Ami Dang showcased her music at SXSW
She said the travel ban contributed to a rise in discrimination
Baltimore-based musician Ami Dang, an American of Indian descent who grew up in a Sikh family in the suburbs of Maryland, said that racism directed at immigrant communities following the rise of President Donald Trump is reminiscent of a post-9/11 environment.
“The Sikh community, the brown community all over the US experienced horrible acts of violence after 9/11,” Dang said. “And the fact that now, 16 years out, we are experiencing that kind of violence again – that just reverses all the work we’ve done.”
CNN caught up with Dang at SXSW in Austin, Texas, Thursday, where the singer reflected on why Trump inspired her to get political in her music for the first time.
“The last couple of years I’ve been definitely been thinking a lot more politically,” Dang said. “I think all my songs still have a spiritual influence, but a lot of the songs are more about rising up.”
Two federal judges recently blocked President Donald Trump’s latest travel ban, which temporarily bars refugees and people from six majority-Muslim countries from entering the country, citing Trump’s past rhetoric about Muslims.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Thursday that the Trump administration plans to appeal the rulings “soon.”
“I definitely see it as a Muslim ban, to me that’s pretty apparent,” said Dang, who participated in the anti-travel ban protests at Baltimore’s Thurgood Marshall Airport in late January. “Throughout his campaign, he has been relentless about the way on terror and trying to prevent Muslims from entering the country … He already has his track record of being very clearly anti-Muslim.”
The White House did not immediately respond to a CNN request for comment.
Dang said that even if the courts do not allow Trump’s travel ban to go into effect, some of the damage has already been done because immigrant communities are now facing heightened discrimination and bullying.
“Whatever the President thinks is OK, or if they’re a bully, it’s going to be OK for (a child) to be a bully,” Dang said. “His bad behavior is definitely trickling down into the minds of children and it goes beyond just the few years that they’re in middle school. It could stick with them for years to come.”
And now, Dang hopes to use her music to empower her community and promote unity.
She said that even before the 2016 election, the 2014 rise of the “Black Lives Matter” movement, which has been prominent in Baltimore, inspired her to write more song about “rising up.”
“For me, my writing is less about telling people what they should believe,” she said, “but more about telling my fans to ‘get politically involved.’”
She describes her music as “East-meets-West, experimental avant-pop,” which combines Eastern and Western music styles with electronic music production and is often deeply spiritual.
At the festival, she is set to perform a new song, “Binaa Pyaar,” which means “Without Love” in Punjabi.
“Definitely my background, my culture, the blend of my background and my culture and my upbringing has definitely a huge influence on my music,” Dang said. “That’s undeniable for me.”