It’s 2019, and through the power of streaming services, you have access to all your favorite music. I’m happy for you. On the other hand, I am exhausted from making the deliveries for this music machine. When streaming services arose, what used to be most of a musician’s income turned into pennies, and many young artists, who have never seen a profit from music sales, aren’t aware it’s happening. Sure, maybe I’m being streamed in Australia—but what good is that if I can’t afford to take a day off from my income-based job to write new music?
I grew up in a motel my family ran on a highway in rural upstate South Carolina. I attended the only high school in my town, where I was one of three South Asian students, including my brother. I only realized I was queer and nonbinary after I left for college. Throughout my childhood, I was made to accept the fact that a story like mine would never be reflected in pop culture or even portrayed on the news. I wrote song lyrics and taught myself the guitar in high school with no intention of showing others. I did not think anyone would notice or desire my music. Naming myself Diaspoura was a matter-of-fact S.O.S. call for community. I learned the word from my first reading of a South Asian diasporic feminist, Chandra Talpade Mohanty, and started publishing demos under the name in hopes that I would someday reach others investigating their post-colonial upbringings.
When I wrote and published my first song as Diaspoura in 2014, “Nothing New,” completely isolated in my family’s transitionary log cabin housing, I couldn’t have imagined I would reach as many listeners as I can now. The gratitude is real. My inner child is constantly beaming, whether I’m home reading affirmations from faraway listeners or getting to connect with fans after a show. I thank the satellites in the sky which trespass borders and enable me to share my art with a chosen community.
I was restricted access to centers of community and so much knowledge while buried in the rural South. That being said, I’m not going to continue by romanticizing the struggles of my poor Southern life. It’s pretty clear why intersectional activism and storytelling have been important to me, and I am not indebted to privileged societies for redistributing access to resources via platform. Exposure is the tactic of many new establishments convincing underrepresented people to be grateful for the chance to help them generate content. There are people out to profit off my desire to be heard and to build a supportive community. In my latest track, “Automatic,” I sing to the heads of labels, media, and streaming platforms:
Y’all’a sell it back to me then leave me dry
Y’all’a make me look good and take my rights