite “Tweety,” a pop-like R&B song that gave her a final chance to show off her soft but strong vocals.

Raveena created an evening of soulful songs, jazzy rhythms and mellow vocals heightened with a distinctly South Asian flair that audience members grooved along to late into the night.

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