Rupa & The April Fishes
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Rupa & The April Fishes

San Francisco, California, United States | INDIE

San Francisco, California, United States | INDIE
Band World Alternative

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This band hasn't logged any future gigs

Aug
17
Rupa & The April Fishes @ Ariano Folk Festival

Ariano, Not Applicable, Italy

Ariano, Not Applicable, Italy

Aug
13
Rupa & The April Fishes @ Szigest Festival

Budapest, Not Applicable, Hungary

Budapest, Not Applicable, Hungary

Aug
11
Rupa & The April Fishes @ Semana Grande De Gijon

Gijon, Not Applicable, Spain

Gijon, Not Applicable, Spain

Music

Press


“The lyrics tend to come as the melody arrives,” explains Rupa Marya, the multilingual frontwoman of Rupa & The April Fishes, as she takes slow sips of herbal tea backstage at Brooklyn, N.Y.’s venue-cum-art space Littlefield. Marya shakes her wavy mane out of her eyes and continues. “Mostly, it’s a groove that informs me, or a feeling or an idea,” she says about her songwriting process as a trumpet blasts from around the corner.

It would be an understatement to merely label this San Francisco-based fivesome’s music as eclectic. With a global-centric sound that runs the gamut from gypsy-esque stomps, a fervent iteration of ‘40s-era, big-band swing, slithering raga, hip-swiveling cumbia, saccharine sweet French pop, and a politically-fueled punk rock spirit, Marya and her band of merry men defy convention and easy genre classification.

The singer/songwriter, who evocatively describes the April Fishes sound as “electric gumbo radio,” explores new terrain on the stellar third album Build and describes the recording process as equally daunting as it was rewarding.

“What was different on this album was that I didn’t go in [the studio] knowing what the album was going to be,” she says, her voice rising over the cacophony of her band—composed of musicians Aaron Kierbel, Safa Shokrai, Misha Khalikulov and Mario Alberto Silva—soundchecking conspicuously onstage. “I had a vague idea of the songs. Even when we recorded the song skeletons, there was a lot for me that was unmapped. Just allowing myself to be in this unknown space—it was absolutely terrifying and so great.”

While Build is a slight sonic departure for Rupa & The April Fishes, the most dramatic change comes in the form of the album’s lyrics, written primarily in English—a first for the group. Whereas previous efforts have incorporated an international amalgam of tracks in French, Spanish and Hindi, Marya’s decision was both personal and political. “We did a huge U.S. tour last summer and also the language of the hegemony and the business culture around the world is in English,” she explains, making not-so-subtle mention of the Occupy movement and other injustice-fueled international protests. “To speak to these ideas of change and awakening, it felt relevant for me to sing in English.”

Writing in English also allowed Mayra to channel the right words to convey emotions that stem from a very intimate place—something that she felt might get lost in translation if she didn’t let the words flow organically. “Some of the songs on the album are vulnerable and tender like ‘Inheritance’ and ‘Metamorphosis’ and that, for me, was writing from a space of total vulnerability. English was the easiest way to tackle those subjects.”

Soulful and sensuous, Build ebbs and flows seamlessly starting with the opening title track, which acts as a sonic call to action and introduces the thematic concerns of the album. From the overtly politically-laced “¡Cochabamba!” to the reggae-infused “Weeds,” inspired by the children Mayra met during her artist residency in Southern Mexico, or the slinky cover of The Clash’s legendary antiviolence dirge “Guns of Brixton,” this Bay Area outfit weaves social commentary into the album without ever coming across preachy or self-righteous.

It’s this culturally conscious mindset that informs everything from the sound, the lyrics and the way the band structures their tour—with the latter recently becoming part-show, part-heirloom seed exchange. Now, the live show is not only a place to let loose on the dancefloor but it also provides a fertile ground for like-minded people to share seeds, political discourse and ideas freely.

“Every show, we’ve been conducting a seed exchange, so farmers are coming with their seeds and the first ten farmers get in free,” she says excitedly. “It allows a way for people who may not be able to afford the admission into the show to see the music and share seeds.” In addition to keeping the genetic diversity of local produce alive, once the tour reaches India for a six-week stint, the group will also be offering workshops on localized farming practices spearheaded by activist (and Mayra’s partner) Benjamin Fahrer.

Contrary to what it may seem like, Build isn’t a protest album—according to Mayra, its meaning is as simple as its name suggests. “For me, Build was the command to myself, to harness the positive creative capacity that comes with this kind of social change. We have to get our hands in the dirt and do it ourselves.” - www.relix.com


“I used to dream of a pirate ship that would take me away from here / out to the open sea, into the biggest blue / complete with a cast of unsavory crew who’d show me things that I shouldn’t do,” sings Rupa Marya, ringleader of Rupa & The April Fishes, on “Wishful Thinking,” the closing track on the band's 2008 release, eXtraOrdinary rendition.

