Under the Radar
It is amazing to me how many of us cannot say what is on our minds. It is even more amazing to me that a few people are brave enough to publicly describe their innermost thoughts, and quite poetically at that.
“I don’t really know how it happened,” said senior Indra Raj, who has been writing songs for years now.
Indra grew up in Boulder, Colorado, where the public high school offered a performance class. It was in this class that Indra was first inspired by a fellow student to try songwriting herself.
“I was really in awe of what she was doing,” Indra said.
Around the same time she was finding her voice in a songwriting context, Indra, a veteran musician, finally picked up the guitar, which has since become her main instrument in composition.
No stranger to the musical world, Indra had been playing piano since the age of five and is now a college music major, playing classical flute. But, with her brother’s help, she picked out the first few chords on the guitar and picked up what she hopes will be a career.
I listened to four of Indra’s tunes through her MySpace Music account, and found them to reside in an undefinable area between genres, with a primarily acoustic sound.
“I wouldn’t call it folk music, but it definitely has influences of that,” said Indra.
Lyrically, the tunes are a mixture of reminiscence and speculation, commenting on her life here at Oberlin. A particularly vivid description of a summer spent at home in Boulder is titled “June.”
“‘June’ is sort of an ode to my friends and the good feelings of that summer,” she said.
Another song, “Red and White,” is about feeling the sun after a long Oberlin winter, something to which we can all relate.
“The sun is on my face again / the grass is on my back again / it’s cold but the sun is shining,” she sings.
Indra named the Beatles and Radiohead as her two biggest influences, but it is the third mention, Sufjan Stevens, that is most apparent in her music.
All the songs have a haunting lyrical quality to them; Indra’s voice is the main focus, accompanied by simple (although at times unconventional) chord progressions on the guitar. And Indra certainly can sing; at times she hardly needs instrumentation beyond that.
She recorded the tracks using GarageBand to test the ears and thoughts of her peers before deciding which to include in her album.
As a college music major, Indra feels the great benefits the Con’s resources, especially in music theory.
“Now I know what I’m playing,” she said, commenting on how her earlier songs were written entirely by ear.
After graduation, Indra plans to move to New York City in order to find her place in the music scene. For now, she is glad to be surrounded by fellow Oberlin musicians, playing at the Cat in the Cream, as well as the annual Folk Fest.
Indra says what’s on her mind in a way that’s just innovative enough to be compelling. She puts together a little bit of Oberlin, a little bit of music and a lot of herself to make what promise to be successful songs. Oberlin already knows it, and now we must only wait for the rest of the world to take the hint.