SLUG Picnic: Aarushi & Amishi
September’s SLUG Picnic lineup features Flamenco troupe Flamenco del Lago and Bollypop sibling duo Aarushi and Amishi with opener Maestro Gabino Flores Classical Guitarist. All of these local groups aim to share and celebrate culture through performances layered with music, dance and vibrant costumes. The show will take place on Sept. 19 at SLUG’s new HQ, Artspace City Center, at 230 S. 500. W. Tickets for this socially distanced picnic featuring food from TBD are $15 per person. Seating begins at 5:30 p.m. and the show starts at 6 p.m.
Aarushi and Amishi Rohaj, a sibling pair of local Bollypop performers, create harmony on a number of dynamic levels. Trained in the styles of Indian Classical music and Western pop, the singers create a fresh sound by uniting the two major cultures that “make them who they are.” When singing together, each of their individual voices remain strong and discernable from the other, but as a harmonious force, the pair sound especially potent. As both sisters and collaborators, Aarushi, 20, and Amishi, 16, describe themselves as “puzzle pieces”—their music is the result of many parts coming together to create a unique and dazzling whole.
The pair describes Bollypop as “the beauty of bringing Western and Indian culture together through music, dance and fashion.” For examples of this beauty, Aarushi and Amishi’s live performances and mashup music videos—which they film and edit themselves—are available on YouTube (@A&A Bollypop). By weaving together lyrics from popular music in both English and Hindi, the pair is able to simultaneously share their talent and their cultural background.
“To us, music is not just about singing to perform; rather, we feel a unique connection to our Indian-American background.”
Aarushi and Amishi began singing together in 2010, when their parents introduced them to Indian Classical music as a way to connect with the family’s roots. Pop and Western-style vocal training came along a few years later, and Aarushi and Amishi credit their parents for passing along an immense love for various styles of music. Describing their family unit as “pretty tight,” the sisters explain how their mother continues to support their music career today by preparing their costumes for every live performance: “Go Team Rohaj!”
The Bollypop compositions that the sisters create are crafted entirely by ear. After deciding on an accompaniment track, they begin by “brainstorming for songs that can flow with the track,” they say. Once the songs are selected, which often takes a few tries due to challenges with aligning the melodies and rhythm, the pair moves on to working out the more complex aspects of the arrangement, including harmony, improvisations and “Bollywood swag.” While these mashups are sonically pleasing and filled with impressive vocal technique, they also serve another purpose. “To us, music is not just about singing to perform; rather, we feel a unique connection to our Indian-American background,” say Aarushi and Amishi. These mashups are a collage of valued memories and experiences. “We remember sitting with our family in India and singing old Bollywood songs.” Likewise, the pair also cherishes moments of “jamming out to pop music in our car.” Along the path of their lives, Aarushi and Amishi adopted a “devotion and dedication toward music that remains with us today.”
Bollypop is “the beauty of bringing Western and Indian culture together through music, dance and fashion.”
In addition to their recordings and online presence, Aarushi & Amishi have been performing live at various local venues for years, and aspire to continue building upon this experience. “Performing live on stage allows us to make a personal connection with our audience,” they say. In preparation for each of these shows, the duo comes up with a completely unique setlist—usually a combination of their Bollypop mashups from YouTube and brand new compositions. While their mother helps out with costumes, the duo also develop choreography that is always designed to “hype up the audience.” Now, with SLUG Picnic on the horizon, the pair is elated to return to performing. “We love having the bright lights shine in our faces,” they say, “and most importantly, we love spreading positive energy to our diverse audience.”
Living in Salt Lake City while growing up in an Indian household has provided Aarushi and Amishi with “the opportunity to share a combination of two very beautiful and distinct cultures that make us who we are in our very own hometown,” they say. Another benefit to life in Utah has been exposure to the “many different Bollywood dance groups and artists in Salt Lake who share their Indian culture in beautiful ways.”
Aarushi and Amishi adopted a “devotion and dedication toward music that remains with us today.”
In 2019, Aarushi and Amishi became the first-ever performers to play live at the annual Diwali Dinner at the Salt Lake City Governor’s Mansion. 2019 Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, happened to fall near the 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth. To celebrate both occasions, Aarushi and Amishi sang one of Gandhi’s favorite songs while Amishi played the harmonium, a staple instrument of Indian Classical music.
This year, the sisters have plans to perform at the Festival of Colors here in Salt Lake City, though a date has not yet been set. Of course, the nearest opportunity to see them live is on Sept. 19, at this month’s installment of SLUG Picnic. Between their recent hard work putting together new Bollypop mashups, a passion for performance, and costumes put together by their own mother, the show is sure to be a brilliant celebration of culture and self-expression. Their music videos can be found via A&A BollyPop on YouTube, and you can follow the pair on Instagram @aa_bollypop. –Austin Beck-Doss