Satya Hinduja Taps into the Right Frequencies with Her Alchemic Sonic Environment Performance
On a warm night in Mumbai this May, several dozen people sat in seats arranged in a yin-yang pattern around Satya Hinduja ‘04. She instructed them to close their eyes, so that they could go inside themselves, while she played a composition designed to help them get in touch with the "energy of their heart center." While the participants grew meditative, Hinduja slipped among them to sound soft tones in their ears.
It was the debut of her Alchemic Sonic Environment performance, an immersive sonic experience she created by drawing on her diverse musical background, which has included studying at Berklee, Dubspot, and the Underground Producers Alliance; scoring films in Bollywood; DJing throughout the world; and examining neurolinguistic programming and kinesiology.
Hinduja, who was a film scoring major at Berklee, sat down to talk about her musical journey, the transformation of the music industry in India, and finding what she calls her life’s mission to educate people about “the importance of frequencies and the subconscious.” Below is an edited and condensed version of that conversation.
How was music part of your life growing up in Mumbai?
I grew up with music because of my mother's influence, who guided me and my siblings to study music. In Indian school I used to have music from when I was a kid until 10th grade, but they really just taught do to do. So the only music education for us was going to find teachers outside.
I could never stick to one instrument. I started with vocals, which led me to piano. That led me to finding a teacher [Bismarck Rodrigues], and he was the most incredible man that I met because he taught me guitar—my principal instrument at Berklee. It was actually he who educated me about Berklee; I didn’t even know Berklee existed. He told me that Berklee College of Music was the best school in the world.
You’ve said that you were determined to go to Berklee but that your father didn’t want you to go.
It was not about Berklee, specifically. For him, it was about music as a career path. For him, it didn’t make any sense. My family has actually funded movies for many years and he saw the film industry as a business, and in India back then there was no music industry apart from music for film. Independent music existed but it was really small. And today, the way electronic music is bursting in the country and things are opening up and there are more and more young artists—it was not like this then.
In 2014, he came to visit me [in] New York. I gave him the whole presentation of my vision board and the sound experience. He didn’t say much in that moment, but when he left and got to the airport he called me and he said, ‘I just want to say one thing to you: I’m really proud of you and what you’ve done is amazing.’
What did you do after you graduated from Berklee?
I came back to Mumbai for six years to work for Bollywood film composers [siblings] Salim-Sulaiman [Merchant]. I had watched a movie that they had scored and I knew that whenever I was done [with Berklee] I wanted to go work with them. So every time I took a break to come home I met them and I started to say, ‘Can I hang out here? I just want to learn. I just want to be your assistant for free.’ By the time I finished Berklee, I was like, ‘Hey, just hire me now.’ So it was a progression. And then I worked for them for six years.
What kind of work did you do for them?
I began with capturing video, sitting in a little control room, to make sure nothing skips, to actually writing music and recording sessions—and doing the parts, because I had come from Berklee and nobody else knew how to do the parts, because in India at that time there weren’t too many people who knew how to read music.
Tell me about your transition to being an independent electronica artist.
In 2011, I deicded to visit New York. I wanted a fresh start. One day I decided to visit DUMBO, in Brooklyn, and discovered posters with the Creators Project all over. So I went to this two-day festival, and it was this experience that changed my life, musically. The Creators Project was a festival where music and technology merged in the space of physical dimensions of moving around with sound and DJs, and it was very much what I wanted to be involved in.
Now I’m working on the Alchemic Sonic Environments, which is what I launched [at my performance]; I have been looking to find my sound for a long time and I realized I wanted to create alchemic electronica—music that starts with a frequency that’s been researched for a specific part of the body. Alchemic electronica is a subgenre of the electronica movement that uses scientifically researched frequencies as its foundational ingredient for a musical composition, intended to merge science and the arts in order to induce an elevated collective subconscious. Of course, it’s still not scientifically proven, but there’s enough research out there that isolating a specific frequency works on the energy center of the body.
The Alchemic Sonic Environment was born out of an experiment of marrying frequency with composition (which comes from my film scoring space) and performance (which became the DJ space) to give people an immersive sonic experience for their mind, body, and soul.