Tag Archives: #southasianartist

Why Madhubani? Find Out At Our Free Workshop!

Why Madhubani Art?

Madhubani literally means ‘forests of honey’ and refers to paintings in a distinct style that captures viewers’ attention with their vibrancy. ‘Madhubani’, is a folk art handed down over thousands of years from the times of Ramayana. Tradition states that King Janak of Mithila commissioned artists to make paintings for the wedding of his daughter, Sita, to Lord Ram. The womenfolk of the village drew the paintings on the walls of their home as an illustration of their thoughts, hopes, and dreams.

With time, the paintings became a part of festivities and special events. It was unknown to the outside world until the massive Bihar earthquake of 1934. House walls had tumbled down, and the British colonial officer in Madhubani District, William G. Archer, inspecting the damage, ‘discovered’ the paintings on the newly exposed interior walls of homes. Archer was stunned by the beauty of the paintings and their similarities to the work of modern Western artists like Klee, Miro, and Picasso. Slowly and gradually, Madhubani paintings from Bihar, India, crossed the traditional boundaries and started reaching connoisseurs of art at the national as well as the international level. 

Madhubani paintings, done in villages around the present town of Madhubani, were usually done on freshly plastered mud walls of huts. These paintings use two-dimensional imagery, and the colors used are derived from plants. Traditional themes generally revolve around Hindu deities like Krishna, Ram, Shiva, Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswati. The paintings also depict natural objects, like the sun and moon, and religious plants, like tulsi (holy basil). Other motifs include scenes from the royal court and social events, apart from activities from daily life. 

Madhubani is a unique folk art that is said to beckon the gods every morning who comes invisibly to the household to bless the members of the family and to bring prosperity. Hence my fascination with it!

About Bandiworks and Me

I’m a multi-disciplinary artist who enjoys engaging with folk art from across the world – with a special focus on India. The idea is to share with people the simplicity of these creative forms and my love for them – I find them so empowering. I design and conduct experiential workshops for all age groups, giving a contemporary bent to heritage Arts and Crafts. 

At Bandiworks, one of the artforms we worked with extensively is ‘Madhubani’ of Bihar. We have adapted this folk art to create contemporary custom-made articles of use as well as curated paired experiences which introduce you to Madhubani in different settings. Be it along with the traditional food of Bihar, the Dashavatar rendition in Kathak, or the intricate folds of Origami. This juxtaposition makes for thought-provoking forms of expression and gives rise to unexpected conversations.

India Currents and Bandiworks Connects

Join me, in collaboration with India Currents, for a free LIVE Madhubani drawing workshop on March 31st at 6:30pm PDT and 9:30pm EDT.

Sign up for the event here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/146816172123

Join us from anywhere in the world to celebrate Holi and draw Madhubani art.

This event is for all ages and will run as a 1.5 hr online workshop on Zoom.

No previous drawing skills required!!

You will walk away with the knowledge of an age-old traditional art form, appreciation for it because you’ve drawn it yourself, and an hour of relaxation and fun – much needed during these times.

Materials Required:

  • A4 sized paper (Thicker is better. Handmade paper if you have access to it)
  • Fine tipped gel/fibre tipped pens in black and red (fine-tipped sharpies)

Look forward to seeing you all there!


Bandana Agarwal is passionate about folk art from around the world and hopes to make it accessible!

MAALicious: Love Your Artisan Jewelers

Those who love jewelry and the world around them, have something special to celebrate with this Valentine’s Day month.

Designed in New York City and made for the global Indian woman, Maalicious Jewelry was born two years ago out of a desire to empower women artisans in India. The brand aims to innovate and create quintessential jewelry with a rich dose of tradition. Its inspiration is Indian, tribal, and historic. All of its earrings are 24K gold-dipped. Some of its artists get over 50% of the proceedings from the jewelry, and a few of their earrings are made using sustainable material like clay.

Poonam Thimmaiah, Founder of Maalicious

Maalicious’ Founder, Poonam Thimmaiah, spent her childhood hopping across India as her father would get transferred every three years. Growing up in different states developed in her an aesthetic that’s appreciative of and deeply rooted in various Indian subcultures. “I have immense appreciation for Indian handicrafts, and have always dreamt of making products work with women artisans using dwindling art forms that were chic enough to cater to the urban crowd,” says Thimmaiah about the idea behind her handmade jewelry brand.