It’s a fitting manifesto for a band that incorporates all sorts of renegade performance arts — from painting demonstrations to stilt walking — into its live shows, especially in its home base of San Francisco. “We live in an amazing community of artists where someone will just call up the night before a show and say, ‘Hey, do you mind if I play my accordion on the street outside?’” Marya says. “Each show ends up being different from the next based on the cast of characters.”

It’s a formula — or lack of formula — that helps Rupa & the April Fishes’ core members tap into their juiciest layers of creativity and helps the audience lose its preconceptions of what a concert can be. “For me, [live shows] are about everyone coming together to create something beautiful and otherworldly, to take you somewhere unrecognizable and discombobulate you so you can see things from a fresh perspective again,” Marya says. “Having a bunch of pranksters around to help you do that is really helpful."

The central set of pranksters includes trumpet, accordion, percussion, and upright bass along with Marya on guitar and lead vocals, sung in Spanish, French, Hindi, and a bit of English. Though each of the Fishes is an accomplished solo musician, they sound their mightiest as a school, shifting seamlessly from an Argentine tango to a French chanson, tied together with vocals that are part Edith Piaf, part Hope Sandoval. This sound, which the band describes as “boundary-smashing global agit-pop,” makes mincemeat out of the artificial divides that maps, languages, and political regimes create.

The Fishes succeed in this mission in part because they know how these boundaries look, smell, taste, and sound. For Marya in particular, much of this knowledge comes from growing up in the midst of cultural collision. Born to Indian parents, she divided her childhood years among California, India, and the south of France. Marya was never able to blend in, whether due to her accent, the color of her skin, or her colorful personality, but she was able to carve out an extremely strong sense of self.


“The lessons I’ve learned from practicing medicine, from the amazing people I care for and work with, cross over into what I’m trying to accomplish with music, and vice versa.”

This process of identity building propelled the group’s 2009 recording, Este Mundo, which is sung almost entirely in Spanish. “All the motion in my life has led me to have more of a sense of home than homeland; I don’t have a strong national identity, but I do have a strong self-identity, with bridges to the many different aspects of who I am,” Marya says. “So the idea of home — what it is and where it’s found — has been a major theme in the music.”

Este Mundo frames these ideas not only as political questions but spiritual ones. And unlike eXtraOrdinary rendition, which has a carnival-meets-cabaret vibe and is sung almost entirely in French, it puts a Latin American spin on this quest for meaning.

Several of the album’s songs draw inspiration from brothel-bred tangos and cumbia, a style that began as a courtship dance among Colombian slaves and evolved into a form of political protest, spreading to Panama, Peru, Mexico, El Salvador, and Argentina, where it was adopted by both slum dwellers and orchestra leaders.

On Este Mundo, these dance rhythms create a mood that’s both romantic and rebellious, fit for dinner, dancing, and a hot-and-heavy discussion about Ché Guevara. Marya likens playing the album to looking through a microscope and a telescope at the same time. “It feels broad yet focused, with more abstract elements and more details at the same time,” she says.

The key to combining these apparent contradictions lies in Marya’s “other” job as a doctor at a San Francisco hospital, where she cares for many undocumented immigrants. Marya’s found that her work as a physician has moved her to help marginalized people find not only a voice but a place to call home.

It has also helped her discover music’s power to incite social change. “I’ll be walking down the hall in the hospital, checking in on each of my patients, and I’ll have a prostitute, a CEO, a law assistant, a student, and an immigrant mother, all within a few feet of each other — something that hardly ever happens outside hospitals,” she says.

“It has fueled something in me that’s constantly asking, ‘What kind of world do we live in?’ and ‘What kind of world do we want to live in?’ The purpose of art, I think, isn’t just to expose what’s there but to look at what you wish the world could be.”

One of those wishes involves healthcare, s - ALARM Magazine


Crossing musical and cultural borders is part and parcel of Chicago’s World Music Festival. But for singer-guitarist Rupa of San Francisco’s genre-blurring Rupa and the April Fishes—who cast their slippery French-chanson, Gypsy-jazz and Indian-raga hooks and scales at three fest gigs on Friday 19 and Saturday 20—there’s no need to cross anything. As an Indian-American woman, born to Punjabi parents, who grew up in the Bay Area, India and Aix-en-Provence in southern France; sings in French, English, Hindi, Romany and Spanish; and splits her time between leading one of the hottest emerging acts on the world-music circuit and practicing as a physician at University of California–San Francisco, the thirtysomething Rupa is a borderless NGO unto herself.

Which doesn’t mean she’s immune to those who insist on boundaries. Sketching out ideas at a Paris café while on vacation a few years ago, Rupa was approached by an Algerian man after he learned she was American.

