Sagarika "Saga" Chidella

Sagarika Chidella is a nineteen year old student at the University of California, Irvine that studies business economics and accounting. She is very passionate about music and sings in the diverse genres of Indian classical, Indian film music, Western pop, and Western classical. In her free time she produces her own mixes which fuse Indian and Western music culture to fuel her creativity. Ever since she was six years old, Sagarika has been formally learning vocal music. When moving to India at twelve years old, due to the increased opportunities and avenues to perform Indian music, she was able to participate in competitions held by revered organizations, bagging several prizes going on to perform solo concerts opening for musical maestros. After moving back to the U.S. she began to organize her own concerts in local Southern Californian temples. At one such concert, she raised $25,000 through her singing to support local cultural organizations. Her proudest achievement so far, is winning first in both state and national Indian classical vocal competitions in India!


As of right now, Sagarika helps arrange the music for her college a cappella team, Haath. She also has her own YouTube channel where she regularly posts her own mixes, with her most popular production garnering about 60k views! She records all the instrumental backgrounds for her songs as well, as she is proficient in playing the guitar and piano.

Recording Microphone

How did you first start singing?  

I first started learning how to sing when I was six years old. At the time, I felt like whether or not you're a prodigy, it's really hard to get so invested in something like singing at such a young age. However, I'm really grateful that my parents kept pushing me to go to classes and my vocal lessons. I became really passionate about music around age 11 or 12 because it was then that I understood I can do so much with music. For example, I realized I wasn't utilizing everything I was learning from all my teachers and taking advantage of resources to their fullest potential.  Once I started doing so when I was older, I understood the importance of music, and that's when I really started becoming passionate about it. There are all these nuances that I started opening my mind too. Things that I wouldn't have noticed or appreciated as much when I was younger, like just the beauty of a simple note. I just really understood that music can do so much in terms of healing and putting you in a better mood. That's when I became super passionate about it and pursuing it.  

You mentioned that your parents encouraged you in your early years of training. Would say your parents are supportive of you singing and have helped you on this journey?                                                                       

Yeah they've always loved music, but they come from a more underprivileged background, so they weren't about to pursue music like I have. They've always wanted to learn music and like how to sing, but since they couldn't they gave me that opportunity, and I'm really grateful to them for that. They rose up to where they are today, and them doing so has really helped me be able to pursue music. 

Speaking of your parents, do you mind talking a bit more about your ethnic background and cultural background and how that's influenced your passion of singing?  

 When I was six, I actually first started with learning Indian classical music. I was in the US at the time [at six years old] and I was raised here, and then I actually went back and spent a few years in India. When I was in India during middle school and high school from the 7th to 10th grade, everyone there was listening to English music and western music! I went back with only a knowledge of Indian music and everyone was kind of confused like, "you're from America don't you listen to this? [western music]. But I would explain how I was very engrained in Indian culture despite growing up in America. Ironically, going back to India actually exposed me to western music and that's when I picked up like singing English songs. That's actually where I picked up formal western classical training as well, and then I came back here for a college and now I do both. Being able to do both now is great because I just love using the cultures together. When it comes to art, I feel like everything has a very similar foundation right. Like when it gets a little more complicated obviously it's different, but it's just amazing to see that everything is similar in its roots- no matter where you're from. Being able to combine those [cultures] is what I really love because it kind of shows that they work together.  

The interview then drifting into a conversation about using art as a form of activism and education. Micherlange and Saga talk about how Nina Simone is a prime example of that and her legacy. (Nina Simone was one of the inspirations behind YAI). Saga: "It's really necessary to know about the people who made those sacrifices that needed to be made to create a better future. That's why I appreciate that you've established this initiative to educate people." 

What was you your involvement in music throughout high school/in recent years? What did that look like for you?  In high school, I was involved in my school's chamber choir and that experience actually taught me quite a bit about singing in a group and collaborating with people. Even today in college that was continued with me joined an acapella group. It's amazing to make your own work and do your own thing, but I feel like you also get more value out of collaborating with other artists. You tend to learn a lot like from the process and from them [the other artists] in process of collaboration. It's an experience for everyone and everyone walks out of it with something new learned. In the past few years, I have been trying to collaborate and learn from people, as not just focus on myself which what I've been doing for the most of my life. I feel I've very solo until now, but I think in the past few years I really realized the importance of learning from others and collaboration. Even if you are the best at what you do- let's say you're the best singer in the world, there's still something to learn from other people because you can't know everything. That's why even if you're the best, you're still learning.  Interviewer: hopefully we'll be able to provide you with some opportunities to you collaborate under the YAI name. We can work on figuring out a project that we want to film. It should be something really easy to do with social distancing because you're in and out of the space and not really in contact with the videographer, so that's definitely something we could do within the next few months. Saga: Definitely maybe we should do a Nina Simone song or something. Interviewer: Yes, I would love to do something like that. (Stay tuned for Saga's first project with YAI)!

What it is your favorite thing to sing and work on? Or what are some of the major differences between classical Indian music and western music? 

So I would say that the differences between classical Indian music- and even Indian music versus western music- is definitely the lack of harmonies. In Indian music, I feel like it really focuses on the melody of the song. For example, if you look at the instrumentals in classical Indian music, it complements the melody in the same way that the melodies going. It's not really a harmony, but that's its own style and that has its own benefits. In its own way, the melody tends to be quite complicated and very heavy. There's also a lack of harmony, but I feel that if there were to be harmony,  it just wouldn't sound right. So Indian classical music is its own style and I feel like western music in general has a lot more harmonies. When you hear the harmony  [in western music]  you're like wow, this is just a euphoric. I like doing both in a way. I can't really choose one over the other because one's my culture and the other one is the culture that I've kind of a simulated to. I definitely like using both elements of that music and kind of mixing it together like the harmonies in western over an Indian song. I feel like at the end of the day, music is music and whatever you like listen to it it's valid.