Ruby Mountain
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Ruby Mountain

Oakland, California, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2012

Oakland, California, United States
Established on Jan, 2012
Solo Pop Fusion


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos


The best kept secret in music


"Krystle Ahmadyar's Long Journey Home"

Vanessa Camarena-Arredondo of Studio Grand, an activist-centric venue in Oakland, approached local singer and multi-instrumentalist Krystle Ahmadyar to do an artist residency at a time when the musician was dealing with a flurry of mixed emotions.

Ahmadyar, who is known for her soulful, vocal-driven solo project, Ruby Mountain, had just returned from visiting Afghanistan for the first time with her father, who hadn't been back to his native country for more than forty years. She spent weeks accompanying him on emotional reunions with relatives and childhood friends, and met many family members whom she had previously only seen in photos. But what made the trip bittersweet was that, for the first time, Ahmadyar personally witnessed the difficulties of life in her family's homeland.

Ahmadyar was born in Oakland. When she was ten years old, she moved to Omaha, Nebraska, where she grew up among an Afghan-American community. She credits her father, who is a singer and harmonium player, for introducing her to music at a young age and passing down cultural traditions through folklore, song, and dance.

During her trip to Afghanistan, Ahmadyar found herself grappling with the realities of life in a war-torn society, which seemed a world away from her father's recollections of his youth. "The Afghanistan I grew up hearing about was like, 'During full moons, we'd go out and have a picnic in the mountains and everyone would sing and stay up really late,'" she recalled in an interview. "So there's this sense of safety and connection to the land."

When she arrived, however, the differences she witnessed between public and private life in Kabul struck her. While she felt like she could be herself in relatives' homes, she recalled seeing almost no other women in public places, and her presence attracted curious glances from strangers. Family members warned her not to stay out late for fear of getting kidnapped, and she worried that being a foreigner would give her trouble at military checkpoints.

"When we went to visit, [Afghanistan was] completely changed. The stories I heard no longer can happen, and my father was devastated to see it," she said. Ahmadyar's father had immigrated to the United States before the 1978 Saur Revolution, and had been absent during years of civil war, the Soviet invasion, Taliban rule, and the War on Terror and its aftermath. "A lot of the time [Kabul] felt like a prison within a city," she continued, "because there were so many tall walls and barbed wire covering up all the buildings that he used to know."

However, the visit provided many joyous occasions, as well. Surrounded by extended family, Ahmadyar spent much of her journey singing folksongs, listening to elders' stories, and taking field recordings of conversations and nature sounds.

Upon returning from her trip, which she described as simultaneously "heartbreaking and beautiful," the musician yearned to pour her experiences into song. The opportunity of a residency at Studio Grand prompted her to take her Ruby Mountain project in a new direction, combining pop song structures with elements of experimental, electronic production, traditional Afghan music, and multimedia inspired by the impactful visit.

The residency, which began in August and ends in December, gives her access to Studio Grand's space for rehearsals and requires her to throw one show per month. This has given Ahmadyar an impetus to explore the connections between the various sonic and conceptual threads in her different music projects. (In addition to Ruby Mountain, she performs Afghan folk music with her father and fronts the down-tempo rock band Los Sirenas.) Part of her goal for the residency, she said, is to impart pieces of her Afghan culture to her listeners in novel ways. And on a personal level, the residency has served as an opportunity for her to process her reactions to the strife she saw in Afghanistan and her appreciation for the richness of her heritage.

Ahmadyar started writing songs shortly after graduating from Mills College in 2008, where she studied under Maggi Payne, a prominent figure in the local electronic music community. While Ahmadyar grew up playing Afghan folk music that utilizes instruments such as the harmonium and tabla, at Mills, she created avant-garde sound collages that incorporated field recordings, singing, and electronic noise.

When she began performing as Ruby Mountain around 2011, Ahmadyar gravitated away from both Afghan folk music and experimental electronic music toward a stripped-down pop sound. Ruby Mountain's current song catalogue prominently features her textured, throaty singing over subtle ukulele or guitar melodies and, occasionally, understated beats. On her recent single, "Into You," for instance, Ahmadyar explores the edges of her raspy timbre as she gently strums an acoustic guitar. On the track "Oak Tree," her voice resonates over the gentle taps of a drum machine.

For her upcoming show at Studio Grand on October 28, Ahmadyar will play a Ruby Mountain set that will incorporate elements of field recordings and folk songs from Afghanistan, as well as new, electronic elements that hark back to her early days of making noise music. The show will feature collaborations with electronic musician Puzzle and visual artist David Chacon, who helped Ahmadyar transform her photos from Afghanistan into hypnotic visual projections that will accompany the music. Though in the past, Ahmadyar has separated herself as an Afghan folk singer, a pop artist, and an experimental musician, she is working toward integrating these facets of her creative output in her forthcoming releases as Ruby Mountain.