“He said, ‘Aren’t you afraid to be here with all the angry Arabs who hate your country?’ It was a very interesting moment in my life. I’d never had someone immediately put up a wall like that because of a bigger political problem,” says Rupa, long accustomed to having her looks treated as a cultural-identity Rorschach test. “When I was a girl in Provence, people thought I was Arab. In Italy, I’m Brazilian. In California, I’m Mexican.”

The encounter inspired “Une Americaine à Paris,” a galloping bal-musette–inspired song on her band’s debut full-length, eXtraOrdinary rendition (Cumbancha, 2008). An acoustic retro-pop amuse-bouche, the album begins with a fog horn recorded at dawn over the San Francisco Bay. It crescendos from hushed lullaby wisps to hot jazz- and tango-tinged cabaret stomps. In a fragile soprano that sounds like Edith Piaf filtered through Keren Ann, Rupa sings, “Je ne suis pas américaine, tu n’es pas arabe, et nous ne sommes pas à Paris, nous sommes dans la vie”: I’m not an American, you’re not an Arab, and we’re not in Paris, we’re in life.

The album’s tales of love and disconnect muse on the nature of borders both national and personal, man-made and spiritual. The heartbreaking lyrics to “Wishful Thinking,” a wistful maritime waltz in which a couple parts ways when one sets sail to unknown lands, were inspired by an elderly patient Rupa treated, who bid his wife of 40 years goodbye as he lay dying. Mariachi-flavored “Poder” was written after the band visited Tijuana to perform a benefit concert on behalf of immigration rights; the song tallies what can cross the border freely: fish, the wind, TVs, money, a song—everything but human beings.

“I don’t want to take a sledgehammer and beat people over the head with a big political statement,” says Rupa, who planted the roots for her global agit-pop as a moonlighting folk singer-songwriter while studying for her degree in internal medicine. Torn over which career to pursue, Rupa decided both were essential in the wake of two life-altering events that nearly coincided: the death of her father and September 11. “I’d been torturing myself,” she recalls. “Am I a doctor or a musician? I am both of these things. It’s important for me to express what I love about this world, this country and the humanity I encounter at the hospital, where you can treat a CEO, a migrant farm worker and a prostitute all in one day.”

Reflecting her cosmopolitan roots, Rupa started writing tunes not in English and recruited bandmates from San Francisco’s Mission District, where a rich scene devoted to resurrecting vintage musical forms has arisen in recent years. The ethnically diverse quintet—guitar, double bass, cello, accordion and trumpet—often includes multimedia elements such as live mural painting and stilt dancers. Unfortunately, it’s an indulgence too costly for the current international tour of the U.S., Canada and Germany.

After the tour, the band plans to record 15 new songs in Spanish and English—many related to its frequent trips to the U.S.–Mexico border—but it’ll have to work around Rupa’s two-month shifts at the hospital. “The intensity of both jobs makes it difficult, but I feel blessed to carve this path,” Rupa says. “You’re walking between life and death all the time, and you learn to understand the true value of time and being with each other. You get to know people at important, intimate times in their lives, and when it affects you deeply, it’s nice to have another place to put it.” - Time Out Chicago


Rupa es música y doctora. Dedica seis meses del año a atender pacientes en un hospital y otros seis a cantar con su banda Rupa & the April Fishes. En medio de eso encuentra tiempo para trabajar con la Casa del Migrante en Tijuana o para entrevistar a gente que vive en la frontera.

Rupa nació en California, de padres indios. De niña, vivió en India y Francia. Luego regresó a San Francisco, donde hoy reside. Sus vivencias se reflejan en la música que compone: canciones en inglés, francés y español, con ritmos indios, de chanson y decumbia, entre otros, además de sonidos de la calle, como el vendedor de paletas al lado del muro fronterizo, incluido en su segundo álbum, Este mundo (Cumbancha, 2009).

–Con tanta fusión, ¿cuál es su identidad?

–Es una identidad global, como ser humano. Intento encontrar, mediante la música, lo que tenemos en común.

Hace poco su grupo regresó de una gira por Europa –conciertos con boletos agotados. La cantante volvió a su trabajo en el hospital, pero confesó estar agotada. Más allá de estos momentos, dijo que es muy inspirador ejercer ambos oficios: "Como doctora tienes una visión privilegiada de la sociedad y la gente, y como música también: viajas, conoces gente y platicas con ellos mediante la música... son distintas formas de comunicación y distintas formas de curación".

Se refiere sobre todo al beneficio que ella obtiene (espera que los demás también). "Poder salir y tocar música es algo tan liberador luego de estar en el hospital, cerca de personas que sufren tanto. Es una manera de digerirlo de modo no verbal".

Rupa dijo que muchos médicos realizan alguna actividad artística: "Muchos de mis colegas tienen otras pasiones que les permiten procesar lo que han visto, porque lo que vemos es tan profundo. Es difícil sentir que encajas con el resto de la sociedad cuando dedicas tu tiempo a estar al lado de la cama de gente que está muriendo".

Una de las razones por las que nombraron así a la banda The April Fishes fue en protesta contra la relección de George W. Bush (April Fishes: quien no cree en la realidad que la autoridad le dice, sino en la que ellos perciben).

–¿Y ahora con Barack Obama?

–No creo que estemos en un lugar tan distinto. El rostro de nuestro liderazgo cambió, pero continúan las mismas políticas. Obama no se ha pronunciado contra el uso sistemático de la tortura como forma de política exterior. Si bien aplaudo el hecho de que ya no tenemos un imbécil en la Casa Blanca, el sistema no es tan diferente. Nuestro nombre tiene varios significados, pero la naturaleza política del nombre sigue vigente. Las redadas continúan, la falta de atención de salud para migrantes indocumentados y sin seguro continúa.

La migración es uno de los temas de Rupa & the April Fishes. En varias ocasiones la banda ha tocado en centros de detención con niños y en la Casa del Migrante, en Tijuana. En una ocasión llevaron 400 zapatos para los migrantes deportados. Grabaron entrevistas con gente que cruzó la frontera, que fue deportada o que vive al lado del muro, para un proyecto que incluyó obras de teatro.

En sus viajes ha visto que el problema se repite: "La migración global como comercio global de esclavos, que son traficados a través de las fronteras y que muchas veces trabajan sin derechos".

Rupa, quien se dice muy influenciada por pintores y poetas como Rumi, Hafiz y Pablo Neruda, quiso que los mexicanos supieran que "hay gente en Estados Unidos que reconoce la situación que provoca la migración y aprecia la dignidad de la gente que llega y lo que intenta realizar: la mayoría viene por trabajo y por educación, por razones muy honorables. Espero que ese muro caiga y que pueda haber un mayor sentido de unidad entre los dos países".

En México, Rupa & the April Fishes sólo ha tocado en Tijuana. Espera visitar el Distrito Federal este año.
- La Jornada (Mexico)


With songs in French, Spanish, English, and Hindi, the band Rupa and the April Fishes could have been formed in the food court of a suburban mall.

To the contrary, the band was founded in San Francisco by Rupa Marya, a doctor-by-day and singer-by-night born to Indian parents and raised in the U.S., India, and the South of France. Her debut album is called eXtraOrdinary rendition. She and the band join John Schaefer in the Soundcheck studios for an interview and live performance of tunes from the album.

She began with a song called "Une Americaine a Paris" — decidedly not a reference to George Gershwin's blithely upbeat An American in Paris, but rather an uncomfortable moment in a Parisian cafe that Marya had once experienced. A man had struck up a good conversation with her, but when the man, who was from Algeria, learned that Marya was American, the tone changed rapidly.

"This wall came down between us," she says. "And he said, 'Aren't you afraid to be an American in Paris with all these angry Arabs? If you were in my neighborhood...' and he just went [motions hand across throat]. ... That personal connection that we had just froze in that moment, and it was probably one of the most chilling experiences I've ever had face-to-face with a stranger."

Of course, Marya, the daughter of Indian parents, is no stranger to multiculturalism. She was born in the San Francisco Bay Area; her parents moved her back to India, then to France; and she settled again in California.

"I was raised a very confused child, and I feel like this music that I've been writing has been a way of trying to give voice to that experience, and come to understand it in a way," she says. "Because these identities — they all exist inside me."

The lion's share of songs on the album, however, is sung in French. Marya says she challenged herself after Sept. 11, 2001, to try something different.

"I was ... so horrified by the reaction of fear, of what was unfamiliar to people that I felt happening in our country," she says. "And I wanted to write songs about love — which I had never done before — and to write them in a language that people in my immediate surrounding didn't necessarily understand, but wouldn't be wholly alienating to them. And to see if people could understand the emotion and the truth that was being conveyed under the language I was speaking through the music. So it started as an exercise, an artistic exercise to use language as a musical tool, also, with rhythm and melody inherent in the words."

When she isn't on stage, Rupa Marya is a doctor of internal medicine on faculty at UCSF, and often draws ideas for songs from her patients' stories. She was able to take advantage of a flexible residency track designed for female doctors who may be expecting children, which allows her to spend six months working and the other half of the year touring.

"And so after my first year of internship, I went into my program director and said, 'Listen, I'll be a terrible doctor if I'm not an artist, and I'll be a terrible artist if I'm not a doctor," Marya says. "'And I need to find a way to do these things.'" - NPR


Last night I had the most peculiar dream. There I was, in Paris of all places, glug-glugging champagne from the boot of a Moulin Rouge can-can showgirl while a pair of elephants bejeweled with emeralds and rubies swaggered a slow bolero to the one-two-three/one-two-three of a rowdy accordionist grinding out hot-pepper triplets from the razor edge of a tightrope hung above.

