Save Ourselves, the Ameish Way


AMEISH – “Save Ourselves” from Secret History on Vimeo.

Straight outta Los Angeles, born and raised, 25 year old unsigned artist Ameish Govindarajan is hitting the hip hop scene by storm. Taking a unique ‘web 2.0′ tactic of dropping his first single Save Ourselves with a viral music video even before an EP is pressed and on itunes, Ameish is part of the new generation using the internet to spread the lyrics. I stumbled across this video in my inbox last week and was blown away. The visuals were clean and crisp, enhancing the smooth hip hop hook and lyrics. I couldn’t get the song out of my head all week.

I sat down (virtually) with Ameish to ask him a few questions about life. Here’s what he said.

I saw on your facebook profile that you graduated from UCLA with a pyschobio degree. That’s quite the change from hip-hop… How’d you first get involved with hip-hop? How do your parents feel about your musical foray?

Yes, that is kind of an unexpected background for an artist, I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to be educated. Music has always been around me since I was young, but the first time I heard hip-hop was around ten years old. I picked up a tape off the ground, which I still have, Brand Nubian. And from there I fell in love with the beats and rhymes. I was an avid listener for five years, listening to everything from Ice Cube to Wu-tang. Me and my boys started rhyming at the age of 15. We used to record on a karaoke machine and rhyme on top of the radio, then on instrumentals. My parents are fully supportive of whatever my passions are.

I saw this video last week and thought it was really polished looking and you have a great sound. I’m surprised that you are still unsigned and that I haven’t heard of your music yet. Is this your first single?

Yes, this is my debut single off the “Save Ourselves” EP. There’s plenty more music to come.

Who did your music video?

The video was a collaborative effort from four parties. The directors were from the crew Secret History. They’ve done videos for other rap artists like The Grouch and Paris. The producers are Bucks Boys Productions who worked on Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights” video. The director of photography is from the ReelRoots crew, and Digital Gypsy provided the rest of the production.

I came up with the concept for the video as I wrote the song, and these productions companies were able to bring my vision to life.

Who is the white boy in your video?

Actually, the “artist” in the video, his name is Jesse Nolan. A really talented artist also from LA who is the lead singer of the indie rock band called The Cheat. You should check him out.

What is the song about?

“Save Ourselves” is not only a song to me, but a message. It’s three real life stories that are going on across the world as we speak, and how we are all connected. “Save Ourselves” to me means that we all need to be aware of others and that we are all one in some way, shape or form. The video starts in an art gallery where people glance at a portrait and move on to the next, but don’t see that there is a real story behind each snapshot, and so the pictures come to life in the video to help them recognize that others are actually living through such situations and that we all need to step up and contribute.

Being in Los Angeles, it feels that everyone is a hip hop artist and everyone has a project on the side. How do you think your music sets yourself apart from the rest?

I don’t think that everyone in LA is a hip-hop artist, but its a beautiful thing that so many people are pursuing their passions while grinding. Being around this spirit makes me more hungry and also produces cool collaborations.

My music is a little different because there is a message in every song and a part of me in every song. My eclectic influences are incorporated into the music, which helps create a new sound. I’m not afraid to try new things.

How do you think your identity as being American and South Asian has influenced your music?

Being from such a strong cultural background has definitely helped my music. When I was younger I studied and played tabla, which helped me understand complex rhythms and has definitely influenced my hip-hop.

I feel like your music has more of a social justice vibe than the other hip hop that exists out there. Am I wrong? Are you intentionally trying to spread conscious hip hop?

Yes, “Save Ourselves” is a conscious song, but I just strive to make quality music, and let the audience take from it whatever it means to them. Some may just like the music or the hook. Others will vibe off the lyrics and feel the message. To each his/her own.

Who are your musical influences?

My musical influences range from Rakim to Radiohead. From Nina Simone to Nitin Sawhney, and everything in between. As you can tell, I just love music.

What are the top three CDs in rotation on your ipod at this moment?

I’ve been listening to up and coming artists, Colin Munroe, from Toronto; Wale from D.C.; and Adele.

