Talent, tenacity, and triumph: A look at Anugraha Chris’s artistic journey

Image from author.

Do you believe in fate? For Anugraha Chris, a senior at Washington and a rising singer, the answer might be yes. Chris began training as a singer at the age of six, but believes her interest in singing to have been rooted in her infancy, almost by destiny. As a baby, Chris is told, she was heard “babbling along” to her grandmother’s singing (much to the latter’s delight); in her excitement, her grandmother proclaimed that Chris would become a singer when she grew up. The rest of her family was skeptical, but looking back, Chris reflects that “it’s strange how things work out in the end.”

Since her early accounts of singing, Chris has progressed to perform in various events over the years and has begun several musical projects, with a special emphasis on Carnatic music. Carnatic music, she says, “is a style of music that originated in South India. It’s been around for centuries, and it’s a connection to our culture.” Chris began Carnatic music classes at the age of six, after her parents noticed her continued interest in singing. Since then, she has trained every week for the past 12 years, along with participating in performances at temples, theater productions, and events at Ohlone College. 

However, it wasn’t always easy. During childhood, Chris felt a lack of confidence singing on her own, and consequently did less to publicize her work in those years. Going into high school, though, she decided to take a chance and put herself out there by joining choir and auditioning for solos. Her musical pursuits grew from there, with a more recent example being her performance at the talent show at DECA NorCal. Chris covered the song “Everything Stays” and won one of the two ceremonies’ awards. She has also sung the national anthem for football games at Chabot College, and is being considered for singing the anthem for the San Jose Giants’ upcoming minor league baseball games. “I need to send them a recording of me singing the anthem at Chabot,” she says, “but the prospect is there, so if they do accept me I will sing for them. This is another way that I’m expanding my connections.”

Additionally, this year Chris will be having her arangetram, a two-hour solo performance of her singing. “It’s to commemorate the ending of my musical education,” she explains. “How I started when I was 6 and have been going strong till 18. This is kind of me graduating from music school and Carnatic music, to show that I’ve completed my training.” Her arangetram thus marks an important milestone in her musical career, especially considering the influence that Carnatic music has had on her development as a singer. In Carnatic music, Chris became trained in learning different notes and recognizing them in songs, as well as measuring beats, or tālams. She uses these techniques to this day in her approach to different songs, as “it all depends on how the composer wrote the song. We have to pay attention to what kind of tālam to use, general pacing, meter, and the melody — how it’s going to sound.”

Chris also employs these techniques in personal projects, for example her projects on BandLab, an app that allows her to experiment with singing and combining different sounds to make music. She has been having some of her work looked at by Consci8us, a hip hop artist that she interns for. “Even though I’ve been working on aspects like marketing and communications [in the internship],” she says, “I’ve also worked with him on music. He’s looked at some of the stuff I’ve put together and offered his advice. Going forward we are planning on collabing in terms of music.”

This is one of the many ways that Chris has been able to incorporate music into her chosen career path of business; although she aspires to become a singer, she understands that “it’s not a field where everyone becomes successful. There are a lot of talented people out there who don’t make it, and it’s the acceptance of that fact that led me to put music to the side almost.” She also notes that she doesn’t see South Asian artists represented as much in the media, which she finds somewhat discouraging. Even so, she aims to continue finding ways to mesh singing into her business pursuits (such as with the DECA talent show), as well as find more opportunities in the future to audition and put forth her work. “I want to do music forever,” she says. “I want that to be the main thing that surrounds my life…We’ll see if I get there.”

Despite the challenges, therefore, Chris is determined to realize her musical goals. For her, music is “a part of my identity. It’s something I can’t take away because it’s been with me all along, ever since my grandma said, ‘She’s singing, she’s going to become a singer.’ To me it means culture, a way I can express myself, and set myself apart from other people. It’s something I love to do, honestly. It’s my dream.” She advises other artists to step forward and take a chance, so that they don’t find themselves one day regretting missed opportunities and speculating on what-ifs — “and if by luck or by chance something does come out of it, then it’s all the more wonderful for that person.”

Whether by luck, fate, natural talent, or acquired skills, a pursuit that one is passionate about is one worth striving for. Chris hopes that in anything one works toward, they find a way to put themselves in it and make it their own. 

Aaushi Singh is a senior at Washington High School. She was born in New York in the borough of Queens, but moved to Fremont early in life and has lived there ever since. This will be her first year at the Hatchet, where she hopes to cover topics such as art, mental health, and music. Aaushi’s hobbies consist of reading, making art, and writing. Although unsure of her future plans, Aaushi is considering studying architecture or civil engineering.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *