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An APIDA Listening Guide

May is Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) Heritage Month. To celebrate, Culturas will be spotlighting the community’s culture and stories. To further explore Asian American voices and storytelling, here’s a list of five great APIDA musical artists to check out: 

  • Madame Gandhi

Madame Gandhi is an artist, music producer, drummer, and activist. Her debut EP, Voices, was released in 2016, followed by Visions in 2019. Her music is known for its empowering messages, effortless self-expression, unique percussions, and electronic-ness and the songs’ accompanying visuals further highlight and bring color to her music’s messages. Both her music and activism are centered around gender liberation and its intersections with fourth-wave feminism.

  • Run River North

Run River North is a band from Los Angeles. The lead singer Alex Hwang, guitarist, violinist and percussionist Daniel Chae, and bassist and keyboardist Sally Kang all come together to create a folk-rock sound accompanied by lyrics that will make you cry, laugh, smile and reflect. The band is also known for its creative, concept-driven music videos involving oftentimes humorous storylines, unique props, and even sock puppets. Their albums Run River North (2014), Drinking from a Salt Pond (2016) and Creatures in Your Head (2021) are all available on music streaming platforms.


MILCK is a Los Angeles-based singer, songwriter, musician, and activist. After a video of her performance of her song “Quiet” at the 2017 Women’s March went viral, it was named Billboard’s #1 protest song of the year. MILCK’s activism is intertwined with her music, as she’s continued to use her art and voice as a way to support the women’s movement and social justice. In her debut album, This is Not the End (2018), she gives her listeners more modern protest songs, all detailing self-empowerment, self-care, and strength. With her latest single, “I Belong,” MILCK powerfully emphasizes the fact that everyone belongs and that strong connections exist between all people and communities.

  • Melissa Polinar

Melissa Polinar is a singer, songwriter and musician known for her soulful voice, personal, candid lyrics and folksy music. She got her start on YouTube, as she stood out with her original songs like “Try” and “Meant to Be.” Her music echoes her storytelling as her most recent album, Rise at Eventide (2017), takes listeners through Polinar’s journey of discovery and growth with melancholic undertones and guitar riffs. Her debut album, Calls & Echoes (2014) is also available on all music streaming platforms. 

  • Raveena

Raveena is a singer, songwriter, and musician. Her debut EP, Shanti (2017) explored themes of healing, self-love, growth, while her debut album Lucid (2019) was a bit more pensive, touching on topics like life after trauma, sensuality, and spirituality. Nevertheless, all of Raveena’s music bends genres and mixes R&B, soul, and jazz music together, making for an eclectic but bold listening experience. She’s also directed a few of her own music videos, in which she proudly displays her Indian heritage and emphasizes her–and other women’s–individuality.

Aarohi Sheth
Aarohi Sheth
Aarohi Sheth is a writer + artist originally from Houston, TX, currently pursuing a degree in journalism at the University of Southern California. She hopes to keep creating interdisciplinary work that pushes boundaries, empowers underrepresented communities and generates empathy in others.
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