I pulled my hungry gullet away from the champagne overflow and the heaving tray of exquisite pastries cradled in my lap to crane my neck in the direction of the most deliciously weepy cello I'd ever heard, sighing into my ears from overhead. Up in the balcony, swaying back and forth, were two young lovers with eyes blazing hot 'n bothered, and every time their fingers touched, the swell of strings surged out of them. I looked out into the crowd--- jugglers, acrobats, fire-eaters, starry-eyed mystics, couples dancing with the sheer wild damn-it-all abandon of being in love for the first time. My cat, Pickles, was playing the castanets with fierce precision. Hell, I don't even have a cat.

Oh, and I was speaking French. Fluently. Telling jokes, even. Funny ones. Without any detectable trace of an American accent whatsoever. Hmm, was that champagne after all? Or was it absinthe?

Whatever that sweet nectar was which I couldn't stop guzzling in my dream, I'm pretty sure the accompanying soundtrack was provided by Rupa and the April Fishes. Headed by guitarist-physician-social activist-bearer-of-swooning-melodies Rupa, this local septet crafts deliriously evocative sonic travelogues in which everything becomes possible…even yours truly speaking complete sentences in French without sounding like Inspector Clouseau!

Honestly, a listen to their recent self-released Extraordinary Rendition is a perfect way to spend 52 minutes away from the day's stresses and grumbles to indulge in a bit of much-needed magic realism. Spinning a seamless mix of tango, French musette, jazz, and quite possibly a dozen other song forms in between - while volleying between singing in French, English, Spanish, Hindi, and Roma, just to keep the journey more interesting - these folks are the shining embodiment of globalization-gone-good.

"World fusion music," some might call it. As someone who has very fond memories of drunken trots through impromptu street parties during last year's World Cup, let me just say that Rupa and the April Fishes remind me of those festive convergences in which folks from all over the world would get together to kick it up, regardless of language barrier. Imagine Edith Piaf, Paris Combo, Astor Piazzolla, Django Reinhart, Cesaria Evora, and Fanfare Ciocarlia meetin' up post-match to tear it up in a public square, and you'll know what I mean.

A Rupa and the April Fishes show is a sight to behold on any day of the week, but a performance on Bastille Day should be a magnificent thing indeed. I can't promise there'll be any elephants or endless fountains of champagne, but I'm more than to bet there'll be magic involved. - SF Bay Guardian


Last night I had the most peculiar dream. There I was, in Paris of all places, glug-glugging champagne from the boot of a Moulin Rouge can-can showgirl while a pair of elephants bejeweled with emeralds and rubies swaggered a slow bolero to the one-two-three/one-two-three of a rowdy accordionist grinding out hot-pepper triplets from the razor edge of a tightrope hung above.

I pulled my hungry gullet away from the champagne overflow and the heaving tray of exquisite pastries cradled in my lap to crane my neck in the direction of the most deliciously weepy cello I'd ever heard, sighing into my ears from overhead. Up in the balcony, swaying back and forth, were two young lovers with eyes blazing hot 'n bothered, and every time their fingers touched, the swell of strings surged out of them. I looked out into the crowd--- jugglers, acrobats, fire-eaters, starry-eyed mystics, couples dancing with the sheer wild damn-it-all abandon of being in love for the first time. My cat, Pickles, was playing the castanets with fierce precision. Hell, I don't even have a cat.

Oh, and I was speaking French. Fluently. Telling jokes, even. Funny ones. Without any detectable trace of an American accent whatsoever. Hmm, was that champagne after all? Or was it absinthe?

Whatever that sweet nectar was which I couldn't stop guzzling in my dream, I'm pretty sure the accompanying soundtrack was provided by Rupa and the April Fishes. Headed by guitarist-physician-social activist-bearer-of-swooning-melodies Rupa, this local septet crafts deliriously evocative sonic travelogues in which everything becomes possible…even yours truly speaking complete sentences in French without sounding like Inspector Clouseau!

Honestly, a listen to their recent self-released Extraordinary Rendition is a perfect way to spend 52 minutes away from the day's stresses and grumbles to indulge in a bit of much-needed magic realism. Spinning a seamless mix of tango, French musette, jazz, and quite possibly a dozen other song forms in between - while volleying between singing in French, English, Spanish, Hindi, and Roma, just to keep the journey more interesting - these folks are the shining embodiment of globalization-gone-good.

"World fusion music," some might call it. As someone who has very fond memories of drunken trots through impromptu street parties during last year's World Cup, let me just say that Rupa and the April Fishes remind me of those festive convergences in which folks from all over the world would get together to kick it up, regardless of language barrier. Imagine Edith Piaf, Paris Combo, Astor Piazzolla, Django Reinhart, Cesaria Evora, and Fanfare Ciocarlia meetin' up post-match to tear it up in a public square, and you'll know what I mean.

