Joining the high school gospel choir was transformative for musician Zeshan B., the son of immigrants from India, who learned to sing his heart and soul out on stage. Now he's using his platform as an artist to speak out about racial unrest and injustice. Zeshan B. offers his Brief but Spectacular take on groovin' for change.
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I went to college at Northwestern University, and I studied music, actually studied as an opera singer.
When I was in high school, my voice teacher discovered that I had like an operatic voice. Not every kid can sing.
My mom was born in Hyderabad, but she grew up in Mumbai. My dad is from a tiny village in Southern India.
There was always music in my house. My mom and dad were always listening to something. On one hand, you know, they were listening to, soul music and soul artists like Bill Withers and Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield and cats like that, but then also the music of India and Pakistan.
As I got more and more into music, I have really just kind of realized that’s that’s me, that’s where I grew. That’s really where I feel most at home. And when it came to performing it, I felt like I could let out all of my energy, whether it was good or bad.
When I got to high school, I was in gospel choir. And that was a very transformative experience, because here I am. And I’m the only person in the choir who’s not black. And until they heard me sing, of course, they have been looking at me funny, like, what’s this guy doing here? Did he get lost? Chess club is that way, bro.
And I have been a big believer in just leaving it all on stage. And gospel choir allowed me to do that. There wasn’t like a set rule, like, OK, it has to be this way or that way. It’s just like, as long as you got that feel, you got that groove, and you’re pointing your heart and soul into it.
My album “Vetted” is really just some of my own life experiences. At the time that I was writing songs for the album, there was a whole deal of unrest going on in America. The events in Ferguson had taken place, the riots in Baltimore.
I knew Sandra Bland. I wasn’t extremely close to her, but she was in my circle of friends. In fact, at prom, she was my best friend’s prom date, and she sat next to me after prom. And we had dinner together.
When I learned of her death under those mysterious circumstances, I felt further galvanized to use my platform as a musician to speak out on the issues that plague our society.
If there’s anything that I would love to see, is that people listen to music and feel inspired to do something good, whether it’s big or small, but use it to do something good, to be tender, to be loving, to be decent, and to be just to the people around them.
Music is powerful like that.