1. What is your name and your profession(s)? Arjun Dube, musician
2. What is your ethnic background and what is your citizenship (US native or naturalized etc.)? I am an American citizen, born and raised in New Jersey. My ethnicity is Indian (parents are from North India).
3. Are either/both of your parents musicians or somehow involved in the music industry? No.
4. Please tell us a little bit about your experience, either growing up as an AAPI in America, or as a person of Asian descent who immigrated to America, whichever applies. I grew up in a town that had quite a few Asian families, hailing mainly from China, Taiwan, and India. I never felt particularly isolated as a result, but it was very clear to me, from a young age, that the Asian families around me (mine included) raised their kids quite differently from white American families.
5. How connected do you feel to your heritage/culture(s)? I feel very connected to my culture when I am with my family, or when discussing certain Bollywood films (I’m no expert, but I’m always surprised by how many hit songs I still know). However, I do not speak Hindi fluently and I have absolutely no training in Indian classical musical tradition. I feel left out of my culture sometimes. I’d like to be more connected to Indian musical traditions, but my family has limited background in such things. At this point, it would be up to me as an adult
to cultivate those desires, despite them arising from some sort of guilt about being an “Indian” outside of India. Honestly, it really just comes from the fact that I am mesmerized and spiritually moved by Indian classical music these days. I’d like to explore that.
6. 6a.) How did you get into music? Did you major in music in college? Where did you attend college/university (and grad school(s), if applicable) and in what subjects did you get your degree(s)? 6b.) When and how did you decide you were going to pursue music professionally? What were your parents’ reactions to you deciding to pursue music? Do they support your music career now? I got into music because my parents were insistent that brother and me played instruments. He played guitar, I played piano. I hated piano (although I love it now, and play it often), and we never owned a real piano for practicing, so I picked up drums instead at age 10. I played and played, eventually at a competitive level in high school, and got very interested in jazz. My parents were always extremely supportive, which I am eternally grateful for; however, we were all confused about the future. None of us knew how I should do music professionally, so they insisted that I go to a 4-year college and get a different degree. Something safe. It made a lot of sense, given that I had no role models and nobody around to tell me otherwise. I ended up getting into Princeton, so I went. I only wanted to graduate and have the name of the university on my diploma – I had limited interest in academics. I spent most of my time socializing and playing lots and lots of music. I also DJ’d on the radio quite a bit. I graduated reputably enough, majored in history and jazz studies, and left Princeton in 2015. I have no regrets on this experience; I still work with some of the people I met at that university. I immediately moved to Philadelphia with my bandmate and fellow college alum Logan Roth, and we both started our band Trap Rabbit. I tried working an office job, but I really detested the idea of giving 45 hours a week to anyone’s success but my own. Music makes me happy, and it keeps me moving. My parents know that, and they still support my ambitions to this day. They are immensely proud of me, and I consider their love and support to be unique among Indian families in America – they are the best! I’d be nowhere without them.
7. What are a few of your (music) projects of which you are the proudest? What were your roles on those projects? Beyond those projects, please feel free to name some of your other credits as well as any brands/companies you officially endorse. Trap Rabbit (personal band – drums, production, songwriting, mixing, artwork) – www.traprabbit.com Sophie Coran (drums, production) - https://sophiecoran.com/ I’ve played with tons of great artists in Philadelphia, including Kuf Knotz, Donn T, Schoolly D, to name a few. I have also worked extensively with The Hooters’ lead vocalist Eric Bazilian and famed record producer Phil Nicolo.
8. Describe to me your dream project. I would love to play hip arrangements of my favorite songs, styled for a small big band (not a full 18-piece, but something between that and a funk band). I love big band jazz, but I would like to see the genre re- tooled and reinvented. It’s a special genre to me. I’ve been interested in arranging music for a band like this, but it’s the type of project that certainly requires a lot of learning on my end.
9. What are some obstacles you have encountered (if any) being an AAPI in the music world? What are some obstacles you have encountered (if any) as an AAPI in general (non-music)? Conversely, has being an AAPI ever helped you in the music industry? Mostly my name? Marc Rebillet had a nice thought about it, even if he isn’t AAPI – he said, “If you give them a reason to learn your name, they will learn it.” So, I am grateful my name has a modest amount of syllables, at least. People have tried to remind me that I sometimes don’t pick up on the institutional and less overt racism that likely exists around me and probably directly affects my life. However, I don’t usually feel any discrimination in my day to day life from anyone around me, and I think that’s just dandy. I can’t speak for anyone else’s experiences, obviously. I’ve been asked if I play tabla a few times – even that’s not a big deal. I just tell them no. One time, a blonde woman told me I reminded her of Aziz Ansari onstage, to which I replied, “Yeah and you definitely give off an Amy Poehler thing too!” She didn’t get it... Hardest thing is just the fact that there aren’t too many role models for me. That would have helped growing up. Even now, off the top of my head... there’s Heems, that one dude from Vampire Weekend, rafiq Bhatia, and vijay iyer
10. 10a.) Who are some AAPI musicians/composers/producers who have previously inspired and currently inspire you (if any)? Why? AAPI musicians that inspire me – there’s Heems, that one dude from Vampire Weekend, rafiq Bhatia, vijay iyer, Linda Oh.
10b.) What are your hopes for the AAPI music community and your hopes for AAPIs in general? I hope more AAPI musicians continue to make themselves heard and seen. I would like to see a wider acceptance of different music from around the world, such that it’s no longer labeled “World Music” by western ears.
11. If you could give advice now to your younger teenage self, what would you tell her/him/they? Accept that you are a musician, and you should stop comparing yourself to your peers. They are not you, you are not them. Just do what you love.
12. Do you have any upcoming projects for which you are excited and about which you are allowed to share? Is there anything non-music-related on the horizon about which you would like to share? My band Trap Rabbit is still going strong, despite the setbacks from Covid! We released two songs in January to great stream responses – we are very excited to continue releasing music for our growing audience! We have at least one hip-hop track and another slightly more offbeat track in the works for this spring/summer.
13. Name one or two non-music-related things/subjects about which you are also passionate. I love space, and all astronomy-related news. I enjoy running when it’s warm out. I love a good glass of scotch.
14. Any final thoughts? (non-self-promotional). Alternatively, do you have any questions for me and/or the greater AAPI music community? What is your overarching goal for connecting AAPI musicians? Is it mainly to provide exposure to various AAPI musicians, or to also provide a network that allows us to connect with each other?
I'll talk about this at length in my interview (May 31st), but in a nutshell, to provide a platform for representation which hopefully will both inspire others (especially younger AAPIs) as well as connect each other to form a supportive network. I have ideas for events and other ways this little platform might be able to help all of us (beyond APAHM; this is an extremely new project of mine) and am constantly brainstorming how to make us feel like a community--and a supportive, uplifting one that values collaboration.
Photos provided by Arjun Dube