A Rupa and the April Fishes show is a sight to behold on any day of the week, but a performance on Bastille Day should be a magnificent thing indeed. I can't promise there'll be any elephants or endless fountains of champagne, but I'm more than to bet there'll be magic involved. - SF Bay Guardian


“Deserves to become something of a global celebrity thanks to her cheerfully cool and soulful vocals and ability to write songs that switch between Gypsy and mexican styles, reggae, French chanson and Indian themes” Robin Denselow - The Guardian


Rupa Marya lives the San Francisco dream -- artistry uncompromised by having to work every day -- and it's obvious in her easy manner and even her art-decked home.
Walking into her immaculate Noe Valley flat is like stepping into a bubble of that elegant multicultural bohemia the city promises but rarely delivers.

In a similar way, Marya's music sounds like that dream: romantic and pulling from many worlds -- Indian ragas and sultry tangos, Gypsy waltzes and bossa nova. And all of it shares the soothing quality of lullabies, with deeply poetic imagery, which Marya sings in sweet, lilting French.

Marya, who grew up in Los Altos with extended stays in India and France, has performed as a folksinger a la Indigo Girls for many years. But, she says, the years between the World Trade Center attacks in 2001 and the 2004 presidential election changed her outlook on life and prompted her to alter her sound completely, by writing in French.
"What happens if you communicate ... in a way that people who don't speak that language can understand what you're saying?" Marya says. "Especially when the world was becoming much more afraid of differences. That's when everything sort of took off into another place.

"I felt like the music was a lot more intuitive to me. I was starting to pull more scales from the Middle East and from India."

Even though Marya is opposed to sentimental schlock, she gave herself the task of writing 10 love songs in French, affected by her father's death and her marriage to Lars Howlett.

"How do we love in the face of what our existence presents us with, which is our mortality or our current situation in the world?" she says.

She started to pull together her band, the April Fishes: cellist Ed Baskerville, who plays on her EP "Le Pecheuse," drummer Aaron Kierbel, tango accordionist Adrian Jost, bassist Eric Perney, and trumpeter Marcus Cohen.

Even though her band, fully formed this spring, has already sold out Amnesia and opened for Susana Baca at the Independent, Marya says they like to play places you wouldn't expect music, like on Muni's N-Judah line. So it's not surprising Marya felt inspired to perform at the Montara Lighthouse. Because she has close ties to the Mission art scene, she made it a multimedia show, with the band El Radio Fantastique, sculptor Carlos Castillo, poet Adrian Arias and her husband projecting videos.

Marya spends exactly half her time immersed in music, and then every two months she does a two-month stint as a physician resident at UCSF. Songs come out of these experiences, like seeing an old woman lose her love of 40 years to cancer.

"It was this theme that's obviously recurring in my life -- to be around these people when I was getting married, and to feel that intense sadness. And then to have a place to go and put it, like in my guitar. For me, it has been the most amazing thing.

"The energy from the music comes out around my patients. They're like, 'There's something different about you, doctor.' ''

--Lisa Hix - San Francisco Chronicle


Swimming in sensuality, the fantastic, and the romantic Extraordinary Rendition is an album that enchants from the outset. An eclectic mélange of bossa nova, jazz, and a plethora of other musical influences coalesces into a sound that that reminds you that life is full of wonderful surprises. There is a whimsy to Extraordinary Rendition that beckons the child at heart.

Rupa and her gilled friends start things off with a brief tribute to their stomping grounds with "San Francisco". The familiar wail of the noon siren is bound to resonate with Bay Area denizens. From there, Rupa and the April Fishes quickly segue into the uptempo "Poder" (translation: power), a Spanish tune giving voice to the frustrations of manufactured borders.

Spanish gives way to French in the romantic and melancholy "C’est pas d’l’amour". Rupa’s sultry and enchanting voice brings to life the pain of having a lover who teases with words and deeds, but never quite seems to deliver. Accompanied by a somber cello, "C’est pas d’l’amour" truly captures the painful, visceral essence of unrequited love.

The subject of romance and love continues in "Maintenant". Once again, Rupa’s smooth vocals seduce. Encouraging a lover to seize the moment and live in the now. How often does love come along? Hesitation and reticence is not the path to follow. This seductive tune is complemented by accordion and punctuated by trumpet.

The vast majority of the tracks that comprise Extraordinary Rendition are sung in French by Rupa. In Rupa’s words, "What happens if you communicate….in a way that people who don’t speak the language can understand what you’re saying?" Mastery of the French language is not necessary to derive some kind of meaning from most of Rupa’s song. Her voice is earnest, heartfelt, and infectious. Frequently Rupa’s vocals are married with a rhythm and tone that more often than not strikes an emotional chord.

