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Furmaan Ahmed

Five on it: Raveena captures otherworldly innocence and experience on Asha’s Awakening

On her second album, the singer-songwriter is back in a new form. Plus new releases from Bree Runway, NIKI, Koffee, and KOKOROKO.

11 Feb 2022

First things first, I’ve a confession to both make and claim forgiveness: I hadn’t heard of Raveena until the start of this year. Admittedly, it really was a case of sleeping on an artist that was already pretty established, and is also now two albums deep. 

The second album in question, Asha’s Awakening, dropped today and feels both well-deserved, fully-realised and a long time coming. Similarly to Amber Mark’s recent Three Dimensions Deep, Asha’s Awakening takes an otherworldly, intergalactic turn; written from the perspective of Asha, a space princess from ancient Punjab, the persona allows Raveena to traverse centuries on a quest to discover the meaning behind love, loss, healing and destruction. 

“It is as much ‘Raveena’s Revelations’ as it is Asha’s Awakening”

Seeing Earth through fresh eyes gives Asha’s viewpoint a dazzling naivety as she wonders at the intricacies of the world, still informed by Raveena’s more wisened and experienced perspective. It is as much ‘Raveena’s Revelations’ as it is Asha’s Awakening – for example, album opener ‘Rush’ captures the innocent overwhelm of falling in love, whilst latter track ‘Love Overgrown’ shatters the illusion of the experience being synonymous with perfection. 

Alongside emotional epiphanies come musings on the trappings of modernity. ‘Time Flies’ sees Raveena tenderly and openly reflect on an abortion she had at the young age of 21, whilst interlude ‘The Internet is Like Eating Plastic’ captures both the positives and negatives of a life pulled by binary code. “The internet makes me feel far away from my friends,” states Raveena – or Asha – on the digital connection that trades chemistry for convenience. “The internet has me nostalgic for planet Earth / The internet has me stupid and smart at the same time”. It’s dreamy segue into ‘Arrival to the Garden of Cosmic Speculation’ twists the aforementioned melancholia into a bittersweet homecoming, as Raveena coos with contentment.

As we have reflected before in regards to Priya Ragu, there are very few artists of South Asian heritage that manage to excel in Western pop whilst showcasing sounds of their culture in all their glory, but Raveena is an exception that can be added to the list. Take ‘Asha’s Kiss’, which features prolific artist Asha Puthli, a hero of Raveena’s whose jazz-pop fusions have had a clear influence on the sinewy mysticism of the track. Or there’s the shuffling percussion underpins the the funk groove of ‘Kismet’. To the other end, and ‘Secret’ featuring Vince Staples ignites chakra-guided lust through chunky production and hypnotic rhythms. 

“She wants to fuck and trip and eat them flowers ’til she ain’t blue,” sings Raveena on the bright pop of ‘Kathy Left 4 Katmandhu’, tempting her audience with the knowledge of both her world and her culture . “I can open up your third eye, as long as you can pay the price”.

Raveena – ‘Love Overgrown’

Showcasing a different vibe for Raveena and a low-key moment for Asha’s Awakening, ‘Love Overgrown’ is a sensual and intimate outing that checks a relationship consisting of as much pain as it is pleasure. Gentle guitar work and beats merge, creating atmospheric and understated R&B, while showing off Raveena’s dexterous vocal in all its glory.

Bree Runway – ‘Pressure’

Still somewhat one of Britain’s best kept secrets, it really does feel that Bree Runway is hot on her way to becoming a bonafide global pop star. Returning with new single ‘Pressure’ – the first to be shared since last year’s mammoth release, ‘Hot Hot’ – the track is surprisingly understated despite being indisputably seductive with its sludgy bass and self-described African drum beats. “I made this song with nights out in mind,” Bree has explained. “You know when you look so good before you head out, and you hope that you bump into an ex or a hater? Yeah, that’s the mood.”

NIKI – ‘Every Summertime’

Another great artist to propel from cult US-based ESEA record label 88Rising, Jakarta-born and Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter NIKI has had a stratospheric trajectory since her first single in 2017. New outing ‘Every Summertime’ is a perfect example of why. A hazy summer daydream, the track is a lushly woven ode to a blossoming love, decorated with strings and underpinned by buoyant, soul-influenced melodies.

Koffee – ‘Pull Up’

The Manchester-based shipping container locale for the video of new single ‘Pull Up’ may be a tad greyer than that of her Jamaican homeland, but that doesn’t stop Koffee having a whale of a time. Returning with the announcement of her forthcoming debut album Gifted, the fast-rising talent releases another hip-wriggling outing that takes her roots in reggae and dancehall global, produced by none other than UK beatmaker Jae5 (you can hear licks of the Afrobeats-infused heat you’d expect from his work with J Hus). Brushed with seductive sax, this is as chill as they come.

KOKOROKO – ‘Something’s Going On’

Eight-piece collective KOKOROKO are an entire smorgasbord of influences. New single ‘Something’s Going On’ is of no exception; the London-based group take heady influence from funk basslines and pattering jazz drumming, with the track’s sinewy rhythm section tugged in the wake of lovelorn sax. It’s all quite captivating, yet surprisingly relaxing for a track that is inspired by the stillness and unsettling nature of the pandemic.