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Work Samples

Nazm

A nazm is a Urdu form of poetry, and this poem is written by Faiz Ahmad Faiz. It is a love song of remembrance that says, "suddenly, in the night, your memory comes to me, just like the spring comes on quietly and as the wind sweeps across the desert, as when one who is sick, without any reason, finds peace.” I arranged the song with a Roland Juno synthesizer going through various effects and distorted drums performed by Kate Levitt.

Raiments

"Raiments" is the first track on my upcoming album that features only sitar and electronics. The album started out as a series of sitar studies. Throughout 2018, various Middle Eastern and Indian folklore surfaced in my life in a few different ways. All of these stories have been translated into English and re-interpreted by Western authors, and I wonder how they have changed through all these translations? I also identified with the heroines of some of these folktales in unexpected ways--considering their stories are from a time and place so different than our world.

Commie Baby

The lyrics of “Commie Baby” are taken from a Sikh hymn from the scripture the Guru Granth Sahib that describes how all people—whether kings or paupers—are equal and that class (or caste) doesn’t determine one’s spirituality or moral compass. I wrote the vocal melody and performed it in this piece, a meditation on human equality.

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About Ami

Baltimore City

Ami Dang's picture
Amrita “Ami” Kaur Dang is a South Asian-American, Sikh vocalist, sitarist, composer and producer from Baltimore. Her sound ranges from North Indian classical fused with noise/ambient electronics to experimental dancepop that comes together to create a new genre she calls “bollywave.” The work references her musical education as well as the grit, chaos, and spirituality of the landscapes of both Baltimore and urban India. Picking up her first sitar when she was twelve years old, Dang has studied... more

Storied Synthesis

In late 2017, I composed and recorded a couple of studies for sitar and electronics. At the time, I was working full-time and more interested in the visceral aspect of making music and also wanted to start and finish works more quickly rather than agonizing over a lengthy process. I challenged myself to see what would happen if I limited myself to a more concise set of parameters—recording 2-3 improvised sitar performances with one or two pulsing electronic timbres and drones. I was pleased with the result. Later, in the summer of 2018, I came back to them and decided that I wanted to explore what would happen to create a full series of these works—starting with electronic sounds using computer software plug-ins and then sitting down to record sitar in short bursts in my home studio. The result is this series of music—a full-length album devoted to (mostly) improvised sitar (or quickly composed) and ambient electronic sounds.

While considering and creating these works, the theme of Indian and Middle Eastern folklore popped up in my life and continued to surface in different ways. I have long been fascinated with the four popular tragic romances of Punjabi, that is, Sohni Mahiwal, Heer Ranjha, Sassi Punnun, and Mirza Sahiba. Sohni Mahiwal, Punjab’s Romeo and Juliet story, particularly interested me as it tells the story of a couple, Sohni and Mahiwal, whose love is forbidden by Sohni’s family. Soon after Sohni’s parents learn of their interest in one another, they arrange for her to be married to another man. After Sohni’s marriage, Mahiwal, her lover, decides to settle on a property across the river from Sohni and her husband. And when Sohni’s husband is away from home, traveling for work, she paddles across the river night after night (with the help of a clay pot to keep afloat) to meet him. Her sister-in-law spies her on her journey and replaces her clay pot with an unbaked pot. The following night, Sohni picks up the urn and starts to go across, but since Sohni can’t swim, the unbaked terra-cotta gives way, and she drowns.

This archaic tale may seem irrelevant today, but many South Asian (and particularly Punjabi) families continue to be very strict about marriage. I was engaged in 2017 and in early 2018, my husband and I were married—much to the chagrin of my parents. During this time, I revisited this folktale and reflected on changing practices and attitudes over generations. As an educated person living on my own, I haven’t been dependent on my family to financially support me in many years, which means that my choices are my own (unlike Sohni’s). But the attitude toward these major life decisions (among some families) hasn’t changed very much.

While working on this record, I was also invited to perform original music to an act of the first feature-length animated film The Adventures of Prince Achmed in September 2018 at the Parkway Theatre in Baltimore. The story is derived from Arabian Nights or (One Thousand and One Nights), which have been translated by many Western (primarily British) authors. This animated adaptation of one tale, “Prince Ahmad and the Fairy Peri-Banu” (according to Richard F. Burton’s translation) features an Orientalist (and often problematic) interpretation of the story, despite featuring stunning and intricate shadow puppetry and innovative light and film painting techniques by renowned early 20th century filmmaker Lotte Reiniger.

