Q&A: NU alumna Deepikaa Sriram discusses music outside of careers


Photo courtesy of Deepikaa Sriram

Deepikaa Sriram (Communication ’19, ’21). The alumna is now a speech pathologist, but centers music in her everyday life.

Laya Neelakandan, Arts & Entertainment Editor


Deepikaa Sriram (Communication ’19, ’21) was a member of Brown Sugar, a South Asian-interest a cappella group, when she was a Northwestern student, integrating music into her life. Now, she is a speech pathologist in Birmingham, Ala., continuing to make music for herself while pursuing her career. Recently, one of her TikToks, a mashup of the songs “Kabira” from the Bollywood movie “Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani” and Adele’s “Easy on Me,” surpassed 4,000 likes. The Daily sat down with Sriram to discuss what music means to her, the viral TikTok and how to shift the spotlight to people who are not full-time musicians but still find meaning through the craft.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

The Daily: Where did your love for singing come from?

Sriram: I trained in Carnatic music, and it started when I was a little kid. My mom is a Carnatic singer and has a degree in Carnatic music, so I grew up in a musical household. My dad sings, my mom sings, my sister sings — we all grew up singing, and that was our way of bonding together as a family, and it still is in a lot of ways. But what really shaped my style of singing and mind for putting things together, combining different musical genres and styles, came from me and my dad. We used to listen to songs on the radio together and mix them up with Tamil songs. I kind of furthered that when I joined Brown Sugar my freshman year of college, and it was so great. I found a group of people who understood my love for making musical worlds come together in a whole new way. I fell in love with writing arrangements and finding a way to further that style of music. It’s been interesting to explore music from different angles, and my relationship with music has changed: it’s less about performing and more about making music for myself.

The Daily: How are you keeping music in life as you pursue speech pathology?

Sriram: Music will always be a part of my life, and I don’t know if that’s ever going to change. It’s about whatever fuels my passion in that moment. Recently, I’ve gotten into the music production side of things. Something I’ve picked up since the start of COVID-19 up until now is DJing for bhangra teams. I’m making NU Bhangra’s mix for this year and doing a couple side things. DJing has been challenging in a different way because you have to understand music from a whole different perspective — the rhythm and dance is different than putting arrangements together. It’s two different lenses of music composition that lend themselves together.

The Daily: Can you talk about the process of making your TikTok and its reception?

Sriram: To be honest, I thought of the idea when I was singing in the shower, and I came up with it. It was no big stroke of genius in the moment. A big thing for me is I would always put on nice clothes and focus on how I look before recording, but this time I decided to just record in my pajamas. I was really happy to see a lot of positive responses. The fact that Arvind Kywalya, one of my favorite singers, viewed it and commented on it made me feel very welcomed into the community. My biggest inhibition about posting on social media is the amount of attention it gets. People are very vocal about their opinions, especially on TikTok. I didn’t post it with the intention of it getting a lot of attention, I was just putting my thoughts and feelings out there and not really thinking about what would happen. I wouldn’t say it went really viral, but (it) definitely got a lot of attention, and that was interesting.

The Daily: What do you see yourself doing as you look toward the future?

Sriram: I have so much room to grow. A big thing is I get so in my head about how something could have been better, and at one point I was like, “It is what it is, and I’m putting it out there.” I hope to put more stuff out there — now that I know that it’s not that scary, maybe one day, if I put together another idea, I’ll keep doing it. My life would be very different and very boring without music. Just because music doesn’t sit at the forefront of our professional lives doesn’t mean it doesn’t fuel everything.

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Twitter: @laya_neel

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