humans of leap — aditi ramesh
aditi ramesh is a jazz and carnatic classical vocalist, songwriter and producer, known for her fusion of classical music with various western genres, and this is her story.
“i started singing when i was 2, but my family was not very into the arts. i come from a traditional south indian background where only being a doctor, engineer or scientist are acceptable careers — either that, or you’re a homemaker. i was an introverted, awkward kid who resisted south indian culture.
i used to live in the us in my early years, where everything about being indian was a little extra “weird” — our food, how we look, the way we dress and more. it made me hate myself at a young age. carnatic music was not “cool” — there were kids who’d make fun of how it sounded, and i’d feel embarrassed about it. i never wanted to sing non-western music in front of other kids so i wouldn’t be made fun of.
i never saw music as a career. after law school i moved to bombay to work at a law firm for a few years. it was around that time that i started going for a few gigs and music events — i’d go to this jazz cafe in bombay, where people would go up and sing with the house band. even then i was embarrassed, but people loved it — they asked who i was and where i came from — what looked like a scared girl with a big stage voice. i started to really enjoy those, but i was frustrated with how out of touch i was with music.
i wanted to spend more of my time on music, so in 2016 i decided to quit and move to a less demanding job in legal recruitment. i wanted to practise and get back in touch with the art, so i threw myself into doing gigs. i found a jam room near my workplace, would start my day with rehearsals at 7 am, work through the day, and rehearse again after office. i’d carry my piano on my back and laptop on my front in the mumbai local, and i’d spend the weekends writing and recording. those were the struggle years, but i played over 60 shows in my first year!
i was late by usual standards, by starting to make music only late into my twenties. but i had ideas i wanted to voice. about being south indian; about being a woman. as with all of us, i’ve come a long way from my insecurities and i’m now proud of my south indian roots — i want to show that my culture is cool, and on stage, i can do that for younger people who might be experiencing what i did. even more so when i play outside of india — i’m proud to show off our culture in a non-traditional way, not just through the music, but through my stage aesthetic, the flowers and sarees as well.
if i were to leave you with one idea it would be this: we all have our own tangible goals we want to achieve, but it’s limiting to focus on them too much. when i look back, so much of what i wouldn’t have believed possible happened only because i was living in the present — working hard and not thinking too much about what i originally envisioned.
there’s so much i did that i didn’t even know was possible at the outset!”