I decided to devote this series of sitar and electronics studies to Eastern folktales in translation, which seems fitting since my music is a combination of east and west (a product of a hybrid, intersectional identity) and the traditional and the contemporary, the acoustic (visceral or analog) and the electronic. Here, I’m less concerned with what is inappropriate or appropriate in the western adaptations and translations of these stories but more interested in how we critique this work over time—how the meaning changes relative to the political discussion of today. And also, I reflect on how these narratives (which I read or was told as a child) have affected my identity as a Punjabi, Sikh-American woman musician growing up in the west with a deep fondness for my heritage. It’s impossible to fully comprehend how this folklore has affected who I am today and the work that I make, but I know that it has certainly influenced my interest in retaining some fragments of eastern timbres and themes (the sitar) while breaking the rules—through the use of electronics and departing from the traditional Hindustani raga used in Indian classical music. With a global, intersectional identity, I am neither the eastern storyteller nor am I the western translator, but my music serves as a soundtrack to consider the themes of these folktales, how they have been conveyed over time, and their relevance today.

  • Raiments

    "Raiments" is the first track on my upcoming album that features only sitar and electronics. The album started out as a series of sitar studies. Throughout 2018, various Middle Eastern and Indian folklore surfaced in my life in a few different ways. All of these stories have been translated into English and re-interpreted by Western authors, and I wonder how they have changed through all these translations? I also identified with the heroines of some of these folktales in unexpected ways--considering their stories are from a time and place so different than our world.

Uni Sun

Uni Sun is my 2nd full-length album that features eight experimental, indie pop songs. I wrote these songs between 2011 and 2014 which the record finally being released in 2016. Kate Levitt played and composed the live drums on this album, and we co-produced the electronic beats, with the exception of Sublimate, which was co-produced by Adam Schwarz.

  • Album Art for Uni Sun

    girl throwing gold liquid on her face uni sun album art
    Photographed and edited by Andrew Strasser, concept by Ami Dang.
  • This Charm

    The Punjabi lyrics are written by my great-great-grandfather, the late Bhai Vir Singh, and I wrote the English lyrics inspired by his words. His poem tells us of a Sikh guru (or prophet) who visited many towns and influenced many people. When it was time for him to leave, the people don’t want him to go. But he tells them that everyone who is doing positive work and encouraging social change shouldn’t just stay in one place, isolated, but that those people should travel and spread their values far and wide.
  • Sublimate

    I wrote the melody and produced the song in collaboration with Adam Schwarz, who contributed to the rhythmic production. The lyrics are a Sikh hymn from the Guru Granth Sahib that encourage us to focus on a universal consciousness and that honoring community will lead us to enlightenment.
  • Yes No

    This song is a meditation on belief and duality, what is real and what isn’t? and how do we come to believe or decide what is the truth?
  • Nazm

    A nazm is a Urdu form of poetry, and this poem is written by Faiz Ahmad Faiz. It is a love song of remembrance that says, "suddenly, in the night, your memory comes to me, just like the spring comes on quietly and as the wind sweeps across the desert, as when one who is sick, without any reason, finds peace.” I arranged the song with a Roland Juno synthesizer going through various effects and distorted drums performed by Kate Levitt.
  • Satgur Hoye Dayaal

    This Sikh hymn is a traditional tune I learned as a child, but I produced this track with a very nontraditional arrangement featuring samples, sitars, and drum kit.
  • Arrange It

    The lyrics of this song were inspired by an advertisement for gold jewelry that I saw in India featuring a young boy and girl dressed to the nines, specifically, in garb that a bride and groom would wear to their wedding. Essentially, the advertisement featured child marriage. I started writing the song feeling outrage about the practice and the fact that this billboard so blatantly promoted this horrible practice in India. As I continued to refine the lyrics, the song turned into a song about defying what is expected of you and using your free will to create your own destiny.
  • Udeekna Live Video

    A live performance of "Udeekna" with a full band, featuring Zach Christensen (bass), Josh Laskin Garcia (drums) and B Taylor (guitar).

Raw Silk

Ami Dang is 1/2 of Raw Silk, a Baltimore-based duo featuring sitar, voice, cello, and electronics. Raw Silk emerged from Alexa Richardson’s and my experimental improvisations. We released our self-titled debut album in June 2018. On this album, I performed and composed sitar, vocals, and produced the electronics. Raw Silk is often a weave of two fabrics, especially two colors that are woven together to create a duo-tone effect. This duo-tone texture represents the combination of Alexa’s and my work together to create a glimmering, yet sometimes rough, musical landscape.