Born as a pet project, Maalicious was conceived at Poonam’s home in New York while mending a broken heart caused by a miscarriage in her 36th week of pregnancy. “As they say, adversity leads to opportunity, and delving into arts helped me during those dark times,” she recalls. This was combined with her longstanding desire to create and wear her own designs. 

Poonam partnered with differently-abled students studying jewelry in Mysore on her visit to India a few weeks later. She then worked with women artisans to integrate various Indian art forms into the jewelry. A lot of research, learning, sweat, and blood later, they have grown into what Maalicious is today. The brand has had some amazing moments in the last few years, including being featured in British Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar Thailand, and more. Last year, they also showcased their jewelry at the New York Fashion Week and the Paris Fashion Week. This year, it has again been selected for the New York Fashion Week in February. 

Maalicious Jewelry

What sets Maalicious apart from others in the market is its goal of giving its customers beautiful, lasting jewelry while holding the values of quality, labor rights, and sustainability paramount. Maalicious is also making efforts to support women artisans and rejuvenate their traditional arts. Its goal is to provide talented women artisans with a platform to shine, thrive, and succeed. A women-only run firm, the brand has around six women artisans that it works with on a regular basis in India, and has also collaborated with a few others in Italy and Ukraine. Their long-term goal is to stand in solidarity with skilled women and build a platform where they can support each other. “We would love to give back more to marginalized women and help with their sustenance,” says Thimmaiah. 

Further, Maalicious uses responsibly sourced and sustainable materials in their products, such as terracotta clay or red baked earth, silk thread, and wood, which have been part of our culture for centuries. Its distinctiveness also stems from their need to innovate in this space. “Everything is handmade and so, imperfect but that’s what makes them unique,” says Thimmaiah. For instance, their Vintage earrings are made of terracotta clay and then hand-painted. Their customizable Alice earrings can be personalized with pictures from their customers. Further, most of Maalicious’ signature pieces have a story from India’s glorious past behind them.

One of Maalicious’ earrings is a tribute to a unique and fascinating community called the Drokpas, about 5,000 of whose members today survive in the high altitudes of Ladakh. Believed to be the oldest and purest human tribe, the Drokpas inhabit the cluster of seven villages located down the Indus River. They are known for their liberal views, elaborate jewelry, chiseled features, and beautiful gardens. The Amrita Sher-Gil piece is a tribute to the famous Indian painter known as the pioneer of modern Indian art. Often known as “India’s Frida Kahlo”, she painted many self portraits and captured the daily lives of Indian women in the 1930s, often revealing a sense of their loneliness. 


Neha Kirpal is a freelance writer and editor based in New Delhi. She is the author of ‘Wanderlust for the Soul’ and ‘Bombay Memory Box’.

2021 Is the Year For Indie Indian Artists

The global pandemic changed the way we live. And, it has definitely impacted the lives of independent artists in more than one way. While 2020 taught independent artists to innovate and channel their creativity, it also increased online content competition.

India Currents speaks to two independent artists, Atlanta based singer-composer-coach Vinod Krishnan and Mumbai based singer-songwriter Mallika Mehta – to learn the challenges they faced in the indie-music scene in 2020 and what’s in store for the new year.

Vinod Krishnan, who previously released viral productions with IndianRaga and his independent hits like Kaalai Pozhudhil, Saajan, etc., has been in the independent scene for more than two years now. He is popularly known for his IndianRaga Shape of You Mix, which garnered a viewership of 8M+.

Mallika Mehta, titled the “Adele of Mumbai,” released her first EP Evolve when she was 19 and has come a long way while dabbling between genres, styles, and songwriting processes. She recently released a single “Kaafi” that has been performing incredibly well on all audio platforms. 

Indie Artist, Vinod Krishnan.

“Challenges make our journey interesting.”

Independent artists have been facing challenges like remote collaborations, remote productions, remote content, shifting trends in 2020. “But every challenge presented a learning opportunity.,” says Krishnan. When thrown with the lockdown, musicians collaborated over Zoom and released videos through online collaborations. Event management companies took concerts online and supported other artists and music communities.  

“This year is going to be a learning curve,” says Krishnan. “There is more online content now because of the pandemic (concerts, movies, short series) are all coming online, so an indie musician has to now make video content to make their songs get some attention. That’s expensive.” Meanwhile, Mehta says the pandemic has definitely nurtured her creativity and gave her more time for music that she will continue to do this year. “If it hadn’t been for the pandemic, I don’t think I would have written so much music in one year,” she adds. “One thing 2020 taught us is that planning forward is not always the best idea. So for now, I’m taking each day at a time.” 

