Midnight Radio
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Midnight Radio

Los Angeles, California, United States | SELF

Los Angeles, California, United States | SELF
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"Reclaiming an ancestral caste identity in Los Angeles"



What is in a name? Well a lot, if it is a conduit to reclaiming an ancient identity, one that has been besmirched by thousand years of caste-based oppression. Meet the Dalit Diva, young Thenmozhi Soundararajan, who has no inhibitions about wearing this identity on her sleeve. In fact, the lead vocalists of LA-based neo-noir rock electronic band Midnight Radio is rather proud of it.

"Dalit Diva, reflects my mashup identity as a second generation Indian Dalit born in America. My first name Thenmozhi is a conventional Tamil name that means 'a voice like honey'. While Dalit has a negative connotation for many people, I connect it with the history and tradition of resistance and musicianship that is over 2,000 years old. My ancestors played drums in funeral processions and I have a rich musical and political legacy to follow.

"My father was inspired by the 70's Black identity movement. He often shared Stokely Carmichael's Black Power speech and Ambedkar's writings with me. As the Dalit Diva, I want to evoke the most powerful aspects of both my identities and create an exclusive and liberated world with the help of music," she says.
While Dalit has a negative connotation for many people, I connect it with the history and tradition of resistance and musicianship that is over 2,000 years old. - Thenmozhi Soundararajan

Drawing influences from bands like Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Sade, Pixies, Radiohead, MIA, and even our very own 'Mozart of Madras' A.R. Rahman, Midnight Radio was born in the sound department of a film collegial. Everyone in the group has aliases, though the rest are not as avowedly political: guitarist Cesar Arvizo is known as Captain Midnight. Chevy Chen who plays the drums is Baron von Bulge. Bassist David Huber is Dr H, while Hans Crump on keys and guitar is called The OneXX.

"In the US, the tradition of Midnight Radio refers to a series of radio shows that are aired at midnight. They feature pulp stories, heroines and heroes and terrible villains like those in Bollywood. These stories are about fantasy and include noir detective stories, time travel, aliens and robots. We take inspiration from these stories and have created songs like Burn Down the Disco and Robot Lover that tell the human side of these fantastic characters," says Soundarajan.

"Our debut album, an EP, will be released in February. It reflects the coming together of our sound and mash up of genres including rock, surf rock, ska, and more. It is a retro album and reflects our aesthetics. Through this album, we discover our sounds together. Our second album Singulairity which will be released in summer is dedicated to our musings about the world of the Technological Singulairity, where humans, robots and beings in between try to discover a brave new world together," says Soundararajan.

- The Sunday Guardian


"Midnight Radio Releases 3-D Music Video"


Los Angeles-based band Midnight Radio, fronted by Westminster-raised lead singer Thenmozhi Soundararajan, goes three dimensional and makes history with the release of "Blood and Glory"--the first single off their forthcoming self-titled EP. As expected, when a group of musicians such as Midnight Radio comes together out of shared roots in film school, tech-savvy music videos of high quality are in order. Soundararajan, who goes by the stage name "Dalit Diva," is a film director and producer out of USC. Directing music videos isn't anything new, either, as she has Aesthetics Crew's "The City Beat" under her credit. This time around, however, Soundararajan did double time making "Blood and Glory" in front of and behind the camera.

Shot on location at the Museum of Neon Art in Downtown Los Angeles, the neo-noir five-piece perform against a backdrop of assembled bright signs. They are introduced by an eccentric character described by Soundararajan as "over-the-top-performer host" before getting down to business. "It's our version of a Bollywood rock & roll show from the '90s, breaking indie acts that you never heard of," she adds. Dual-language Hindi/English subtitles give insight into the lyrical depth of "Blood and Glory." The poetic break-up song speaks of relationships and the process of moving on without holding anger in the heart.


"We are always going to be into visual as well as audio experimentation," the Dalit Diva says of her band and their decision to go 3-D. "We had four hours at the museum, and everything in 3-D takes double time. Luckily, we had an amazing crew comprised of mostly women." The ambitious move caused many sleepy all-nighters for the lead singer/music-video director, but in the end, it was all worth it--and even a little bit historic. Midnight Radio, who have garnered international press before, were once again contacted by Indian media. According to Buzzline Bollywood, "Blood and Glory" is one of the first 3-D music videos made by an Indian artist, a distinction Soundararajan didn't realize at the onset of undertaking the task.

As for actually seeing the Dalit Diva herself spray bubbles from a bubble machine gun that seemingly come out of the computer monitor toward your face, I fetched my RealD 3-D glasses I had saved from going to see Jackass 3 in the movie theaters. Unfortunately, they didn't do the trick, as I didn't read the instructions posted with the video on YouTube:

To see 3-D content on YouTube, you will need a 3-D monitor with compatible glasses, or red and blue anaglyph glasses. Either way, make your selection of the type of 3-D you would like to use at the bottom right of the screen under the 3-D menu!

Don't worry, if you don't have the hookups, you aren't condemned to blurry vision. There's also a 2-D version of "Blood and Glory" available online. - OC Weekly


Discography

Midnight Radio EP (2011, PH2 Records)

Available at midnightradio.bandcamp.com

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Bio

Born out of a Los Angeles area Film School, Midnight Radio is a Neo-noir, Electro-rock band that blends genres to tell epic stories. The four-piece outfit is a potent brew of cinema, art, and music, driven by story and epic soundscapes and always experimenting with form and content.

Taking their name from the pulp stories of late-night radio, the band is inspired by the stories that take place in this realm of fantasy. From detective stories, time travel, aliens, and robots, they love to create songs that tell the human side of these fantastic elements.

Midnight Radio draws from the sounds of modern rock and pop including Metric, the Pixies, MIA, and Siouxe and the Banshees.

Midnight Radio has created a local buzz from playing tirelessly at venues throughout Southern California in addition to a headlining spot at the 2010 Indian Film Festival. The group has continue to build its international buzz from partnering with much-hyped startup StageIt to broadcast a live performance to hundreds of fans across the globe and has been featured in Indian, UK, and American press.