In this debut album, we present five pieces that create a rich and complementary dialogue. Cello and sitar discuss, get heated, grab wrists, and twirl wildly over an electronic landscape of textures. My vocals interweave throughout—yearning, cerebral and commanding.

  • Argonaut I

    I composed, produced, and performed the electronics and vocals in this piece. The watery, droning electronics give way to this introductory song. The vocal composition is an interpretation of the traditional alaap, the arhythmic section of a Hindustani classical music performance. Alexa’s cello dips and swoons in tandem with my voice to set the stage for the remaining works.
  • Argonaut II

    We move into the second part of this two-piece movement which features a tarana, a Hindustani classical vocal composition with nonsense syllables to highlight the voice as an instrument rather than a lyrical source. The voice playfully calls, “Dirana ohdata yadaya, dira naya, oh dha ta nanana, yadhata, tanana!” while the cello mimics this melody. The two instruments deviate and venture into different directions—staccato and puncturing at times or legato and sailing over the electronic sounds—but always return to the main tarana theme.
  • Malpresentations

    “Malpresentations” builds a conversation between cello and sitar. The two instruments call and respond to one another while finally coming together in agreement but then move forward in heated discussion. We named the song “malpresentations” for a phenomenon that occurs in Alexa’s work as a midwife. Malpresentation is when a baby is coming down the vaginal canal in a non-traditional way (breech or otherwise), and the baby has a difficult time making its way out.
  • Commie Baby

    The lyrics of “Commie Baby” are taken from a Sikh hymn from the scripture the Guru Granth Sahib that describes how all people—whether kings or paupers—are equal and that class (or caste) doesn’t determine one’s spirituality or moral compass. I wrote the vocal melody and performed it in this piece, a meditation on human equality.
  • Love Child

    This piece is Raw Silk’s first experiment in form, a duet of sitar and cello.
  • Argonaut II

    The official music video for Argonaut II, directed by Emily Eaglin.

Ruins

Ami Dang, Alexa Richardson and Jonna McKone collaborated on “Ruins,” a multimedia installation and performance at The Walters Art Museum featuring film by Jonna McKone; sitar, voice, and six-channel electronic sound by Ami Dang, and cello and sound art consultation by Alexa Richardson. The work premiered in August 2017 as a part of The Walters Art Museum Art.Sound.Now contemporary works series.

Raw Silk performed the electric cello, sitar, and vocals next to the muses in the Greek galleries. As listeners move into the two adjoining gallery spaces, the live performance is altered with electronic effects. The peak of the manipulation occurs in the front gallery next to the Tel Halaf Fertility Figurine, the oldest object in the museum. The music spills into the other galleries, creating a layered soundscape—paralleling the ways the modern museum experience is mediated by reconstruction, contextualization, text, conservation and curation.

The video clip features a 10-minute excerpt of the 28-minute performance and installation. Both Greek Movement A and B are captured in this live video.

1. Egyptian Movement (not featured)

This movement uses a rhythmic structure of stomping and clapping drawn from Sufi Zikr music, thought to be the closest contemporary music to that of ancient Egypt. The rhythm is cyclical in nature, building and speeding up and then slowing down, only to restart the cycle again. The tonality is a traditional Arabic scale. Ami opens the piece by singing an inscription from an ancient Egyptian tomb from an ancient God and directed and people of the future, in transliterated ancient Egyptian:

O you who are alive on earth,
And you who shall be born,
Come, let me lead you to the way of life.

2. Syrian movement (not featured)

This movement is based on a fragment from a Hurrian hymn (no. 6) that is claimed by some to be the oldest known melody, which dates to approximately 1400 BC and was found inscribed in cuneiform on clay tablets excavated from the ancient Amorite-Canaanite city of Ugarit, a headland in northern Syria.

3. Greek Movement A

Uses an Ionian modal tonality.

4. Greek Movement B

The tetrachord is the foundation of ancient Greek tonality and provides the backdrop to this final movement. Ami sings in two ancient languages, including a segment of the Old Testament written in ancient Aramaic warning people to abandon the old Gods in favor of the new:

Thus you shall say to them, “The gods that did not make the heavens and the earth will perish”

Ami Dang also sings in ancient Greek a quote from Heraclitus in the 4th century BC:

No man steps in the same river twice; Nothing is permanent except change.