No less compelling are the scant few tracks with English lyrics. The final track, "Wishful Thinking" reflects the fantastic, otherworldly energy Rupa and the April Fishes bring to much of the album. The track opens with the faint sounds of seagulls calling, foghorns in the distance, and lapping waves. Rupa muses on a childhood fantasy of traveling far and wide on a creaky pirate ship. This seafaring track is well crafted with a creaky accordion keeping pace.

Extraordinary Rendition truly is nothing short of extraordinary. It’s a romantic, whimsical, surreal escape. It’s also a passionate and heartfelt assemblage of songs that reflect many facets of what truly makes us human. Love, loss, mourning, and happiness are all explored with an undeniable authenticity.
- SF Station


As a doctor by day and a singer by night, third-year UCSF internal medicine resident Rupa Marya, MD, is living her dream.

After a year of gaining momentum in San Francisco and a rousing summer tour in Europe, her world-fusion band, Rupa and the April Fishes, are celebrating their debut album with an Urban Circus Party on Saturday, Jan. 13, at The Independent, 628 Divisadero St., in San Francisco.

Marya, 30, is an Indian woman who grew up in the Bay Area, France and India. She has known that she’s wanted to be both a physician and a performer since childhood, and has found ways to achieve balance while pursuing both passions.

“My kindergarten teacher asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I said, ‘a surgeon and a ballerina.’ She said I had to choose one. But I couldn’t choose, and now I find I’m a better doctor when I’m an artist and I’m a better artist when I’m a doctor. The passion for both comes from the same source,” says Marya.

As the songwriter and vocalist for the group, Marya is inspired by her experiences as a physician and by the unique and emotional stories of each patient, such as one patient who lost her love of 40 years to cancer. Most of the songs on the new CD, eXtraOrdinary rendition, were written during her residency at UCSF.

“People are so real with you when it’s near the end of their life,” Marya says. “I have been deeply affected by conversations and interactions with patients, and that’s what drives me and inspires my music writing. With both medicine and music, I have the honor and privilege to be close with strangers, connect with them on an intellectual and emotional level, and create hope.”

Previously part of an American folk duo, Marya has gone back to her multicultural roots, tapping into several cultural genres and singing most of the songs in French.

“What is created is a living music and lively performance which gives voice to the fluidity of experience moving between different places, a sonic examination of being at the edge of different cultural identities,” according to her website.

The six band members bring together an eclectic assortment of music traditions — mixing French chanson with Gypsy waltzes, Indian ragas, sultry tangos and bossa nova — to create a romantic and lyrical sound reminiscent of bohemian Paris.

Marya’s velvet voice is accompanied by a tango accordionist, classical cellist, jazz trumpeter, percussionist and upright bassist, creating both soothing lullabies and upbeat dance tracks. Special guests for Saturday’s performance are jazz bassist Marcus Shelby and tabla drummer Bubai Sarkar. The concert — or Urban Circus Party — also will feature a flamenco dancer, stilt dancing and live mural painting by Mona Caron, who designed the CD artwork.

Extraordinary Times

“Saturday will be a very unique night because it will be a collage of different artistic communities from San Francisco coming together,” says Marya. “We went with the ‘circus’ concept because it is reflective of the political times we are living in. Everything looks beautiful on the outside, but there is an underlying ugliness. We’re using this metaphor to wake people up to both the beauty and the ugliness of our country.”

The title of the CD, eXtraOrdinary rendition, is a commentary on the use of language by politicians. “They say ‘interrogation’ and what they’re really saying is ‘torture,’” says Marya.
“The phrase ‘extraordinary rendition’ does not sound like torture; it sounds like a party. eXtraOrdinary rendition, as the CD title, is a euphemism to define our times.”

To make the point that people understand the real meaning behind words, whether in politics or in music, Marya sings in four different languages — English, French, Spanish and Hindi — letting the meaning of each song shine through. One song written in Hindi, “Yaad,” is dedicated to her late father for whom Marya’s voice soars in a heart-wrenching farewell. “Yaad” is also a tribute to all of her patients’ families who’ve experienced loss.

“With this song, I re-create the sound of my father’s ashes being cast into the Pacific. I sing only one line, that means ‘I miss you’ in Hindi,” says Marya. “Every time I sing it, I remember the feeling of my loss and the intense loss of my patients’ families, and I put that energy into the song.” - UCSF Today


As a doctor by day and a singer by night, third-year UCSF internal medicine resident Rupa Marya, MD, is living her dream.

After a year of gaining momentum in San Francisco and a rousing summer tour in Europe, her world-fusion band, Rupa and the April Fishes, are celebrating their debut album with an Urban Circus Party on Saturday, Jan. 13, at The Independent, 628 Divisadero St., in San Francisco.

