Interview with Anjali Kumar ’17

Melanie Sayarath ‘17
Assistant Features Editor

I sat down with Anjali Kumar ’17, one of the founding members of Smith’s Music Collective on Saturday night after she hosted an attic gig featuring musicians from Smith College and the Five-College Area in her apartment in Northampton. Kumar recently started a jazz/experimental band called Ginger Libations with Vishal Arvidam of UMass, Eli Catlin of Northampton, Madden Aleia ’20 and Lydia Ivanovic ’19 of Smith. She has been part of a number of music projects during her time at Smith and has collaborated with musicians both within and outside of the Smith community. Through her work with the Music Collective, Kumar hopes to create inclusive, intimate spaces where Smith musicians and artists can get together to jam and gain experience in live performing.

Tell us about your involvement in the Smith Music Scene.

I’m part of the Smith Music Collective. It started last year by four students and I was in a band with the founding members of the collective. As I got more involved in music in general, I realized how difficult it is to be a female body in the music world. Music is having confidence in performing. There is this phenomenon where women performers think they shouldn’t occupy space. I wanted to be a part of a movement to foster confidence in young chicks or non-binary people, so I got involved in the Music Collective and the music scene. The music scene at Smith is pretty small, so I’d be hesitant to call it a scene, but it’s definitely something that is developing.

How would you describe the musical sensibilities of Smith artists? A lot of the artists who performed tonight sort of have a similar sound.  Maybe this has to do with the nature of DIY live performing. That’s not to say their music isn’t distinct or unique, but as with every sort of “musical moment” of the times, there is a lot of overlap in the music we hear from artists coming out of the same area, during the same period.

A lot of people at Smith are solo artists and there’s this stereotype, of like, a Smith acoustic solo artist singing some gay songs. It’s awesome, and I love that, but I definitely see Smith artists existing in that realm of like Junoesque, Moldy Peaches sort of thing. There are also a lot of people at Smith who are really into Punk. We’re trying to get Power Bottom to come perform. I feel like my newest project Ginger Libations is sort of its own thing, and it’s very experimental.

What do you think is the best way to get more people involved in the music community?

I reached out to people over Facebook and was like “Hey, I have this attic that I think would be a great show space. If you want to play, you should!” I value any music and anything anyone is willing to present because you’re putting yourself out there. We have a music community at Smith that I want to support. People won’t gain confidence if they don’t have space or opportunities to practice in a live setting. I always encourage people to “open jam” and just play with each other in a casual setting. Speaking from personal experience, I know I get very anxious the whole day before a show and I hate playing alone. I refuse to play alone because I hate to feel vulnerable.

Do you think that’s why they call Smith’s open mic night in the Campus Center “Jittery’s”?

That’s so real! Jittery’s is another great example of opportunities around campus for the Smith music community because they have to book a Smith act as the opener. Providing people with open, inclusive spaces to jam is what I think the collective and music community at Smith really tries to foster. There’s not a hierarchical “better than you” vibe, it’s a supportive environment.

What about off-campus music events such as this one? The DIY scene in the Pioneer Valley/Five-College area has always thrived. Do you see what you’re doing as a direct continuation of the sort of music culture that this area has cultivated over time? Or do you think there’s something to be said about the way our generation approaches DIY music production and event organizing?

I think we are continuing the sort of DIY culture that has developed over time and it’s definitely a genre that really exists and thrives in the music collective. This area must have a lot of influence on that. House shows for example are amazing and intimate and create such a great creative environment. I also think we’re a continuation of DIY culture simply because we’re under-resourced, and that is really the only space where we can exist because it’s the only space we have right now.

Can you talk about your recording process?

I took a class at Hampshire called “Computer Music” and that class changed my life. I learned how to basically just layer one track over the other to create two sequences that are happening simultaneously, which allows solo artists to create a fuller sound. Using GarageBand or something like Ableton you can record something then record over it. It’s like a loop pedal. For me that’s been amazing because it’s really helped my creative process. I usually write my songs with a guitar because I recognize the chords I know by ear. I record it on my phone and then listen to the track all day when I’m feeling really into it and then try to add onto it. I don’t think I’d be able to write without technology, which sounds kind of weird to say. Maybe I would, but it’s given me the to ability to hear myself as if I’m in a full band. It’s really empowering because you can create such a full sound, which to me is always more engaging.

The artists who played Anjali’s Jammy Jamz Attic Gig were:

Mica (Mia Lloyd ’19)

Michelle Eskin ‘18

Madden Aleia ‘20

Ginger Libations

To hear some of Anjali’s music check out her Soundcloud:

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