Meet Sejal from Laydy Jams. She’s an environmental researcher by day and a violinist/vocalist by night. Sejal is part of the band, Laydy Jams. It’s a collective of women of colour, based in Vancouver, featuring Missy D as femcee and Sejal on violin and vocals. Together, they bring the sound of their lives to audiences through roots of R&B, hip-hop, soul, classical, jazz, and funk. Music is what Sejal lives for. Laydy Jams is a place for her to express what she faces as a WOC and stand in solidarity with other marginalized communities.
Tell us about your career journey? How did you get involved in your industry?
I started playing violin when I was 5 years old. My parents put me into violin lessons. I hated practicing when I was younger, and it wasn’t until high school that I wanted to look beyond classical music. That’s when I started getting into rock, R&B, soul, and jazz music. So when I was 16 I put up an ad on Craigslist and ended up joining a band with University boys. My parents met my band mates’ parents to ensure I would be safe, and they agreed to let me join. I played with that band for 5 years, and when it fizzled out, I formed Laydy Jams with a group of my girlfriends and have been active since our UBC days in 2014. I got my degree in environmental geography and after graduation, but I decided I wanted to level up my skills, and started training again as a violinist and have been working with a mentor, John “Adidam” Littlejohn for the last 4 years.
What is the hardest challenge you have come up against in your personal/professional life? What was your biggest lesson learned?
I’m slowing overcoming my anxiety of not being good enough. That’s the biggest thing that prevents me from practicing (paralyzing me) and feeling that what I’ve written isn’t a valid story that someone wants to hear… marginalized voices need to be heard, and there is a lot of momentum now for diverse voices. I’m working to undo the anxieties I have and speak up about what I face and what my peers face. I know I’m becoming more confident day-by-day.
What advice would you give young South Asian women wanting to do what you do?
Generally speaking, being an artist or musician isn’t seen as meaning anything besides a bullet point on a resume by most Desi parents. The expectation is that when you’ve completed highschool you’re expected to study sciences, law, etc… music and arts is not seen as respectable, but it’s an opportunity for us to explore and express our experiences as brown kids and that’s such an important way for us to process and stand in solidarity with other marginalized communities. At times it’s difficult to have these conversations with our parents, however, I say go for it. Some artists I know are really struggling and some are able to make it work… in order for me to study violin, I need my 9-5 to help finance my lessons. Do whatever you need to do to make your art happen!
What do you do to help South Asian women feel empowered?
I’m processing what it’s like to be a desi girl trying to do music and really hope our lyrics reach marginalized communities. Some of my more recent lyrics focus on the intersectional violence that exists in the South Asian communities. I’ve included the names of victims of violence like Phoolan Devi, Jassie Sidhu, Maple Bhatalia and Asifa in my songs to help bring light to this. I also address casteism as I feel we need to talk about these things.
If you could tell your teenage self something, what would it be?
You get way cooler later on, and you level up… you become a more confident person because of the work you choose to put in. I’m finally learning to be comfortable in my brown skin. Be proud of who you are and where you come from because that’s a story that needs to be told. Also, I never in my life dreamed that I would be surrounded by so many incredible friends, artists, and mentors. They are my constant source of support and inspiration to be better in life and music.
Besides your work, what are you passionate about?
Where can one find you on your days off?
Most likely practicing, eating somewhere, drinking bubble tea, taking a dance class or out for a bike ride or hike somewhere with my friends or partner.
How do you balance work, life, family?
I’m not so great with this and working on this flaw of mine. I’ve been trying to prioritize music in any spare time that I have and practicing violin can be lonely. I need to find other ways to continue learning with other people and I’ve been doing this by having jam sessions with other artists. My family also keep me in check. I do love spending time with my nieces, nephews, and my cousins and grandparents. They remind me who I am and where I come from. I’m working on balance and trying not to get overwhelmed with everything from work, family and music.
Contact Sejal from Laydy Jams
Facebook – @laydyjams
Soundcloud – @laydyjams
Catch Sejal at the following 5X Fest events:
5X Womxn’s Showcase – June 14
5X Creates – June 16