The movement ends with a stripped down and minimalist mournful elegy to the ancient cultures and objects of the past.

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As of December 2018, Raw Silk (Alexa Richardson and Ami Dang) are currently revising the music and sound composed for this installation to adapt it into a full-length record. We hope to be finished in mid-2019.

  • Ruins I

    The trio collaborated to create a 3-minute digital video work using Jonna McKone’s decayed film and music taken from the installation by Raw Silk. The sound features Alexa Richardson on cello and Ami Dang on vocals and sitar. Additional electronic sounds and samples were produced and engineered by Ami Dang with consultation from Alexa Richardson. Password: walters
  • Raw Silk live at the Walters Art Museum

    This video clip features a 10-minute excerpt of the 28-minute performance and installation. Both Greek Movement A and B are captured in this live video. (Please pardon the poor resolution and recording quality, but I hope this gives you an idea of the experience.)

Various Collaborations, 2014-2018

This project features a selection of collaborations with other artists from 2014 to 2018.

  • Suspend the Time

    "Suspend the Time" by Animal Collective (featuring Ami Dang). In the fall of 2018, Animal Collective invited me to play sitar on their delicate ballad “Suspend the Time,” to benefit The Ocean Foundation and to raise awareness for the problem of seawater acidification. The song plays out like a soft lullaby, but it is really a wake up call to the problem of seawater acidification, which is worsening at a more rapid rate than any time in history.
  • Water

    "Water" by So Drove feat. Ami Dang. I have frequently collaborated with So Drove (aka Adam Schwarz), and in 2018, he asked me to contribute some vocals and sitar onto his song "Water."
  • Azu Were

    "Azu Were" by Craig Williams feat. Ami Dang Electronic dance musician asked me to contribute sitar on his song "Azu Were."
  • Pink Panic

    Poncili Creacion's "Pink Panic." In the summer of 2014, I wrote and performed music with Poncili Creacion, a puppetry troupe from Puerto Rico, and also performed as a puppeteer for part of the show. We toured this performance for five weeks throughout the eastern half of the United States. Here is a clip from a performance in Gainesville.
  • Time to Blow

    I wrote and performed sitar and vocal harmonies on Slag Ralden's "Time to Blow."
  • 13 Knives

    I wrote and performed vocal harmonies on Slag Ralden's "13 Knives."

Hukam

This project features a selection of works from Hukam, a full-length album released in 2011. Ami Dang composed, produced and performed voice and sitar on all songs attached here.

  • Interlace

    “Interlace” is part 1 of 2 movements which flows into “Manali,” the second track on the record. This piece invites the listener to get acquainted with the sound palate of these works by drawing them into my soundscape. I used a distorted sitar riff recorded from this piece as the main driving theme in “Manali.”
  • Manali

    This song reflects on the contrasting experiences and intersection of a female foreign-born woman of South Asian descent (me) with a young girl growing up in the early 21st century in Manali, a Himalayan town that is a popular destination for tourists from around the world. In this song, I wonder what it would be like to be that young girl who is exposed to so much Western culture, behavior and practices through the tourists who are ever-present in the town yet living in a family and society that contains her within a tighter set of traditions and values.
  • Treasure

    I wrote the melody to “Treasure” but took the lyrics from a Sikh hymn from the Guru Granth Sahib that reminds us that “Ratan padhaarat maankaa, suinaa rupaa khaak,” that is, that all treasures, pearls, gold, and precious things ultimately turn to dust. The song is a meditation on consumerism and reminds me that I shouldn’t bother too much with material goods since they ultimately aren’t important. I also use a sample of a sarangi, an Indian violin.
  • Where Nothing Grows

    This ecstatic uptempo tune calls out the fact that we build simulacra (“a planetarium”) at the expense of actually seeing the stars. The song mocks those who “build us up and shut it out”—the “it” in this case being the stars and the sky. I ask, why is it that we prioritize industry and artifice over the natural world?
  • Amorphous Matter

    This piece uses recordings from a Hindustani vocal music class and uses these recordings to create a soundscape over which my voice sings the Hindustani classical music scale. It is part 1 of a 2-part piece that continues with “Amorphous Absolute."
  • Amorphous Absolute

    Both Amorphous Matter and Amorphous Absolute are a study in vocal form using sargam, Hindustani classical solfege, as the lyrical content. The lyrics don’t have any meaning, but instead, the voice explores Raag Maulkauns, a pentatonic scale intended to be performed at night.

Ami's Curated Collection

This artist has not yet created a curated collection.