By Ariana Boostani
The term diaspora is something many of us can connect to or so electronic producer, Diaspoura hopes, having chosen their name to reflect community experiences. Diaspoura grew up in South Carolina and first came to Davis in May 2019 to record with UC Davis radio station KDVS. I was fortunate enough to interview and connect with them, and learn about their diasporic experience as a queer artist. Diaspoura’s performance revealed the freedom independent artists have over their identity, rewarding nonconformity in oppressive systems of identity, making it a memorable performance. As an artist, being transparent about queer identities can be very difficult; it may displace them further from an already displaced community. I relate to Diaspoura’s experience of understanding discovering this liminal state of identity, and it was inspiring to hear about how music gave them the ability to express their identity truthfully and connect queer people together, which is why music is such a powerful thing. I caught up with Diaspoura after their performance in October to explore their musical career and discuss the topic of displacement.
What inspired you in using the name Diaspoura?
“I remember reading my first ever account of a South Asian diasporic feminist. My college professor showed me a scholar named Chandra Mohanty, and in the essay, she was talking about the experience of living in America and being from India. I wasn’t born in
India, but the word…how it bridged people…it felt like a void had filled. [I] started looking [the word Diaspora] up to find more people talking about this. I was so fascinated, this was in 2015 or so, that I literally just started publishing things under the name hoping people would see it and be like ‘cool, they’re here talking about this shit too… and the music is good’. And now I’m seeing new people and articles every day who are normalizing the word ‘diaspora’. It just shows that building community across borders and oceans – it’s needed.”
How did getting into art and music let you express your identity better? What were your hardships identifying as those and showing your art and being public about it?
“As a revolutionary, art is a great way to plug people in and it’s shown to be a form of resistance to me – to be able to make content about the struggles that I have, and then organize around it. It’s helped me own my identities, and break out of this weird shame cycle that I was socialized with. In controlling societies, we are told to be quiet about our experiences and what we’re upset about, and when we vocalize them normally, it’s hard for people experiencing shame or guilt to receive that information, but art is a good way to communicate. People will listen, re-listen, and double-take, like ‘oh, I feel this too!’ It’s a great way to rebuild the public narrative. But I do want to add, musicians have the power to contribute to movements beyond narrative-building. In this way, I’m thinking, ‘OK, so my music is bringing people with a shared narrative together. What’s next after building community? What are we all doing when we’re all together?’ I’m on tour on the West Coast right now in part to host workshops to explore this topic! I am grateful to host them with my artist friend and organizing comrade, Joseph Quisol, and we hope to continue in 2020! Book us please.”
How does your experience of being queer displace you from an already displaced community?
“It is really hard noticing and speaking on your own trauma. In this light, it’s hard for me to publicly delve into it for a quick and free interview, but I will say that the transparency in my public image has helped me understand who in my extended biological family is on my team. I have two cousins who reached out this year and let me know like ‘hey what you’re doing is cool, keep doing it’, and it was really, really relieving. That relief is even a trauma-informed response, one that says we’re not normally both acknowledged and validated within our extended family. I am grateful for my parents’ effort in growing acceptance and support of my wholeness each year; my mom started practicing pronouns last summer and we will hopefully move into the sex-positivity ballgame in 2020, haha.”
How was the barrier to making music inspiring?
“Platforms create barriers for artists because they are designed and marketed as headless entities. Tech heads design them so that nobody really knows who’s developing the stuff and what their lives are like, and namely, the insane amounts of money Big Tech investors, leaders, and workers earn off the backs of independent artists, musicians, and writers. Once I had taken the first dose of platform suspicion, I started writing about the experience of being an independent, assessing my grief and fear by song-writing.”
Diaspoura uses their experience as an artist to advocate for social changes; They hold workshops about unlearning oppressive systems through their patreon website, which directly fund their art and mission. Support Diaspoura by checking out the website they created and listening to their music on Bandcamp or Spotify!