After Bombay Royale, Parvyn is bringing her own project on stage

By Indira Laisram
Parvyn. Pic supplied

As the frontwoman of Melbourne’s very successful cult cross-cultural band Bombay Royale, Parvyn has sung Bollywood vintage songs for years establishing a solid connection between her and the audience. However, the past few years have seen a shift in her personal and professional life—she became a mother and she has just released her solo debut album ‘Sa’. Indeed, Parvyn has come a long way, and Sa showcases the scope of her music representing the ‘synthesis of a lifetime of work and experience’.

The pandemic, says Parvyn, helped her finish her record. “It was challenging but I managed to do it and it’s been so fulfilling to be able to finally have this music out.”

Connecting over zoom from Kangaroo Island, there is a sense of satisfaction and happiness permeating. “This (the album) has been the first opportunity where I’ve really been able to tell my own story—going through motherhood, going through my life as a young person growing up in Australia with a very strong connection to my Punjabi and Sikh culture, but then growing up in the western world where English has been my first language,” says Parvyn.

Much of Pavyn’s story supports this theory of why her music has been Indian melodic music and rhythm. With Sa too, she brings the song writing by expressing herself comfortably in English but using the medium of Indian style music. “I really brought together those two worlds and I wanted to be authentic in telling my story. I’ve had mental health issues in the past and I just wanted to be really honest in my experience of life until this point,” she says.

By her own telling, “Guest musicians on Indian and Western instruments including bansuri, piano, violin and sitar lend acoustic timbres and fluidity to beds of beats, synthesizers and loops reminiscent of British Asian Underground and world-pop artists like Nitin Sawhney and Sheila Chandra.”

Parvyn. Pic supplied

Sa in Hindi means saans or to breathe and Sa is the first note of the Indian melodic scales. So, Sa being Parvyn’s first album is where it gets its name from.

Parvyn’s career started literally in her childhood. Born to renowned singer and musician Dya Singh, she started performing with her father from a young age following what she calls “the path of least resistance”.

“It just happened. I started performing with my dad from such a young age that I just kept going and kept getting different opportunities. I never forced myself into one direction, I kept saying yes to things and from that it has grown,” she reflects.

At university, Parvyn dabbled in engineering but ended up doing journalism. It was something she did for fun, going with the flow of the time. However, her singing became her full-time job.

It was in 2010 that Parvyn hooked up with Bombay Royale, the year the band was formed. Band leader Andy Williamson’s idea was to present live vintage music. Based in Brunswick, Williamson’s hobby was collecting old records from India and he soon realised that there was not anyone else doing live vintage music. It helped that he had professional musician friends who shared the same interest.

Parvyn recalls meeting members of the band who were all part of the Melbourne funk and jazz musical scene. “They were all non-Indians and I came into this little room in a warehouse in Brunswick. They were all playing these songs that I remember listening to on record as a child—songs of Asha Bhosle, Lata Mangeshkar and I thought this is so crazy, how a group of non-Indians have come together to play this music.”

Parvyn. Pic supplied

Being a part of that music made her really appreciate and proud of the culture she came from. She realised it’s the type of music that that can cross all barriers. “It was really a liberating experience for me, something where I could be proud of. Also, with that band I was playing the character of a mysterious lady and it gave me the opportunity to be a larger than life character. I am quite shy and private otherwise, but I was acting to be the mysterious lady where I got the opportunity to just let express myself in a very flamboyant type of way. That has then helped me to be able to be more of that in my personal life.”

Her journey with Bombay Royale has come to a halt for now as she is concentrating on brand Parvyn. “Bombay Royale has finished playing. We will see what happens in the future, but my main focus is this solo project. I am also trying to enjoy being a mother and a wife while also making sure that I keep working at my artistic practice.”

The next few months are full on. Among other things, Parvyn will be seen at the WOMADelaide 2022 Festival in March where she will be presenting a six-piece band incorporating the bansuri, drums, keyboard, base, guitar. “Its my own style of music,” she reiterates.

Interestingly, she performed at the same festival in 1992 as a child with her father and the event had a great impact in her life. She recalls seeing Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Shiela Chandra. “It was one of the first festivals that I really saw our music being performed on a large-scale stage in front of the general population.”

Parvyn. Pic supplied

But to be now able to bring her own project as Parvyn to WOMADelaide 2022 is a very exciting prospect for her. “I am going to be bringing everything that I have learnt over the last 30 years of having been involved in the industry and fine tuning my skills to this show,” says Parvyn.

Finding her voice as a songwriter, she reveals, has been a real struggle because she has, for a very long time, either sung Gurbani (Sikh devotional music) with her father backed by a training and guidance on how to get that music and tonal quality. “And then I went into Bollywood music which was sort of a high-pitched nasal sounding tone, but then alongside I would also sing jazz, pop and blues.”

The resilience came through the words of her guru Atul Desai in Ahmedabad, India, who unfortunately is no more. “He would say there are three stages of a singer—first you are a monkey, you just do what you are told to do, then you are a parrot and you imitate all of your favourite singers, the third stage is when you become a peacock where through repetition and riyaz or practice you find your own tone and your own voice,” recalls Parvyn.

As Parvyn’s reputation grows, so does her singing ambitions. She wants to be a part of increasing the representation of south Asian culture in this country—connecting communities and artists together. “That’s a big passion of mine going forward. Opportunities are available and if you want help in getting funding, contact people like me who are there to help you,” she says.

With a great response to her first album, Parvyn is hoping to tour more with that project and also get into production, collaborating with film directors and dance choreographers as well. An exceptional time for an exceptional artist!

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