Marya, 30, is an Indian woman who grew up in the Bay Area, France and India. She has known that she’s wanted to be both a physician and a performer since childhood, and has found ways to achieve balance while pursuing both passions.

“My kindergarten teacher asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I said, ‘a surgeon and a ballerina.’ She said I had to choose one. But I couldn’t choose, and now I find I’m a better doctor when I’m an artist and I’m a better artist when I’m a doctor. The passion for both comes from the same source,” says Marya.

As the songwriter and vocalist for the group, Marya is inspired by her experiences as a physician and by the unique and emotional stories of each patient, such as one patient who lost her love of 40 years to cancer. Most of the songs on the new CD, eXtraOrdinary rendition, were written during her residency at UCSF.

“People are so real with you when it’s near the end of their life,” Marya says. “I have been deeply affected by conversations and interactions with patients, and that’s what drives me and inspires my music writing. With both medicine and music, I have the honor and privilege to be close with strangers, connect with them on an intellectual and emotional level, and create hope.”

Previously part of an American folk duo, Marya has gone back to her multicultural roots, tapping into several cultural genres and singing most of the songs in French.

“What is created is a living music and lively performance which gives voice to the fluidity of experience moving between different places, a sonic examination of being at the edge of different cultural identities,” according to her website.

The six band members bring together an eclectic assortment of music traditions — mixing French chanson with Gypsy waltzes, Indian ragas, sultry tangos and bossa nova — to create a romantic and lyrical sound reminiscent of bohemian Paris.

Marya’s velvet voice is accompanied by a tango accordionist, classical cellist, jazz trumpeter, percussionist and upright bassist, creating both soothing lullabies and upbeat dance tracks. Special guests for Saturday’s performance are jazz bassist Marcus Shelby and tabla drummer Bubai Sarkar. The concert — or Urban Circus Party — also will feature a flamenco dancer, stilt dancing and live mural painting by Mona Caron, who designed the CD artwork.

Extraordinary Times

“Saturday will be a very unique night because it will be a collage of different artistic communities from San Francisco coming together,” says Marya. “We went with the ‘circus’ concept because it is reflective of the political times we are living in. Everything looks beautiful on the outside, but there is an underlying ugliness. We’re using this metaphor to wake people up to both the beauty and the ugliness of our country.”

The title of the CD, eXtraOrdinary rendition, is a commentary on the use of language by politicians. “They say ‘interrogation’ and what they’re really saying is ‘torture,’” says Marya.
“The phrase ‘extraordinary rendition’ does not sound like torture; it sounds like a party. eXtraOrdinary rendition, as the CD title, is a euphemism to define our times.”

To make the point that people understand the real meaning behind words, whether in politics or in music, Marya sings in four different languages — English, French, Spanish and Hindi — letting the meaning of each song shine through. One song written in Hindi, “Yaad,” is dedicated to her late father for whom Marya’s voice soars in a heart-wrenching farewell. “Yaad” is also a tribute to all of her patients’ families who’ve experienced loss.

“With this song, I re-create the sound of my father’s ashes being cast into the Pacific. I sing only one line, that means ‘I miss you’ in Hindi,” says Marya. “Every time I sing it, I remember the feeling of my loss and the intense loss of my patients’ families, and I put that energy into the song.” - UCSF Today


Discography

"BUILD" Rupa & the April Fishes 2012
"este mundo" Rupa & the April Fishes 2009 *
"extraordinary rendition" Rupa & the April Fishes 2008 *
"la pecheuse" Rupa solo EP

* Released through Cumbancha.

Photos

Bio

Rupa & The April Fishes is a SF-based global alternative band who seamlessly blend indie-roots-neoclassical-international sounds to create a bold and cinematic body of music with themes that center around the fluid vagaries of life, love, death and a borderless world.
Whether singing in French, Spanish, English, Romany, Tzotzil or Hindi, the April Fishes' sound is “ecstatic and powerfully evocative” (LA Times) led by Rupa’s voice, which is “saucy, mysterious, and comparable in power to the late Amy Winehouse” (BUST Magazine).
Called “soulful and sensuous” by Relix Magazine, Build is their third studio album, produced with Todd Sickafoose (Ani DiFranco, Andrew Bird). The band shows off the breadth of their diverse chops on the atmospheric ska of "Sur La Route" and an infectious cover of The Clash's politically-minded "Guns Of Brixton." Sparse percussion and a hypnotic double bass form the foundation of opener "Build," which has been picked up to promote the upcoming documentary Generation Food Project, led by Hoop Dreams director Steve James and food justice writer Raj Patel.

Key festival performances include NY's Central Park SummerStage, Montreal Jazz Festival, San Francisco's OutsideLands and Stern Grove Festivals not to mention dozens of Europe's most prestigious festivals and venues. They have worked with artists and activists such as David Graeber, Raj Patel, Rebecca Solnit, Manu Chao, Matt Mahurin and more.