Earlier this month, I went to see one of my favorite musicians, Natasha Khan (aka “Bat for Lashes”) perform live at the First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia. It was definitely one of the most unforgettable musical experiences I’ve ever had.
I wanted to attend the concert with some of my friends, but everyone I called that day were either busy or out of town, so I decided to go by myself. While I would have liked it if someone came along with me, I think going alone made the experience that much better. It gave me some personal time to privately connect with the music and escape with it. It’s hard to describe or even categorize the music of “Bat for Lashes” because of how unique they are, but if I were to draw comparisons, I would say they’re like a cross between the “Cocteau Twins,” “Bjork,” and “Claire Voyant.” It was amazing to see Natasha Khan’s energy on stage; you can tell how passioante she is about performing and singing. She has an incredibly beautiful voice and unlike most mainstream singers, she doesn’t manipulate or alter her voice. The way she sounds on the album recordings is exactly how she sounds live.
There are a lot of magical themes in Natasha’s music and it’s something I appreciate enormously. I think a fantasy element is essential to us, and yet it seems that humanity runs away from it. I’ve noticed, especially in the academic setting, that people tend to take on a more “logical” and “rational” approach to things, which is fine, but whenever a spiritual perspective is suggested, it seems there’s often a negative reaction to it, as if spirituality is something reserved only for places of worship. I get a strong spiritual vibe from Natasha’s music, but I think there’s a unique fantasy element that is intertwined with it.
When we “grow up,” we detach ourselves from fairy tales because we learn that they’re not “real” — “real” in the sense that we cannot see a unicorn or actually fly out of our windows. In the midst of this reasoning, I believe we miss out on the point of these stories, particularly the beauty and gift of the human imagination. I believe everyone has an inner life that serves a significant purpose in the way we look at the world, interact with others, and manifest our own creativity. Our ability to imagine things, to me, is not so much about seeing than it is about believing. Sure, there’s escape and fantasy, but there’s something else there that connects with us deeply, something that evokes the importance of transcendence. We’re surrounded by superficiality all the time and yet I believe a lot of us remain confused about what is “real” and what is “unreal.” True Love versus the material world — both things are perceived as unreal to us, but in different contexts. We think True Love cannot exist because it’s just too good to be true, but mostly because of the superficiality that surrounds us. It doesn’t make True Love false, it simply reveals that True Love is something to be discovered amidst the illusions of the world.
Natasha Khan sings about things that many of us don’t believe in anymore. She calls us to return to our childood, to revisit forgotten fairy tales, and to learn there is purpose in believing. I let my imagination take flight after the concert was over as I walked towards my car in the parking lot. I was reminded of the Angels that sit upon my shoulders and guard me. I imagined them and reflected on how much we ignore the unseen reality. I was reminded that we have friends in the unseen world; friends who never want us to see us frown or feel alone.
I also have to say that it meant a lot to see a fellow Pakistani on stage (Natasha Khan’s father is Pakistani) and seeing so many people who appreciate her music. I read in an interview that she received a lot of racial slurs when she was younger and it’s really repulsive when I see the same remarks being made about her on some of the YouTube comments. On the bright side, it’s nice to see people taking a stand for her and showing their support. I’m sure that, for the most part, she’s breaking a lot of stereotypes.
Here’s a live performance piece by “Bat for Lashes” that I’ve been hooked to! Definitely check out 2:57 and onward — everything from Natasha Khan’s energy, vocals, the incredible drumming, and the synth work works in beautiful harmony: