Ruby Singh Artist From Vancouver Uncaging The Norms Of Music
Ruby Singh Artist From Vancouver Uncaging The Norms Of Music
Ruby Singh is an interdisciplinary artist and facilitator currently residing on unceded Coast Salish Territories, Vancouver BC. Ruby’s work meets at the intersection of social justice and the arts, and for the past 14 years, he has been growing his understanding of anti-oppression and empowerment work. He has created and led hundreds of programs and training with youth and adults. Ruby brings a focused presence, strong leadership skills, and a contagious enthusiasm, which effectively engages, inspires, and guides participants.
Formerly a board member of Artstarts, he leads programs with a variety of organizations including the Access to Media Education Society, an organization dedicated to anti-oppression training and putting media tools in the hands of marginalized people; the Power of Hope, an art’s based empowerment organization; the Sarah McLachlan School of Music, a free music school for inner-city youth; and he co-founded Metaphor, a program dedicated to bringing hip hop workshops and performances into schools, detention centers, and rural communities.
I listen to your album Jhalaak and Aarti. Beautiful composition and a blend of rap and Sufi music. What is the inspiration behind the album?
The inspiration for these albums really came from meeting the other incredible artists that are in those collaborations. Jhalaak’s initial spark was from about 7 years ago when we all collaborated at the Indian Summer Festival. Since then we have traveled back and forth between India and Canada to create the album. Rajasthan Josh has an incredible living library of songs within the family and from there we chose some of our favorite qawwals and I set out on the task to write rap interpretations of the poetry and enlisted Adham Shaikh to co-create that electronic music that could sit in the music. On my travels in India, while working on the album, I brought my rap interpretations to Dr. Madan Gopal Singh to look over and offer some feedback. After a few days together in Delhi, Madan Ji proposed the idea of us collaborating for the 550th celebration of Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s life. I jumped at the chance and soon became fast friends with Chaar Yaar. I have to say that neither of these albums would have been possible without the generous support of Sirish Rao, artistic director of ISF.
You are a poet, a photographer besides your other talents in films, music, and visual art. Which one is your most favorite?
My favorite is the meeting place where these forms can fold into each other.
Tell us about your work in music and films? Let’s go a little off the topic. Have you thought about working in the Bollywood industry? What are your views about the industry?
My music is really a wide swath of inspiration and creation. I like making everything from ambient compositions, to ease the tensions in this world, to EDM and hip hop that can whip up a frenzy on the dance floor. I’m inspired by so many styles and genres of music, including the incredible sounds in nature. My film work is definitely a little more experimental in nature, I really enjoy palimpsests and setting the world upon the world on top of each other. I mostly create video poems and music videos myself but have had the opportunity to score several films for others and it’s an absolute joy to create the emotional landscape of a scene.
Indian Summer Festival is one of the great events in Vancouver. Tell us about your experience.
Indeed it is! I have had the most incredible times being a part of the ISF family. I can honestly say I wouldn’t be the artist I am today without the generosity of ISF. As both artist and attendee, it truly is a feast for the senses, for the mind, heart, and spirit. I feel lifted, reflected, and engaged when it’s ISF time. Through ISF, I have found some of the most meaningful, long-term collaborations with phenomenal artists from around the globe. I have never grown alongside a festival and felt so supported to branch into new forms of expression.
Singing is a beautiful art. Have you taken formal training for singing? How many hours do you practice?
I have taken classes here and there but my life and artwork have been very DIY. It really all depends on the day and week but I make a point to sing every day.
What attracts you to Sufi music? What sort of music did you grow up on?
The ecstatic nature of music and poetry is a gravitational force I don’t want to fight. The incredible musicianship melts my bones and my will becomes the will of wills. I grew up listening to all kinds of music including Ustaad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan but it wasn’t until I really started to want to pursue music, that I could step into a sliver of understanding of how incredible this form was. Asides from that I grew up on bhangra, Bollywood, pop, and hip hop music. There was a point in my teens where I couldn’t fall asleep without being serenaded by the radio.
Can you tell us a little bit about your childhood?
I was the first of my family born on a turtle island in the Crowsnest pass in Blackfoot territories. We were/are a Punjabi immigrant family, so in our case, that meant a lot of moving around. I am one of 5 brothers with a whole bunch of nephews and nieces that I love.
What is the next project you are working on?
I am presently working on an all-vocal project by a group of BIPOC artists called Vox. Infold. I am creating an ambisonic installation at the incredible LOBE studios using this incredible 4D sound technology. This is being co-presented by Indian Summer Festival and the Vancouver International Jazz Festival. Vox.Infold: a powerhouse vocal ensemble based on the unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, and səl̓ílwətaʔɬ/Selilwitulh Nations (Vancouver BC). This dynamic squad uses traditional and emergent sonic practices to create compositions that express the vast spectrum of the human experience. They remind us that the human voice is an adaptation of the metabolic activity most crucial to our existence – breathing, this is how the atmosphere enters our beings. Evoking loneliness, joy, the mysterious and supernatural, Vox. Infold brings together musical luminaries, Dawn Pemberton, Inuksuk Mckay, Russell Wallace, Tiffany Ayalik, Tiffany Moses, Shamik Bilgi, and Ruby Singh.
Some words for your fans.
Catch Ruby Singh at ISF2021:
Ancient Futures – Musical Inheritances & Vox.Infold, LOBE Studios.
Premiere: July 8th, 7pm PDT
Learn more/get tickets to Vox.Infold