Saleka Shyamalan is on the move. So far this month, she has already performed live in Philadelphia, New York and Austin, Texas. Now Shyamalan will perform on Sunday night at Songbyrd Music House in Washington, DC
“I’m so excited,” she said. “I have never done a concert in DC”
Shyamalan, daughter of director M. Night Shyamalan, is a musician and songwriter with six songs released to date. Currently, she is touring residency in Philadelphia, New York and Washington, DC, before releasing her new album.
Shyamalan first became interested in music when her parents introduced her to piano lessons at the age of 4, she said. She continued to play the piano for most of her childhood and even planned to go to a conservatory to become a classical pianist. But when she was around 17, she started writing her own music and took to the stage.
Shyamalan describes the genre of music she writes as a mix of R&B and jazz influences. Joseph Keim, the drummer for Shyamalan’s band and a business student at Community College of Philadelphia, agreed, but said Shyamalan’s music was more than that.
“Her lyrical content and the power of the themes she plays with really transcends genres,” he said. “You can really feel the influence of his father in a very mysterious and contemplative way.”
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Shyamalan said that his music has many influences. Among her most influential artists are Lauryn Hill and Amy Winehouse, two artists she listened to frequently growing up. Artists who have inspired the jazz element of his music include Sarah Vaughan and Billie Holiday.
“It’s hard to quantify because I feel like everything you listen to and experience is sort of absorbed into your mind and heart,” she said.
Shyamalan attended Brown University from 2014 to 2018 to study music and literary arts. Even though she went to school already knowing that she wanted to pursue a career in music, college ended up being a training period for her. She said she changed after taking classes and reading poetry that exposed her to new materials including art from writers of color and different people around the world.
“Being exposed to this kind of art and writing really changed the way I wrote and wanted to write and aspire to write,” Shyamalan said.
It was this experience that led her to start writing songs for her next album and to collaborate with other musicians she met there.
Shyamalan’s family have been very supportive of her music career, she said. M. Night and his sister Ishana Shyamalan – a director who recently graduated from New York University this year – have made music videos for Shyamalan.
She also collaborated with her father writing songs for the show. Servant and Old, M. Night’s most recent film. Shyamalan said she was nervous at first and overwhelmed when working with her father on the film, but she was happy with the outcome.
“I had never done anything like this before,” she said. “Everything that came together was a surreal process. “
Shyamalan continues to write songs for Servant and said she would like to work on other projects like this in the future.
Shyamalan was active when it came to performing live before the pandemic. She performed in Boston in 2018 as well as in Philadelphia, Atlanta and Los Angeles in 2019.
For bassist and keyboardist Elliot Garland, his favorite performance with Shyamalan was their concert in Philadelphia on February 14, 2020, where they opened for Boyz II Men.
“It was like a once in a lifetime circumstance,” he said.
Keim said his favorite performance was their concert in Austin, Texas on October 8. He loved hearing the sound of the drums coming out of speakers larger than his house and working with a professional sound team.
“I’ve done my fair share of home concerts in college, concerts in bars, and it’s really nice to be on a big stage where everyone has a job and everyone works together,” Keim said.
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What Shyamalan said she was most excited for, regarding her next performance at Songbyrd Music House, is the environment. The concerts she gave in Atlanta on September 18 and in Austin, TX on October 8, were outside, and Shyamalan can’t wait to be inside.
“I’m really excited to get back to the intimate, inner vibe, which I feel is the place where I feel most at home,” she said.
Shyamalan and his band traveled by van between concerts. Keim said he was always ready to play no matter what.
“I’m ready to cancel anything and everything, if I have to fail as a full-time student or cancel family plans,” he said. “All I ever wanted was to be on the road with my friends to make music.”
Garland said working with Shyamalan has been a great experience, which has a tremendous amount of work ethic and talent.
“Working with someone who works very hard and who is really talented is a rare pleasure as a musician, so I enjoy the ride,” he said.
Shyamalan said that anyone interested should come to the concert in Songbyrd.
“I’m really excited for this and want to meet new people,” she said. “I’m really excited to be in DC”