“We had the good fortune of connecting with Ariana Saraha and we’ve shared our conversation below.”
Hi Ariana, why did you pursue a creative career?
It might seem cliche, but it’s true: I pursued the creative path because it pursued me. Sure, I was looking for something – a sense of meaning and purpose or even a career – but the answer, in the form of my singing voice, surprised even me.
See, I had no inkling of myself as a singer; I’d always been the shy girl in choir. I was in college for a psychology degree! But in that time what began to capture my interest (and keep me sane) was dance. I danced in all the ways I could – in classes, at clubs, at underground events, even in occasional “trance dances” and workshops. I found that through many of these practices, an inner impulse started moving through me, what Authentic Movement practitioners would call the “inner mover.” Dancing from this place – from beyond the conscious (self-conscious?) mind – I suddenly felt a vitality I hadn’t known since I was a child.
Though singing wasn’t on my radar, enlivened by all the dance and movement, one day the voice suddenly flew out – unannounced, fully formed, and with lyrics and mythos attached! In that split second, I knew what I was here on the planet to do – to sing from that inner vibrance, and to craft it into an offering of song. There was no question, and never has been since – it’s simply what I do, and feels like the truest expression of who I am.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love, and encouragement of others. Is there someone you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Yes! Fresh out of college and while still a baby singer and musician, I was invited by my new friend at the time, Cameron Powers, to sing lead vocals for his Boulder-based Mideast & Mediterranean ensemble, Sherefe and the Habibis. Though I knew ultimately I wanted to cultivate my original music, I was thrilled to join his band to learn so much more about musicianship in general, and especially these styles of music that really inspired me. I sang with him and a cast of virtuoso musicians for about 3 years, developing deep friendships and musical relationships that continue to this day, but also learning so much more about the world and the cultures whose music we were representing.
Cameron left his mortal body just this year, but I still feel him with me in so many of my musical choices, and even more so in the openhearted way I endeavor to love the world. He left a profound legacy for so many through his joyful exuberance, great music, and his legacy global organization, Musical Ambassadors of Peace (look them up!). But for me, he is the mentor who gave wings to my whole musical world, and also simply a dearly beloved friend.
Please tell us more about your art. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about.
What I’m most excited about right now is the album I just released with my band! “From the Wild” is the first full-length album we’ve put out as Flight Behavior, and I think it came out really great. And thank goodness, because it was such a journey to make! I’ll tell you a little bit about it, because it was definitely a unique journey, courting the muse of the wild, so to speak…
First, I had to gather inspiration… As I wandered the wild reaches of the West – windswept on rocky ocean cliffs, enveloped by dripping rainforests, euphoric in wildflower-strewn mountains, or sunstruck in the desert heat – I discovered that certain melodies would uncannily arise most when I was in a particular place. So I set out to craft songs that were in a sense odes to these beautiful, inspiring places, hoping to convey what I saw and heard and felt and personally experienced while there.
It was my mission to bring those almost primordial experiences into the music, but I also had to bring the human side of the story – my personal one and my take on the collective one – because as much as we like to pretend we live in our own human-centric world, I don’t actually see us as separate from the wild we’re surrounded by. Are we not animals reliant on habitat and healthy ecosystems also? Are we not also influenced by the weather or the forces that heave the tides? I wanted the album to bring us back to remembering that we too belong to that world as well!
But that’s a lot to ask of mere songs, even as well orchestrated as they were, and as much as I could embody the wild principle within my own self.. So I aimed to make the album more immersive by adding a good amount of sound design – bringing the actual sounds of the wild into the mix! Most of the nature sounds you’ll hear are actually field recordings I made over the years of writing the album, while walking the places the songs were born from.
Overall, producing this album was quite a feat, and I couldn’t have done it without my collaborators: first and foremost my music partner in Flight Behavior, Fernando Medina. Besides his expertly crafted (and at times orchestral and cinematic) drums, he contributed a lot of musical vision and co-production to both the album and our band as a whole. He pushed my edges and really helped me make sure “From the Wild” turned out as real, raw, and daring as it did.
And yes, through it all, the thread of my early Mideast training (thanks to Cameron Powers) continues to weave through. That said, we definitely stretched out of any clear “genres” in creating this album. Thanks to Fernando’s experience, we also brought in a rock edge, and there are undercurrents of Celtic and Indian Classical influences on the album too, to name only a few. Our main instrumentalist on the album, Jesse Manno (who interestingly I know through both Cameron and the dance department at the university where it all started), brought his almost intergalactic body of influences to the mix as well. And David Bergeaud tied it all together by creating a mix that is truly multi-dimensional, bringing that “immersive” quality I’d been seeking to a whole new level.
I feel pretty fortunate for these collaborators, and the strange and beautiful mix of experience we all bring. And it’s a minor miracle (or maybe also a testament to our dedication) that Fernando and I have been able to weave our seemingly disparate histories into a “sound” that is truly unique. And hopefully it’s compelling as well 😉 We hope folks will listen to “From the Wild” and let us know what you think!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
If I were in Denver, I would go first to the Botanic Gardens! Ha ha ha, in fact, almost all my recommendations in the area would be to get out into nature. I also love the many lakes and wetlands out on the plains – especially east of Boulder and in/near Longmont. Wetlands are riotous, cacophonous, stunning spectacles of life in some of its wildest forms, and have been a great inspiration to me artistically. And of course I love the mountains! You really can’t go wrong once you start heading up the hills, but Golden Gate Park is a good place to start, stopping at my friend Arwen’s Holistic Homestead market & cafe right nearby while you’re at it! If in Boulder, I always go to Rebecca’s Herbs for all the earthy balms, teas, and yummy smelling things. I’m basically a woods-witch at heart, so give me all the herbs and wild places!
Band photo by Ivy Allen. Bottom photo by Kate Harnedy. All other photos and album art by Ariana.