#ShineYourLight is our new series in which we Glitz & interview our favorite groundbreaking artists & activists who inspire us by shining their light on issues they are most passionate about! This week we caught up with experimental pop musician Kohinoorgasm who advocates for the rights and growth of DIY artists and uplifting grassroots initiatives who center the experience of queer and trans Black and brown creatives.
Tell us a little about yourself, how you #ShineYourLight & what do you choose to shine it on?
My name is Josephine Shetty, and I create experimental pop music as Kohinoorgasm! I shine my light on many things, from my extended community to my own creativity. As a self-teaching, self-managing, self-producing, and self-releasing solo artist, critical elements of my ethos include advocating for the rights and growth of DIY artists and uplifting grassroots initiatives.
In my creative community, I prioritize advocating for, working with, booking, sharing knowledge with, sharing a bill with, touring alongside, learning from, promoting, and collaborating with artists who are systemically unsupported in their artistry. These are always queer and trans Black and brown DIY creatives. I am committed to the empowerment of these communities, because I believe all contemporary, mainstream art and culture exploits them. Thus, queer and trans Black and brown creatives deserve not only reparations for their stolen work, but they also deserve a wealth of opportunities for their artistry to be credited, compensated, and celebrated. I imagine that’s exactly where the underground comes from, and I am so grateful for it.
Community and collaboration have also drawn me to many other roles and disciplines, such as workshop facilitator, organizer/activist, producer/composer, dancer, curator, and model!
What kind of hardships/injustices have you encountered in your life that drives you to create change?
Having been raised in an abusive environment, I relate justice work to the processes by which people are freed from abuse. We live in a very abusive society, emotionally, physically, and psychologically. I see it manifesting in absolutely every form of oppression. Oppression is abusive, and many interpersonal abuse tactics can be likened to systemic oppression tactics and visa versa. Because oppression and abuse are so intentionally traumatizing, I believe that our movements will require healing justice. The abolishment of oppressive systems will necessitate true care and healing for the people and cultures impacted by them. I see true care and healing for oppressed peoples as one of many types of reparations we are owed for being systemically abused.
What are some self care rituals you do to keep hopeful & keep going?
Singing has always refreshed me. I don’t know if it has to do with managing my breath or the vibrations that radiate from my vocal chords to other parts of my body, but singing has always relaxed and replenished me when I needed it to. I love to dance, and I love to journal, too! Dancing makes me feel beautiful and powerful in my expression, and journaling has empowered me to observe and learn from my own emotional processes and to have a direct conversation with myself. Dancing has led me to get to know my body, and journaling has led me to get to know my heart and mind more intimately than I ever have. I also find that spending really meaningful playtime with my loved ones who share a similar vision for the future reminds me how possible it is to achieve harmony and happiness.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
One of my favorite pieces of advice that I have ever received was bestowed upon me by visual artist Micah Bazant. I was about to graduate UC Berkeley. I really didn’t know what to do with my life, but I knew I was very passionate about art and activism. A good friend and organizing comrade put me in touch with Micah, and I got to speak to them over the phone for a little bit about my future. They told me that there is a place for everyone in the movements to advance justice. Similarly, everyone has a role to play in advancing justice, but each role will be different depending on each person’s unique abilities, identities, skills, capacities, etc. They reminded me to continue to get to know myself and to uncover my gifts, so I can develop them with intention and care and apply them towards the movements I want to invest most in.
I also think that young artists and activists looking for guidance should definitely read adrienne maree brown’s recent book “Emergent Strategy”. It is an amazing collection of thoughts, essays, and exercises about shaping change within ourselves and the world around us. It has changed my life.
What are some organizations doing awesome work that you would suggest our Glitz Gang reading at home look into & volunteer time with?
I could literally name hundreds! I will focus on some key advocacy groups in the extended South Asian American community. In the Bay Area, I spent significant time organizing with the Alliance of South Asians Taken Action (ASATA). They work to educate, empower, and organize Bay Area South Asians to end violence, oppression, and racism within and against diverse South Asian communities. Similarly, Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM) in New York builds power amongst South Asian communities with a greater focus on low wage immigrant workers, youth, and families. In Los Angeles, LA Summer Solidarity Institute (LASSI) organizes a retreat for South Asian American youth to learn about social justice and community organizing, and SWANA-LA advocates for Southwest Asian and North Afrikan communities locally and globally. Lastly, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) is a national non-profit that advocates for the civil rights of all South Asians in the United States. Engaging with the work of these organizations and collectives will surely lead you to the incredible work of many more like-minded groups!
What are your favorite colors of BioGlitz to shine responsibly with?
I love warm colors, so definitely the oranges, golds, reds, and pinks!
How can we listen to your magical music?
My music is available to stream on almost every online store, Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, Tidal, Bandcamp, Soundcloud, etc, and I post frequent updates about my work on Instagram! I go by Kohinoorgasm across all platforms. Thank you so much for your support!