Kavita Shah

Singer, Composer, Vocalist, US

Kavita Shah makes work in deep engagement with the jazz tradition while also addressing and advancing its global sensibilities. A lifelong New Yorker of Indian origin hailed for possessing an “amazing dexterity for musical languages” (NPR), Shah incorporates her ethnographic research on traditional musical practices from Brazil, Cape Verde, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Tanzania, Turkey, and India into her original compositions. Her debut album "VISIONS", co-produced by guitarist Lionel Loueke, was released in 2014 to great critical acclaim. Out of this project was born the Kavita Shah Quintet, a touring ensemble presenting Shah’s music and arrangements at clubs, concert halls, and festivals around the world. In 2018, Shah and bassist François Moutin released "Interplay," a program of standards, originals, and improvised music with guests Martial Solal and NEA Jazz Master Sheila Jordan; it was nominated for a Victoire du Jazz (French Grammy Award) for Album of the Year. In 2017, Kavita was invited by MacArthur genius winner Jason Moran to premiere a large-scale work at the Park Avenue Armory. She created "Folk Songs of Naboréa," a contemporary song-cycle for seven voices that imagines the folk music of a futuristic, post-nuclear society. The interdisciplinary piece was named by Nate Chinen as a Top 10 Performance of 2017. From her formal training at Manhattan School of Music and Juilliard, Shah draws a keen interest in complex arrangements and adventurous approaches to the voice as an instrument. Just as important to Shah is oral tradition, which she credits for grounding her vision of music as not just pursuit of virtuosity, but also cultural work. She won the ASCAP Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composers Award in 2013, and has received research grants from DRCLAS, Jerome Foundation, and Asian Cultural Council. In 2019, she will be a composer-in-residence at the Camargo Foundation in Cassis, France, where she will work on an ongoing research project about the migration of sounds and people in the Lusophone diaspora, with an emphasis on the Portuguese presence in colonial India.

Learn more: www.kavitashahmusic.com

Kavita Shah was in residence from September 20 to October 18, 2019 in partnership with the Jerome Foundation.

Untitled (a work-in-progress inspired by the migration of people and sounds in the Lusophone world)

Her residency at Camargo focused on the development of a long-term ethnomusicological research project about the migration of people and sounds across the Portuguese-speaking world. This research eventually culminated in the creation of a new, interdisciplinary work integrating music, movement, and visual art. Specifically, Shah time at Camargo focused on furthering previous research conducted in Brazil, Cape Verde, Lisbon, and New York; testing creative ideas and planning the architecture for this creative work; and beginning to compose music in dialogue with her research. 

While at Camargo, Kavita Shah looked forward to being close to the water (as her project dealt with questions of migration, water had a central theme in her work), engaging with academics at the Institut des mondes africains (Aix-en-Provence), and visiting the the Archives Nationales d’outre mer (Marseille) to help contextualize her work about themes of diaspora. Shah was also enthusiastic to learn from the other artists-in-residence throughout her stay.