May 25, 2023
Arts & Culture

Three minutes with Parvyn Kaur Singh

Meet Parvyn Kaur Singh, a Punjabi-Australian singer best known for her work in the band The Bombay Royale. She’s performed globally since childhood with her father Dya Singh and has trained in classical Indian music and dance.

Genevieve Tell us about your childhood.

Parvyn I grew up in the Adelaide Hills with my two older sisters, but also regularly travelled to my uncle’s farm in the Riverland where I spent the first couple of years of my life. My mum was a nurse and my dad an accountant-turned-professional-musician in the early 1990s.

Genevieve What are your earliest memories of hearing music and singing?

Parvyn When my parents arrived in Adelaide from the United Kingdom in 1981, they connected with any Sikhs they could find and started a Gurdwara (Sikh holy place of worship). Some of my earliest memories are sitting on my dad’s lap while he played the harmonium and sang kirtan (Sikh gospel music) to the community. I remember the warmth and comfort in it that will always be the foundation of where my artistic practice comes from.

Genevieve Tell us about singing with your dad, Dya Singh, as a child? 

Parvyn After some encouragement and support from the wider folk music community in SA, Dad started performing Sikh spiritual music in public venues. We recorded our first show at the Lion Arts Theatre in 1992 and it became our first album Australian Sikh Rhythm and Soul. We performed at the first WOMADelaide in the early 1990s and attended folk festivals around Australia, eventually touring to the Singapore Arts Festival and Japan and later on North America, Canada, UK, Europe and India. I love that we got to perform on stage and travel together as a family connecting with people all over the world.

Genevieve Did you study music? How did your music career progress?

Parvyn My music education was “on-the-job” training. My sisters and I never really had formal lessons or rehearsals with dad, but he would guide us to sing along with what we could pick up by ear. The style of music we sing is very emotionally and spiritually driven, so there is a sense of letting yourself get lost in the sound and singing whatever comes out organically. If we sang well, he would look at us to continue further and if we didn’t quite get it right, he would cut in with his voice and repeat the phrases. My teachers at Belair Primary School were very encouraging of me taking time off to go touring with dad. I would keep a journal of my travels and had some worksheets to do while I was away. During my gap year after high school, I toured constantly and returned to university to study journalism and media/communication mostly via correspondence over a few years. After my degree I travelled to Ahmedabad, India, with my now-husband Josh Bennett, to study Khayal (North Indian classical voice) and Kathak (dance). During that time, we formed The Bombay Royale and another folk trio called BluGuru that toured extensively around Australia and Europe.

Genevieve Can you describe your music now?

Parvyn Even before the global pandemic started, I was already planning on making a solo record. Not touring gave me the space to really work on what my new solo sound would be and the songs that I’ve included on my debut solo record . The album draws from a broad palette of styles and moods from garage-esque bounce to 808 bass, layered loops and vocal improvisations. With influences from Bjork to Anoushka Shankar, my music is immersed in a reflective world of different cultures and perspectives from pop, soul and jazz to Indian classical music and dance.

Genevieve What have been some recent highlights?

Parvyn My biggest highlight was being nominated for an ARIA last year for Best World Music album. Being on Spicks and Specks, the ABC Artworks show, singing the Indian national anthem at the Boxing Day Test match at MCG and performing at festivals such as WOMADdelaide, Woodford Folk Festival, Darwin Festival and Mona Foma with my new band has all been awesome.


This article first appeared in the May 2023 issue of SALIFE magazine.



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