In your wildest dreams, who would you like to collaborate with someday?

I would love to work on a song with Mark Ronson, John Legend, Lupe Fiasco, or Damian Marley.

Ameish.jpg There are a handful of South Asian hip hop artists out there and even fewer that make it Top 40 big. What do you think of these artists that came before you and do you sense a shift in the diversity of the music industry?

I feel what these South Asian artists have done before me and will continue to do. I myself used to love listening to Apache Indian. But I’m not trying to be the biggest South Asian artist. I’m trying to be a quality artist that so happens to be South Asian. I think the landscape of the music industry is changing in terms of its diversity, but it is not yet where it needs to be.

Where can we hear your music live?

Live performances are soon to come. We’ve been busy in the lab cooking up more material.

Do you have a CD people can buy? Music that people can download? Where can readers get more!?!?

Yes, the Save Ourselves EP will soon be available to download on itunes. But for right now, you can listen to more music right now and watch the Save Ourselves video at Ameish.com, where anyone can connect with me via Myspace, Facebook, and Twitter.
This entry was posted in Music by Taz. Bookmark the permalink.

About Taz

Taz is an activist, organizer and writer based in California. She is the founder of South Asian American Voting Youth (SAAVY), curates MutinousMindState.tumblr.com and blogs at TazzyStar.blogspot.com. Follow her at twitter.com/tazzystar

27 thoughts on “Save Ourselves, the Ameish Way

  1. Bad ass. He’s got street creds. Wow…just imagine him touring with M.I.A., Rupa Maru and the April Fish (?), and GoldSpot for a Desi Hungamammothapalooza!

  2. Taz – where do you get off using expressions like “white boy”? But props to you for posting the Q&A ‘as is’.

    ShallowThinker – lol! Come on, give the guy some credit. The music and lyrics were very decent and Ameish sounds a lot like Nas.

  3. 3 · Shruti said

    He sounds kinda like Nas in voice texture and flow.

    Yup. But without the messiah complex – I love Nas, but its nice to hear the mellower version :) btw, what the hell is wrong witht he phrase “white boy” in this context? Or rather, can we wait for a “white boy” to come along and object? It’s not like the artist didn’t already reject the terminology in his response.

  4. Pretty good work for a first video. I liked the song, his voice and cinematography. I hope he makes it big :)

  5. At dr amonymous: “White boy” is a term a lot of white folks take offense to – and the artist rightfully corrected Taz. So if someone uses the N word or gook or any such racially offensive term seems like you would rather wait for a person from that demographic to come and raise an objection. Not sure if you have an offensometer where you are able to distinguish between what is offensive and what is humorous, in a given context.

    My question to Taz basically (and somewhat indirectly) was why South Asians should perpetrate offensive terminology when we are very often victims of the same.

  6. I actually like the other artist’s voice a bit more – maybe because he’s singing while Ameish is rapping. I guess I’m just not into that sound. Even then, it had a nice sound. The video definitely looks polished too – very interesting visuals.

    I agree that “white boy” isn’t appropriate. People sometimes think it is allowed because white people don’t have a history of being discriminated against because of the color of their skin, so they don’t have any baggage with references to color, but that doesn’t make it okay. In any case, America is changing and will soon be a country without much of a majority as far as skin color is concerned – and I hope by then we will all learn to be sensitive to each other in that regard.

  7. I am going to jump in and say that it is impossible to insult white people. To say “Who is that white boy” is the same as “Who is that ni##er” is ridiculous. To prove my point listen to one of the greatest stand up comedians of our time, Louis Ck, explain it.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TG4f9zR5yzY

  8. @Yoga Fire – I have seen that Louis CK bit before and it is really funny! But, by your logic, just because Chris Rock distinguishes between Ns and black people, does it become OK for some to start using the N word? (And let us please not get into CR’s newer bit about when it is OK to use the N word) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7b2oCYgfik (the hyper-linking didn’t work on Firefox for me)

    But hey, unless I am missing something here, what is funny to some is offensive to others and for the sake of civility we all agree to remain PC right? I mean “macaca” became such a huge issue and was so vigorously discussed on this blog – maybe you laughed it off, but most folks here did not. Likewise, if someone looked at Ameish and said “hey look Apu is rapping”, there’s a whole bunch of desis who’ll be offended. So I thought we should use some prudence with such terminology – that’s all. Peace.