Mehta adds that she enjoys the challenges for the love of her work. “I love telling stories through my songs, and when I get messages from people saying how they love the melody or lyrics or how they feel the exact same way or how it made their day better, that right there makes me want to write another song,” she says. “It’s the love for music, the support from loved ones and strangers, and the fact that you know you’re making a difference doesn’t matter big or small.” It’s intriguing to see how independent artists are highlighting the challenges they faced and growing from them simultaneously while giving us beautiful music to listen to.

Indie Artist, Mallika Mehta.

We are all playing the social-media-game!” 

While there are opportunities, there’s also competition on the online spectrum. Mehta says, “a lot of labels have been supporting indie artists, but the competition is incredible, the number of artists releasing music is in numbers you certainly can’t count on your fingers. So until then, independently releasing music is our only way forward.” 

Yes, there’s going to be more competition for viewer attention this year,” adds Krishnan. “That means more OTT content since people are indoors because of the pandemic. Independent artist channels without labels or sponsors are tackling hurdles like viewer reach, social media visibility, shares, and the Instagram algorithm to reach their new fans,” he adds. 

“2021 is a year of possibilities.”

“Despite the curveballs, the joy of creating new music keeps me going,” says Krishnan.  “Why do filmmakers make more movies, even if they had a flop one time? Creative artists have risktaking as quality.” Independent artists are inspiring the music community with their philosophy and never-give-up attitude, and that’s exactly what we need for this new year.

Mehta says that being an independent artist comes with its set of challenges, and if you add the pandemic to it, it only becomes more unprecedented. “But as I said, I create music because I love it.” 

This is the year of possibilities, and indie artists are hopeful for a positivity-filled 2021. “Independent musicians are coming up by the dozen, which I think is absolutely great. A singer-songwriter is a storyteller, and it’s funny how a lot of people across the globe do share a similar story with you.“2020 itself had a lot more independent music released, and 2021 would just add onto that,” says Mehta. 

Krishnan agrees that 2021 is the year where more indie musicians will join, build, and create content. Because being an independent musician, this year, means, as Mehta says, “all the power and decisions are in your own hands.”

According to Mehta and Krishnan, this year will show more growth and opportunities. We are looking for an indie-filled 2021, where more artists emerge and put out their music and share their talent with the world. 


Sruthi Dhulipala is a San Francisco-based communications professional and writer. She is also an independent singer-songwriter and you can find her music on all audio platforms. Sruthi enjoys the art of writing and has been priorly published in an International Anthology, “Lakdikapul II,” through an Indian Poet’s Association. She is passionate about music, writing, expression, and her goal to promote music to the benefit of the people through her own art and others’ art.

SandiSpell: Spelling Bee Champ to Tollywood Remix Artist

Masala In Ur Dosa – A column addressing identity through the lens of a Telugu Indian-American in conversation with his South Asian peers.

After a hectic day in high school, comparing notes with classmates to understand derivatives and limits to traveling to various suburbs in central Massachusetts to play tennis, nothing grounded me more than resting my forehead on the window of a moving school bus listening to my favorite song. The melodious vocals of Sadhana Sargam on her award-winning song ‘Manasa’ from the Telugu movie ‘Munna’. Fast forward 10 years, I still find comfort listening to Desi tracks every morning on my way to work. Recently, I came across a mix on SoundCloud called “A Decade in Rewind: Tollywood Edition“. A mix of familiar Telugu classics I grew up with blended with hip hop vocals and beats by a name familiar to those in the desi dance circuit, SandiSpell aka Snigdha Nandipati. Having seen her name as the 2012 Scripps National Spelling Bee Champion, I knew I had to speak to her and find out how she was breathing new life into songs that of us grew up with.

My interviews on ‘Masalainurdosa presents’ primarily focus on identity. What has been a constant amongst the different personalities I encounter is this – this generation finds its own unique way to express their South Asian Identity. For Snigdha, one such outlet of her identity was through her music. Like many, she grew up singing and continued to hone her craft at Yale through her campus acapella group. While she learned how to harmonize with others, dissect melodies and beats, she wanted to implement the same techniques to the Telugu classics she grew up with. In between recording covers and acapellas of Telugu songs, she found herself in a community that many young South Asian creatives find their roots – The Desi Dance Network Forums. Check out my interview with Snigdha Nandipati on ‘Masalainurdosa presents’ to hear about what her Telugu identity means to her, and how she expresses it through her music.


