Nisha Purushotham
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Nisha Purushotham

Boston, Massachusetts, United States

Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Band Folk World


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"Finding Hope in the Wilderness"

The range of music and emotion on Nisha Purushotham’s debut album Living Water reflects a diversity as wide as Purushotham’s own musical talents and influences. Born in India, the singer-songwriter started out as a classically trained pianist, then dedicated herself to becoming a proficient hand percussionist (congas primarily, but also tabla and bata), and finally developed both her singing style and songwriting under the influence of Afro-Caribbean rhythms and music.

“Rage Together” opens the album, asking “Why can’t a man live a life with a man without other people claiming that he’s damned?” A litany of rhetorical queries like this one is passionately rolled out over Purushotham’s quick and lively Afro-Cuban conga beat. It’s just her, the three drums, and a deep and personal commitment to justice.

Purushotham worked in community organizing for several years prior to launching Rhythm & Roots, a program that supports children and youth to find their personal, political and cultural voices through conga drumming and freedom singing. In a lively track entitled “Brandon’s Hands”, Purushotham pays tribute to young, Rhythm & Roots drummers.

The gently powerful title track, “Living Water”, compels us to breathe together with an assortment of otherwise disconnected souls caught in a global web of oppression. Purushotham’s unique voice is at the same time haunting and soothing. It pulls you right into the pathos of needless suffering, accompanied by an equally seductive piano and violin. The gift in Purushotham’s music is that despite the obvious sadness and anger in her lyrics they are alternately infused with lyrics that that evoke courage, hope and perseverance:

There’s a peace in the rubble, where the bombs and children fell

And there’s a truth in the silence, only those with courage tell

And there’s deliverance for the forgotten, at the height of their distress

‘Cause there’s a spring of living water, in the heart of the wilderness

The other tracks on the album provide a similar mix of political passion and calming inspiration. “Close My Eyes” delicately presents the moral discomfort of witnessing through a window the struggles of a prostitute working the street of an Indian city while the witness enjoys relative safety and comfort. “What if the World Were a Dream” features a disturbing, minor-key bridge in the middle of a very bright, upbeat song. A dramatic yet seamless transition transports the listener from the matchless delight of a young girl romping through the magic of moons and clouds and waves to an unsettling consideration of the steep price we pay for losing this engaging sensory capacity in adulthood. The vivid imagery and cultural speculation beg for the right movie to adopt this one as a soundtrack.

“Share”, combines stories of struggle with a prophetic call to the well-off to “Share your wealth, not your charity”. A very catchy piano riff washes over an unlikely partner of a West African djembe rhythm. The CD finishes off with “For Amma”, a short, classical instrumental that a listener friend of mine gushes over more than any other piece on the album. “I just love that one!”

The songs are backed by instrumentation consisting of electric guitar, violin, cello, erhu, electric and upright basses and drums, which add layers of surprise and creativity to Purushotham’s vocal and percussion work. Combined with the strength of her lyrics, Living Water, provides the listener with an emotional experience that is profoundly moving.

Mimi Budnick, community organizer, Providence, RI - Submitted to Left Turn Magazine


LPs: Living Water (released 2009)



Singer-songwriter Nisha Purushotham was born in New Delhi and raised in New England. Over her lifetime she has lived in Oxford, England, Bangalore, India, rural North Carolina and New York’s upper west side. Reflecting this experience, Nisha’s cultural identity and music are shaped by many influences. She is a classically trained pianist, a vocalist nurtured in church and school choirs, a percussionist of North Indian, Afro-Cuban and Afro-Rican folkloric traditions, and an artist-in-residence with experience in numerous schools, universities, non-profit and arts organizations, and religious institutions throughout the North East of the United States.

As a singer-songwriter, Nisha weaves together these varied experiences to create songs that feature percussive piano playing, melodic world percussion, and lyrics that tell the stories of people she has encountered in India and the Americas.