When R&B Meets Urdu: Zeshan B and Preet Bharara's Radical Fusion for Justice

Pujit Siddhant

Jun 28 2024

<div style=' background:#FFFFFF;color:#000000;font-family:Verdana;width:auto;padding:5px;max-height:100%;'><span><p>When Zeshan B, an Indian-American singer-songwriter, steps onto the stage, the last thing you might expect to hear is classic, gospel-infused R&amp;B with powerful lyrics addressing American social justice. This unique blend is the hallmark of his forthcoming third album, "O Say, Can You See?," which also features an unexpected collaborator: Preet Bharara. The former U.S. Attorney for New York's Southern District, famous for prosecuting organized crime, terrorism, and financial misconduct, and notably fired by President Donald Trump in 2017, takes on the role of executive producer for this album.</p><p>Zeshan and Bharara's paths crossed in early 2022, leading to a partnership that has profoundly influenced the album’s direction. Bharara’s influence helped Zeshan channel his previously unrefined anger about societal issues into a more balanced and comprehensive narrative. This new album continues Zeshan’s exploration of political and social justice themes, enriched by classical, jazz, and Urdu music elements, providing a more universal appeal.</p><p>Bharara, currently hosting the podcasts "Stay Tuned" and "Café Insider" while practicing law, became involved in Zeshan's career after attending a book launch event where Zeshan performed. Zeshan, whose debut album "Vetted" topped the iTunes World Music chart, has appeared on prominent shows like "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" and MSNBC's "Morning Joe." He has also performed at notable festivals such as Bonnaroo and Electric Forest and even at the White House for former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama.</p><p>Zeshan's journey to music is as unique as his sound. His parents, who met in Mumbai, brought a rich mix of Indian and American musical influences into their Chicago home. His father hailed from a village in southern India, while his mother was from Mumbai. They worked for a charitable organization in the slums before moving to the United States, where Zeshan was born. His upbringing included a variety of musical genres, from R&amp;B to jazz and gospel.</p><p>As a child, Zeshan struggled with echolalia, a condition characterized by compulsive repetition of others' words. His parents found a creative way to manage this by encouraging his ability to mimic singing, which eventually led him to join and lead a Black gospel group in high school. His musical talent was further nurtured by a teacher who recognized his potential in opera, leading to full scholarships at various music schools where he earned degrees in classical music. Despite his classical training, Zeshan felt a pull back to R&amp;B, which he felt was more reflective of his true roots.</p><p>"O Say, Can You See?" was conceived amid the backdrop of significant socio-political events such as the Black Lives Matter movement, the 2020 election, the January 6th insurrection, and the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Bharara’s insights into the justice system have significantly shaped the album’s themes. Zeshan had long admired Bharara for his dedication to justice, even before they met, and their discussions have enriched his music with a more nuanced perspective.</p><p>Bharara reflects on maintaining optimism despite the many challenges the world faces. He draws inspiration from the courage and heroism that emerge during crises, such as the community's response to 9/11 or the activism following school shootings. These acts of bravery and resilience, he believes, are reasons to remain hopeful. For Zeshan, music is his way of engaging with optimism, despite the hardships. He believes that living with a hopeful outlook, even if it seems naive, leads to a better life.</p><p>Zeshan's third album, with Bharara as executive producer, represents a unique fusion of music and social justice, aiming to resonate deeply with audiences through its powerful message and innovative sound. The collaboration between a singer-songwriter and a former U.S. Attorney highlights the potential for art to intersect with and amplify social and political discourse, creating a profound impact on listeners.</p><p>Zeshan's earlier works, including his debut "Vetted" and his performances at major events and platforms, have established him as a significant voice in contemporary music. His ability to blend diverse musical influences with pressing social issues makes his work particularly resonant in today's complex cultural landscape. Bharara's involvement adds a layer of depth and credibility, reinforcing the album’s themes of justice and equity.</p><p>As Zeshan prepares for the release of "O Say, Can You See?" on July 26, the anticipation builds for what promises to be a compelling and thought-provoking body of work. The album not only showcases Zeshan's vocal and musical talent but also reflects his growth as an artist and an advocate for social change. Through his collaboration with Bharara, Zeshan hopes to reach a broader audience, sparking conversations and inspiring action on critical issues.</p><span></div>

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