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Conversations with Shanchoy Mahajan

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shanchoy.

Hi Shanchoy, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?

Music was an integral part of my upbringing in Toronto. My mother taught me to sing traditional Bengali music as part of our daily routine, and we sang devotional songs as part of our evening prayers. I recall our voices blending together in perfect unison as the heady scent of incense smoke mingled with the mouthwatering smells of my mother’s delicious cooking waiting for us downstairs. I connected with this music on a deep emotional level. I didn’t understand all the words, yet somehow could easily connect to the meaning and the melody. To this day, the words are less important than the way they sound sung alongside the melody, harmony, and instrumentation. I sang at various cultural events throughout my childhood; on my own, with groups, and accompanying dancers as they moved their bodies with my voice to illustrate beautiful traditional stories of love and devotion.

My teenage years were full of intense emotion and captivated by moody Brit Pop, Downtempo, and “Alternative” artists. I began writing my own songs to help me figure out who I was and tried to balance my South Asian upbringing with my Western experience. During my time in university, performing with various musicians at coffee houses and showcases became the norm.

I remember one band I played with recorded one of our sessions on an 8-track machine. So, a determined young me waited for hours in line to meet Johnny Marr from the Smiths at a 102.1 The Edge live interview. I handed him a clunky tape of a bare-bones recording of one of my most angsty songs. “No one’s ever handed me an 8-track before” he said, and that was that.

Moving into my 20s, Deep House and World music found their way onto my stereo. I discovered how much I love to dance and started building tracks on my DAW!

I started landing gigs singing Jingles throughout my 20s. I continued working with various producers trying to figure out my sound.

When you hear the right song, the right words, the right melody, or even the right harmonies you don’t feel alone – you feel connected. I love that feeling and want to share that experience. I kept writing music on my own, sung small gigs and jumped onstage at friends’ gigs and open mics.

Following my passion for connecting with people led me into managing an Adult Literacy program in Toronto. The work was rewarding but stressful at times. I became a certified Yoga instructor to acquire tools to manage my stress. That led me to a new passion teaching yoga classes and workshops for friends, neighbors, and community programs. Eventually, I got a gig teaching at a boxing gym in Toronto’s Junction area and joined forces with 6ix Kids Yoga to bring yoga to schools in high-needs areas. I loved meeting so many people with so many inspiring stories.

I began the Yoga Therapy RX program at LMU within days of moving to LA and am eager to start my own Yoga Therapy Practice when I graduate. One area that I am especially excited to explore is the use of Music in Yoga Therapy.

Joining the Yoga Therapy program at LMU was a great step in connecting to the LA yoga community and introducing my musical offerings and cultural knowledge. Drawing on my traditional musical and bhakti roots, I began to lead Kirtan in various settings in Los Angeles. I also was able to engage in discussion about Cultural Sensitivity in Yoga and Cultural Competency in Yoga Therapy, topics that I am currently developing into training and workshops.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?

It was challenging to connect with other musicians at first. I remember singing at a big Puja. There were two white guys, dressed in Indian garb, who played fancy electric sitars. I approached them and asked if they were interested in “jamming”. They looked at each other and said, “um, we play Western music”, then walked away. I remember thinking, “oh, Country music? Ok, that isn’t my style,” and just faded back perplexed. Later, I realized they had taken a look at the sari I was wearing and were telling me that they didn’t play Indian Music. Other times, people were excited about playing music with me. They had seen what I looked like, and all they wanted was “quarter tones, quarter tones, quarter tones”. I’m standing there thinking, “I just wanna rock!”

For a long time, when working with others, I felt a lot of pressure to fit into what was trendy at the time and did not have the confidence to say, “Hey, this is not my style”. A rift developed inside me, torn between what others thought I should be doing and what I wanted to do, which was simply to sing my heart out and connect with people through my music.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?

My music has been described as “vibey”, with a 90’s feel reminiscent of Portishead and other downtempo, trip-hop and electronic artists. However, I also love to write and sing to simple guitar or piano tracks. I use my voice, the sounds of words, harmonies, melody, and chord progressions to illustrate a concept, create a scenario or build an atmosphere of emotion rather than tell a specific story. I want people to connect to the feelings and sensations of what I’m singing and how I’m singing it. This, I believe, came about from my experiences singing Bengali music when I was very young. I didn’t know what all the words meant, but I could feel the meaning of the songs.

Later this year, I will be releasing some songs from my artist project that I am working on with Lucas Fackler, one half of the amazing musical duo @Idylmind. I’ll be posting updates on Instagram @Shanchoymusicofficial.

Over the pandemic, I have been working on my yoga music repertoire and am excited about incorporating live experimentation into my performances. My collaborations with www.sacredwomancollective.com and other yoga and yoga-music offerings will be posted on my website at www.themindandbodymuse.com and on Instagram @themindandbodymuse or @choyyoga.

Before we go, is there anything else you can share with us?

Whenever I get overwhelmed or disheartened, I try my best to step back and take a long, deep breath. It helps.

Contact Info:


Image Credits

Photos in the park and with big earrings by https://www.suehudelson.com/ including main photo Wedding photo in Palisades Park (blue dress) by Aaron Morria White shirt seated yoga pose under floral stain galls window in studio – Staci Levine all others – random

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