Butterfly Deity: An Interview with Kohinoorgasm

Samar Saif

11/18/20184 min read

When I first heard Josephine’s music, it felt like a release of warm air, a deep breath, an answer to unsaid questions. Under the name “Kohinoorgasm”, Josephine Shetty, a self-described “azaadi pop fairy”, creates heavenly music that transcends genres, expectations, and labels and continually opens space for people who do not exist within heteronormative white society – an answer to the spaces I felt did not hold aspects of my identity. Hearing them sing in Hindi about self-care, surviving trauma, and resistance gave me the language to process my own experiences in ways that I never had been able to before. Their music goes further than just being an auditory experience; it holds the power to reimagine and re-envision the ways that we navigate and see the world. When I think of their music, I think of open skies with flowers swaying in the breeze, the sun sharing its light and nurturing our minds and bodies. I think of a world where we can live among each other in mutual love and care; it gives me the hope to keep fighting for freedom and liberation.

How do your performances navigate physical space around you in relation to your music? How does the environment influence your musical as well as your ? corporeal modes of expression?

As much as I wish I could always deliver a strong performance on my own, I really rely on the spaces I play in for a lot of my energy, especially because my music is so vulnerable and personal that it feels difficult to perform it if I don’t feel cared for in the space. I respond really well to verbal affirmations and to movement during my set, so if I can tell the space is supportive and receptive, I will open up and deliver my songs in a more energized and impassioned way. I think it takes a special space and a special collection of people to hold all the vulnerabilities a lot of musicians bring to their performances, and I am lucky to have experienced that level of support for a majority of my shows.

What do you aim to create with your music and performances? How does sharing your music go deeper than performing for an audience?

I aim to create a lot of things with my music and performances, and I don’t think I could sum it all up well at this time. One thing I hope that my songs and I can hold space for is emotional healing. I feel so consoled and empowered by artists who share experiences similar to mine and whose healing processes inform mine. I hope my music can do that for someone. I also make music to dance to! I love dancing, and I hope people can dance to my music and expel tension and painful energy from their bodies and souls.
Music, and art in general, is such an imaginative practice. I really see music as one of many exercises in imagining, advocating for, and clarifying steps towards our best lives and our best futures. Lyrics can articulate our visions while melodies, rhythms, and tones can illustrate the environment in which that vision exists within. I have a theory that there is so little arts funding because the government is frightened of what we might envision, if we were even empowered to develop our visions that far.

How does your identity impact the way your music is received? What is your creative process? What are some of your motivations, passions, and hopes?

My process is really drawn out and sometimes discouraging! I have the time of my life developing melodies, but it takes me forever to develop drums and lyrics. On top of that, I work full-time and value my social and familial lives as well as self-care, so my creative process gets stretched far across time. It can be discouraging to spend so much time working on one song, but I take comfort in knowing I’m not alone in that challenge and that capitalism and the creative industrial complex would rather wring me dry for songs and excitement than give me enough time and resources to create and simultaneously strive for a balanced life. I hope to one day have exponentially more time and resources to dedicate to making music.

How does your music and fanbase go deeper than creating music to turn a profit? How have the people who have supported your music played a role in the type of shows you play and the content you put out?

I definitely don’t make music to turn a profit. I am hardly breaking even. As much as I want to be, and know I deserve to be, compensated for my work, I don’t know if I will ever be able to live off my work; yet I plan to continue this work anyway. Ultimately, music is like my spirit, and my primary goal is to feed my practice and experiment with the ways it can heal people, imagine futures, and uncover life’s mysteries.

What does your music hold for yourself and for others? How does it support those around you?

I feel really grateful to be able to play benefit shows! Creating and performing music and having a bit of visibility around that is a unique offering I can make towards meeting an immediate need for funds. Benefit shows also tend to be some of the most loving shows, because the aura of support is kind of inherent in that space. Most times people not only want to contribute funds to a cause, but they also want to be [present] in the physical community to process the issue at hand. I hope the reflective and introspective nature of my music can facilitate some kind of care in those moments.