  9. Holy shi#.

    Sorry Yoga Fire. I had this website open for a while so I didnt see your post because I didnt refresh it.

    Great minds think alike.

    Horrible minds probably think alike too, so I dont know where that leaves us.

  10. @Yoga Fire – I have seen that Louis CK bit before and it is really funny! But, by your logic, just because Chris Rock distinguishes between Ns and black people, does it become OK for some to start using the N word? (And let us please not get into CR’s newer bit about when it is OK to use the N word)

    What exactly is offensive about the term “White Boy?” The N-word is offensive because it references old stereotypes about worthlessness and a legacy of slavery and second-class citizen status.

    Reference someone being White and what exactly is that referencing? To quote Louis CK again, “Aww ruined my day! Takes me back to when I could own land and people. Shucks!”

    Maybe instead of trying to foster a culture where everyone so sensitive about being offensive that they have to walk on egg-shells every time they open their mouths we could foster a culture where people aren’t so sensitive that they get offended at the slightest provocation? I like freedom. I like the free exchange of ideas. I like it when people say what they mean without cloaking everything they say in euphemistic, obfuscatory bullshit. There are some lines I’ll draw just in the name of fostering civil and amicable relationships between groups. Hence, not dropping the N-word and other crap in conversation. But willingly coming up with still more obnoxious hurdles to have to work around just because some people feel left out of the “legacy of being oppressed” derby? That’s just a pointless waste of time and energy.

  11. That was great, and a topical video considering all thats going on now with the G20 summit. On a lighter style note this reminds me of me of Lupe Fiasco featuring Matthew Santos and Superstar, so no surprise to he listens to him. The similarity goes beyond both of them having a white guy singing :-)

    I am going to jump in and say that it is impossible to insult white people. Shallow Thinker.

    You’ve expressed those deep thoughts before. You should use your own voice to do so, and not continue to refer to the black American experience esp. as regards to deference, or not, to white people. I mean you don’t really identify that deeply with African Americans do you? I understand it’s inaccurate for others to map you on to the white/black dichotomy without regard for your Desi-ness… strive for consistency. Otherwise you come of as condescending to blacks and whites.

  12. FWIW, I don’t find being called black** offensive, and I didn’t think saying,“the white boy” was offensive, and you Yoga Fire are right its nowhere near the N word (my dig was solely at Mr.Shallow). However it is a big deal when race is gratuitously added to a conversation when it doesn’t serve a purpose. This was probably a bit awkward because the Taz doesn’t really know this guy, and he didn’t know where she was coming from.

    I do find it irritating when I’m talking to someone, say a Turkish girl, who’s all hijab-ed up and she says something to me like- yeah you know the French girl, or the German guy and that black girl. As if black people never have any other identity than their race. [This in a setting, where the only other 2 black girls were different nationalities/ very different accents etc. from me and from each other]. I would be wrong to solely identify her by her religion/head dress,since I know her name etc. but she doesn’t want to extend that person hood to a black person.

  13. 6 · bess said

    Hungamammothapalooza
    could someone please translate this Tamil word?

    Hungamammothapalooza = Hungama + Mammoth + Palooza –> Hungama is a Hindi party. Mammoth is their God who removes obstacles. Palooza is the kumb mela suffix for cannabis inhalers.

  14. Wow…i’m awestruck..this video is absolutely exceptional. This hip-hop differs from most I’ve seen in the days; it has a message. Good looking group of guys too, especially the boys caught in the war…..the one with the rock…damn…

  15. oh this is exciting! I’ve been friends with Ryan Flanery of ReelRoots for 20 years! it’s a catchy tune, and a well-directed vid. thanks for sharing!