Exclusive Interview: Owen Devadas
Crown The Brown: The Essence of Owen Devadas. Owen Devadas from Durban brought the heat a few months back when he went viral! Owen attended Prom in his best South Asian attire and left everyone stunned. His post celebrating his culture went viral. It led to an amazing musical journey with the release of his track – Essence. We had the privilege of interviewing Owen Devadas, here is what he shared with us!
You were recently a viral phenomenon regarding your beautiful tribute to attending prom in South Asian attire! It made us extremely proud! How has the new found fame changed your online persona and your daily life?
In all honesty it has completely changed. It is really incredible to have received so many messages about how I inspired others with the statement of my “east meets west” inspired prom outfit. I was really honored to have the post go viral. With the amazing help of brown girl gang and crown the brown who really inspired me to make the move of going to MD in South Indian attire and used their platforms to help me further my cause. My daily life has changed incredibly.
There is a lot more attention than I am used to be publicly recognized is something very new to me. I never thought so many people were aware of the statement I made until I got asked on a couple of occasions to take a picture with someone. It really is as if I’m a celebrity in SA, especially in Durban. The thought of that is just crazy and I’m extremely thankful for having been given the opportunity to build my own platform in this process.
Owen Devadas, The Essence of it all! Not only are you proudly Indian, but you are now officially a musician! You have recently released a single called Essence. Tell us more about the single.
It really is crazy. For my first song to have received over 53000 views made my heart fall to the floor. It’s crazy to think that I made it just for fun, because I promised my followers I would make a song if I got to 10k followers.
Surprisingly I actually reached my target. At that point I couldn’t go back on my word, even though I had no experience with the making of music. That’s when I asked for help from my musical genius friend Tendai who’s producer name is Keith Geniek.
He made the beat inspired from my favorite movie Khabi Khushi Khabi Gham, which I wanted in the song, and taught me how to rap on beat and keep a flow. With that being said I did write all of my lyrics and set the theme and story of the song but Tendai really orchestrated it to perfection.
Without him there would be no essence. After the song I doubled my following, which is really amazing to me, because it was another step toward growing my platform. To see how many people loved the song after I had stressed so much about it was amazing to me.
What do you enjoy the most about music and which artists inspire your sound?
I love the fact that music brings people together and has the ability to actually make a change through its message. I love the fact that when you listen to a song. Even for a minute, you forget about all of life’s problems. You are able to enjoy and be in tuned with the song without worrying about anything else; a kind of escape. There are many artists and movies that have inspired me.
In fact, Khabi Khushi Khabi Gham was my main inspiration for essence. If you listen to the beginning of essence you will hear the Khabi Khushi Khabi Gham clearly. Artists such as Badsha, Yo Yo Honey Singh, Travis Scott, Drake and POLO G have also influenced me to some degree, and inspired me to add my own unique spice to the song.
As a South Asian male, how do you feel like you are perceived within the music industry and online? What challenges and stereotypes have you faced?
I feel like people expect me to be making Bhangra music just because of my appearance. Which is far from the case. I am interested in rap, trap, soul, R&B, and pop music, most genres in fact. I’m not afraid to diversify my music and explore. My challenge is that people expect me to make bhangra or traditional music just because I’m Indian, but I’m going to do what I love, because I feel in music you have to be true to yourself. I have faced many challenges and negativity from people regarding the song and whether my message and experience was authentic.
I was told not to wear ethnic wear to my prom, but I wore it as a statement regardless. My message’s aim was to integrate the different parts of the experience to show people that it’s okay to embrace who you are and that you can be proud of your culture while also being part of our mixed society. There is no reason why you should hide parts of your identity, simply because there aren’t many that share this identity with you.
What has been the best feedback you have gotten since the release and what inspired the name Essence?
The best feedback is from pages and people who I admire. Such as brown girl gang, crown the brown and Urban Asian, who loved the song. It was also amazing to see the positive feedback from people back in Durban, my hometown.
The name ‘Essence’ was actually inspired by something my mom said to me. She said, “Owen you are my essence.” That inspired the theme of the song, because I felt that every individual has their own essence. To me, is something unique about them. The aim of the song was to embrace your own uniqueness, so I felt essence fit perfectly.
As a teenager working towards a tertiary future, what has been the biggest challenge having an online platform of such magnitude and balancing school life?
In my final year of high school it really is not easy to balance Owen Devadas at school and Owen Devadas online but I realized that although it’s not easy I have a responsibility to raise awareness for certain issues in our country and in our lives, because I have the influence to do that. I feel it’s my responsibility to do so because of this opportunity I have.
The biggest challenge is putting up content and satisfying your following, which is not easy when you have exams that determine your future just around the corner. So I decided that I will only release more songs and content in December when I have the time to focus all my energy on the music and other projects. So keep me on the radar in December. Because I can promise you there’s going to be a lot you will want to see.
You have inspired many young South Asian males to celebrate their culture and not conform to western standards. What do you love most about being Indian?
I love that Indian food hits the spot like no other and that after a meal from my granny I’m good for the week. Our unique and beautiful culture as a whole, our artworks, our genuine nature of doing things, our colors, our patterns and the beautiful aura we bring to a room. I love it all. Words can not describe how much I love being Indian, and how keen I am to embrace it.
How do you plan on using your platform in the future towards encouraging diversity and South Asian representation in future projects?
I am going to encourage diversity in my unique way of using fashion and music. I have already started mixing traditional/cultural wear with normal everyday clothing in hopes of inspiring diversity which has already worked with the prom example, but in December I will do it on a much larger scale to show people that diversity is amazing and should be celebrated.
Similarly, I am also scheduled for a few talks at schools and radios to talk about our unique diversity and how to encourage it so I will be assessing and encouraging the topic of diversity through these platforms.
What future projects can we expect from you soon?
There is so much you can expect. The essence music video, which is already in progress, along with at least 4 songs all produced by Keith Geniek with features from Keith and other artists all coming out in December, with a surprise love song. A few live stage performance in December at big events. A clothing line which is in the works.
Another passion is also cricket, so big plans on playing for a professional team which will all be revealed in December, but I can promise you that it is going to happen. You can also expect some campaigns and collaborations with crown the brown, which will have everyone off their feet. I also have a manager now, which is my best friend Ruan who has already started organizing everything for December. December is going to be huge and I know everyone will love what I have got in store.
What advice do you have for other brown boys to encourage South Asian representation ?
Just be true to yourself. The world may try to bring you down, but you have to remember who you are. People may say “that’s not in fashion” or “that’s not cool”. But you have to remember that to them, being Indian might not be cool, but to you it’s the definition. I wrote down this quote and I think it sums up my message perfectly, it goes “nobody likes their food bland so add that spice.”
Basically what it means is that add that unique flavor to the table that only brown boys can bring. Because let’s face it, a curry without spice is not a curry; an Indian boy without his culture is not an Indian boy, so embrace it because it’s part of us all!
Furthermore, be sure to follow Owen Devadas amazing journey @owendevadas on instagram!