"Ruby Mountain is a project where I get to be real about what's happening to me and what's happening in the community. ... The project really comes from my experience of being taught about storytelling from Afghan people," she said. "I have a rich history of people in my family being writers, poets, storytellers, and singers, and they've all used it to speak their truths." The tools she was searching for, it appears, have been with her all along. - East Bay Express


A song featured in the "Take this Hammer!" exhibit
Written by Ruby Mountain

Occupy Oakland, May Day Rally 2013 (
"Revolution" evolved while I was a member of the sound committee of Occupy Oakland. After setting up our sound system for rallies and actions, I found myself doing the routine sound checks with songs and verses I had written. I vividly recall how my voice seemed to travel from 14th and Broadway all the way to Jack London Square on the General Strike sound system. We ensured that our speakers, such as Angela Davis, would be heard. During these rallies, I would witness acts of generosity from strangers and observe the brilliant thinkers around me in action and feel utterly inspired. These experiences couldn’t help but become integral in my songwriting. "Revolution" was inspired by our collective power and willingness to work on ending oppression and also by our frustration when witnessing the reactions of the 1% and their supporters. They attempted to silence our rage toward the economic injustice and the systemic oppression we face to the violent extent of tear gas and rubber bullets. In spite of the opposition, people continued showing up for each other with support and love.

I decided to finish the song Revolution for the West Coast Port Shutdown in December 2011. I performed it on the Occupy Oakland sound truck in front of hundreds of people already at the port and while the second wave of protesters were marching from the West Oakland bart station.

Revolution documents a unique moment in time, when our movement was strong and hopeful despite the city and police coming down on us harder, raiding the encampment for the second time. Even with this happening people found ways to support each other so that they could continue to fight for social justice, ending inequality and hate in our society and within the movement.

The version currently featured in the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts exhibition: Take This Hammer: Art + Media Activism from the Bay, curated by Christian L. Frock, incorproates an audio recording of one of my friends getting arrested at an Occupy Oakland May Day rally. The sample is an audio picture of one incident that I had witnessed happen many times in the movement. I had to use it.


I walked for miles til' I found a drink

They left a bottle by that new wall they built

I drank it down it stole my breath

and then they gave life right back to me

You found me on your doorstep, fed my mouth

and bathed my dirty body

Put your arms around my neck

and said its time we start marching

We marched for miles and shut down their trade

We marched for miles for the people's sake

We marched for miles and shut down their trade

Now their watching us with hogs eyes

Hoping that we dissipate

The cops came in snatched my friend

and dragged her through the concrete

I followed her blood trail, she caught my eyes

and she started yellin

She yelled Revolution comin carry on

Revolution comin carry on

Revolution comin carry on

Revolution comin, comin, carry on

So don't stop, don't stop, don't stop

This is the place to stay

Don't stop, don't stop

We gotta go all the way

Don't stop, don't stop

This is the place to stay

Don't stop, don't stop, don't stop

My Mama called me up

Just the other day

I could hear her weeping softly

and I didn't know what to say

She cried my rents to high

I can't find work and there's all these bills to pay

When there's no food to eat and I'm on the street

What can I do but pray

Oh my Mama

She can't get what she need

All alone a gentle soul

In this kingdom of greed

We marched for miles and shut down their trade

We marched for miles for my Mama's sake

We marched for miles and shut down their trade

Now their watching us with hogs eyes

Hoping that we dissipate

Revolution comin carry on

Revolution comin carry on

Revolution comin, carry on

Revolution comin, comin, carry on

This work was originally performed at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on June 7 as part of Take This Hammer: Ten Bay Area Writers Respond, organized by Kevin B. Chen, Marc Bamuthi Joseph and Chinaka Hodge, in conjunction with the exhibition Take This Hammer: Art + Media Activism from the Bay Area, curated by Christian L. Frock, on view at YBCA through August 14, 2016.

View more works from CultureStrike's feature series from the exhibit.

Genre: Poetry
Topics: Community and Activism
Tags: Oakland, Take This Hammer, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

A Message from Favianna Rodriguez
"Art is always a reflection, a testament and a record of our human condition." Donate Now! - CultureStr/ke

"Ruby Mountain + Julio Salgado | Take This Hammer: Artist Conversation | YBCA"

Published on Jun 29, 2016

From an evening of conversations between the artists of Take This Hammer: Art + Media Activism from the Bay Area, an exhibition that presents the work of Bay Area artists, activists, and technologists originating some of today's most powerful social movements impacting racial justice, police brutality, immigration, displacement, and war. See more at - Yerba Buena Center For The Arts


Still working on that hot first release.



RUBY MOUNTAIN is an Oakland–based vocalist and songwriter who calls upon her training in Jazz, experimental electronic and Afghan music to create compositions of love, resiliency and social justice. She is a graduate from Mills College, a National Endowments for the Arts grant recipient, and a featured musician in the East Bay Express in 2015. Recently her music was exhibited in the "Take This Hammer: Art and Media Activism" exhibition at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts curated by Christian L. Frock and was a featured singer at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. for the show "Tear A Root From The Earth."

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