Interview with Saira Raza

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By Creative Loafing Atlanta. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.
Cellist and singer Saira Raza, aka Sister Sai, in June, unveiled a five-song album titled "Broad Street Sessions," showing off a more structured side of her atmospheric and deeply mystical musical footprint. Throughout these recordings, captured at the Broad Street Visitors Center in November 2018, older numbers such as “High Tide,” “Inertia,” and “Gilgamesh,” move away from their avant-garde beginnings to embrace a more realized neo soul vibe. This more refined take on each song is the result of contributions from an ever-changing cast of musicians who played in Raza’s ensembles between 2016 and 2019. Over the years, the personnel appearing on stage and in the studio alongside her has fluctuated greatly. Naturally, each new performer has left an impression on the songs. The experimental, post-classical ambiance that has bound much of Sister Sai’s repertoire since the arrival of 2014’s "Ephemera" EP remain intact. But the songs throughout "Broad Street Sessions" have opened up to reveal wholly new dimensions in the music. With this collection, Raza wanted to capture the creative changes — both subtle and massive — that have guided the music along the way. “I wanted to memorialize these sessions because they were a lot of different people's efforts that got them here,” Raza says. “As people flowed in and out, we had to create more structure to teach the songs to more people, and create a bit of organization for the set.” The lineup of past and occasional players who were part of this wave of creative development includes Dylan Banks, Kimb Collins, Jared Collins, Jeremi Johnson, and Gage Gilmore. One of the musicians whom Raza singles out as playing a key role in influencing how these songs gravitated toward more defined structures is bass player Kimb Collins. At the time of the recording sessions Collins was also performing with art-punk outfit Jock Gang. In teaming up with Sister Sai, she brought a push for a more structured take on the already existing body of work. “I would say that was her legacy in the band,” Raza says. “She helped me become a better songwriter, and on the next record you'll see more songs taking shape like this — a mix of more experimental quests, and more structured songwriting.” The recordings feature a lineup that includes Raza performing alongside bass player Steven "Teeks" Cervantes, guitarist Chris Edwards, keyboard player Alexa Lima, and drummer Jared Pepper. These sessions arrive just months after the March 28 release of Visitors’ Nature Documentary LP released via Early Future Recordings. Like Raza’s Broad Street Sessions, the Visitors LP was recorded at BSVC by Dan Bailey, and features contributions from more than 20 musicians. Both releases capture a creative high watermark, and a bygone era for Southwest Broad Street — a time when the BSVC, Murmur, and now ousted arts and music institutions such as Eyedrum Art & Music Gallery and the Mammal Gallery served as an incubator for Atlanta’s young, outsider, and DIY music and arts. Press play!

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