Prithvi Ganesh Mavuri, MD is an Internal Medicine physician in the Southeast region in the United States. However, his other passion lies in learning about South Asian languages and cultures.

Sakaar Singh Leaves Punjab to Become R&B Singer, Simba Sing

Sakaar Singh, son of Bhangra Artist – Jasbir Jassi, “Simba Sing”, is an emerging R&B and Pop Singer. Singh left his home state of Punjab at the age of 16 to embark on absorbing and contributing to musical styles far beyond his homeland. Sarkaar’s released singles, “Got You,” “80s Love,” and “Big Boy,” bring to his listeners an eclectic mix of influences, which represent his upbringing in India, along with his adventures around the world. 

Singh’s exposure to Western-style music began when he was about nine years old and he sang in a school choir group in English for the first time. As a result of this experience, Singh thought, “this is what I want to do. That was the only perception I had of what I like to do.” Later on, his friends introduced him to famous American rappers such as 50 Cent, Eminem, and Akon. Singh remarked candidly, “At first, I was more fascinated by their gold chains and big cars. But later, I realized that was not everything they were about. There was much more to them.”

Although Jalandhar was his home for 16 years, Singh felt it was not enough for his future as a musician. It seemed to him that he was the only musician pursuing Western music styles in Punjab. Singh recalls, “The place I was growing up was a place where you did not think of being a pop singer because there were no pop music sources around. Bhangra music is so deeply embedded in the state’s culture and there are so many sources of Bhangra music that everyone can think of being a bhangra singer. I made a decision to be an American R&B singer, that made my choices and tastes different from others.” 

While Singh always had an inclination towards Western music, he considers his constant exposure to Indian music in Punjab as important in shaping his own style. All of his father’s songs are Punjabi folk tunes and Sufi songs. Singh says, “Indian music tends to take a story into intense detail. I took the calm serenity of Sufi songs and applied it to my own music.” He added, “when I perform, it is just inbuilt in me. It is not something I consciously learned; it just naturally came to me.” For example, “Got You,” is about an experience with a lover and the lyrics invoke strong passion and love. “I like to go to those places so people can feel these things at a deeper level,” Singh says.

A chance encounter at a relative’s wedding in Delhi was the turning point for Singh’s destiny. When Singh sang on stage at the wedding, Madan Gopal Singh, a friend of his father’s and a well-known singer in his own right, encouraged Sarkaar to move to Delhi because it offered more opportunities for aspiring music artists. Singh stated, “It was his influence that made me move from Jalandhar to Delhi, so I could soak in more.”

In 2014, Singh embarked on what became the most gratifying chapter of his life. He traveled to the USA on Madan Singh’s recommendation to study at the famous Berklee School of Music in Boston. He reflects, “Berklee gave me a lot of knowledge. It gave me the foundation of what music is.” The college’s resources also gave Singh access to music styles from around the world and exposed him to teachers from several different nations. This exposure to international music is evident in Singh’s first song, “I Got You,” which features a rhythm that has roots in South American music. 

Singh is indebted to his two years with Jeff Bhasker for shaping him as a human, songwriter, producer, and singer. According to Singh, “Bhasker loves to mix genres…his beats are very unique.

Bhasker commented,  “Sakaar is a supremely talented guy who has a strong lineage to follow because his dad is so brilliant. It has been awesome to see Sakaar going from being an intern to ultimately seeing him release songs on his own. He has so many of the great qualities his father has but he is making his mark with his own style. He is an Indian guy making truly authentic western pop music.”

Singh’s early exposure to the gold chains and expensive cars of American rappers gave him the courage to leave the land of five rivers, and ultimately travel across the globe in pursuit of his vision to become an English music pop star. By soaking in all these unique vibes along the way, he has created a distinct name for himself which further exposes Indians to the richness of music traditions from around the world. His pioneering efforts have sowed the seeds for other enterprising Indian youth to seize the day and picture the universe as a destination full of opportunity in store.

In reflection, Singh says “I think the path I have chosen will influence the Indian audience, especially in my hometown and state. My decision to be an American mainstream R&B singer had a certain amount of risk attached to it. Through overcoming all these challenges to reach my goal, I hope to show to the Indian people that it is possible to think about something and achieve it.”


Nikhil Misra-Bhambri is a freelance journalist based in Los Angeles. He is a graduate from University of Southern California (USC) with a bachelor’s in history.