Raised in Westminster, Thenmozhi Soundararajan has grown to become a multifaceted creative force. After completing high school in OC, she traveled north to the Bay Area to become executive director of Third World Majority. Soundararajan later returned to Southern California and enrolled in film school at USC. Her latest creative outlet, Midnight Radio, is a neo-noir rock band formed in the sound department of that university. Soundararajan's onstage persona, "Dalit Diva," has attracted international press, including a profile in India's The Sunday Guardian earlier this week.
The article (written by Bhaskar Pant) focuses on the music of Midnight Radio--Soundararajan, lead guitarist Cesar Arvizo, drummer Chevy Chen, bassist David Huber and guitarist Hans--but not before delving into how their lead singer is positively reclaiming an ancestral Indian caste identity. Dalits have historically been discriminated against as "untouchables," exploited for their labor and shunned by large segments of society. In Soundararajan's view, however, her being a second-generation Indian Dalit raised in OC conveys much more than that, and it informs her musical pursuits.
As she explains in The Sunday Guardian's write-up:
"My first name, Thenmozhi, is a conventional Tamil name that means 'a voice like honey'. While Dalit has a negative connotation for many people, I connect it with the history and tradition of resistance and musicianship that is over 2,000 years old. My ancestors played drums in funeral processions, and I have a rich musical and political legacy to follow."
Returning to Orange County with her musical vision in tow, Soundararajan enlisted Midnight Radio in a Battle of the Bands hosted at Bernie's Bar in Fullerton in October 2009. Despite being a very early performance of the group, they displayed a disciplined multigenre approach, mixing rock, funk and ska sensibilities. The Dalit Diva's stage persona, meanwhile, communicated a penchant for the pure fun of playing music, including an interactive cover of TLC's '90s anthem "Waterfalls."
Having matured musically since their formation and adding a keyboardist to the roster, Midnight Radio are looking to make ambitious moves in 2011. Pant's article notes that the band have an EP ready for release next month, and they hope to follow it up with a concept album titled Singularity this summer.
And to demonstrate how dramatically the world of independent music has changed since Dalit Diva's early-'90s high-school days, Midnight Radio are currently campaigning for 1,000 "likes" on their Facebook band page. If they get it, they will land an important gig, so if you dig their vibes, drop by and give them a FB "thumbs-up!"