Turiya is a Sanskrit word, meaning a state of pure consciousness, and in subtler terms, the silence one experiences after sound. It forms the inspiration for T U R Y A’s name.
Born Nicki Wells in South London, she grew up in the foothills of the Himalayas, and later came full circle by returning to India as a teenager to study Indian Classical Music.
Singer, songwriter, producer, composer and now also earthenware potter, T U R Y A is back after a short hiatus that was spent writing, recording and producing her new EP ‘Echo’, which came out in spring 2019, to follow up last summer’s debut album ‘Ocean’.
T U R Y A shares her journey so far with the ‘Echo’ EP: “Since the release of ‘Ocean’, I have been back to creating, writing and spending time producing in the recording studio. I wanted this new music to be stripped back and organic; to have a song stand on its own with just voice and piano, or voice and guitar – back to basics. The minimalistic production is compensated by the title track ‘Echo’ and the Sanctuary Remix of ‘Rain’. ‘Echo’ was a song I wrote about the man who skydived from space to the earth back in 2012. In the song, he hears the echo of a distant voice in space as he’s falling back to earth. This echo represents that inner voice that encourages us to go beyond our limitations and dares us to explore further, facilitating our growth and evolution.”
Such depth belies her years, but makes sense against the backdrop of T U R Y A’s rich and diverse upbringing, which spanned several continents and cultures. A background which has influenced her vocals and enriched her songwriting approach and melodies with an immersive warmth and resonance.
Speaking about ‘Magical Moments’ the lead track from the new ‘Echo’ EP: “Over the Christmas period, we sadly lost Grandad. In my moments of remembering him, I penned ‘Magic Moments’ in his memory. It reflects on how fleeting these precious moments with family can be. Things change so quickly, a new family member entered the world when my sister had her second baby, the same time a loved one passes on, the cycle of life inevitably continuing.”
T U R Y A’s musical passion has far-ranging roots; there was the influence of her Swiss French mother and her English father (who had travelled widely in his own youth, and whose best friend at university had been the folk icon Nick Drake). There was also an early awakening, when she and her siblings were sent to school in northern India; this was an all-encompassing experience, far from any ex-pat bubble.
“I grew up in Himachal Pradesh between the ages of 6 and 10 and just absorbed the sounds, colours and rich culture of the region. We went to a very multicultural school with an emphasis on self-discovery, self-expression and not being saturated with Western materialism. It was situated at the foothills of the Himalayas, with jungle and these epic white mountains that we’d wake up to see every day. Growing up with so many different languages and accents is probably how my musical ear began to develop.”
T U R Y A moved back to Britain aged 10 and by the age of 16, her creative talent had secured her a place at the prestigious BRIT School in Croydon. Like countless young performers, this had been her original ambition. But fate took her further when she decided to accept a place in Australia, at Sydney’s acclaimed, McDonald College. She quickly became involved in several bands and immersed herself in the Sydney gigging scene. T U R Y A would return to India at 18, to study the fundamentals of Indian classical music: “It was a time of simplification but focus. No phones, no internet. I spent the days working on my voice and learning Sanskrit Shlokas (ancient Vedic hymns), Bhajans (devotional songs) and various Ragas. It was a potently creative and focused time that solidified the foundation of what I know about Indian classical music today.”
All of these places and perspectives have helped to shape T U R Y A’s musical scope, when she returned to London, a producer friend Pete Boxtsta Martin played T U R Y A’s songs to Nitin Sawhney, who immediately heard a kindred spirit: “The whole concept of ’Beyond Skin’ was about music transcending religion and race, and someone who invites this universal feeling without barriers,” says T U R Y A.
Sawhney invited her to join his touring band as key vocalist, leading to her much acclaimed performances around the globe, including the Sydney Opera House, Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage and London’s Royal Albert Hall, plus collaborations like the London Symphony Orchestra.
Her range as an independent artist and composer also continued to flourish, as she composed music for contemporary dance, theatre productions like the acclaimed Drawing The Line and films including the young feminist doc Girl Connected, at the same time honing the original songs for her own debut album, ‘Ocean’. From the lucid spiritual soul of the title track, to the reflective romance of ‘Snow’ and the ethereal debut track ‘Rain’ which features in Ridley Scott’s ‘Life In The Day (India)’.
Talking of her new line in earthenware pots: “Aside from my music, I love to learn new things and love working with my hands. Composing for contemporary dance, theatre, documentaries and films always keeps me on my toes creatively and helps me to evolve as a musician, but I have also started creating TURYA pots, my merchandising line. I found it to be a form of therapy when I started last year and it gives me peace of mind while I’m making them. I think to have something handmade, personal and unique, that someone who enjoys my music can use in their home means something special to me.”
With the release of the new EP ‘Echo’, T U R Y A is building a body of work representing an artist who is vast in her range, and clear in her emotional appeal, both absorbing and elemental.
“Some of these songs are about vulnerability; some are about acceptance – the idea that, at the end of the day, we have to accept ourselves, nourish ourselves, and there is always the liberation of just exhaling and letting your hair down.”