Members of Denver-based band Ramakhandra all knew they had to make music with each other seconds after they met.
They’re also a band that came together on the fly, and almost never could have been. A mysterious group whose members mostly go by singular titles, drummer Nobahdee was recruited by bass player Clayto in 2017 to sit in with his reggae band, and the two locked in immediately. After one of their reggae shows, Nobahdee was approached by vocalist and harp player Annastezhaa, who, in a very blunt and direct manner said, “I have to play with you.” She then ghosted them at an early rehearsal. Synth player Eric Estrada gelled with Nobahdee first as friends when the two met at Denver’s Underground Music Showcase, and was recruited into the band after Nobahdee, Annastezhaa and Clayto played their first show.
Ramakhandra will perform Saturday at the iAM MUSIC Fest in the parking lot outside Studio & in downtown Durango, along with Ghost Tapes and Hello Dollface.
Their formation remains serendipitous. Annastezhaa blew off that first practice because of nerves. Their first show came after being asked to open for two other bands; they accepted the show despite most of their songs still being products of the woodshed. But they went into rehearsal mode and got as prepared as they could. They still thought they would flop, and the preshow butterflies were more like nausea-inducing cyclones.
“We play our first song and I’m expecting to hear a few claps. But the entire venue blew up, and every song after that the cheers got louder,” Nobadhee said. “Then like a semi-truck just hit my world and flipped it over in a great way. It was insane, we played that show as a trio, and Eric was in the crowd watching us play, and as time grew on I encouraged him to join.”
WHAT: iAM MUSIC Fest featuring Ghost Tapes, Hello Dollface, Ramakhandra and more.
WHEN: 5 p.m. Saturday.
WHERE: Studio & Outdoor Stage, 1027 Main Ave.
MORE INFORMATION: Visit www.iammusicfest.us.
Theirs is a sound difficult to nail down. It’s soulful R&B, it’s laid-back funk with breakbeats, it’s downbeat lounge. You could also file it under jazz with electronic music influences, and all of that is correct. But there’s also a harp, an instrument you wouldn’t find anywhere save for a symphony. It’s an instrument the band says is “the center of our sound.”
“We’re inspired by so many things. I’m self-taught, but a lot of my inspiration is jazz. Clay is on the reggae side. Annastezhaa is very classical. Even though we mention jazz, we’re all obsessed with so much music,” Nobahdee said. “My favorite music personally is jungle, U.K. drum and bass stuff. We find grooves within the harps melodies, because she can play in so many different signatures, but they’re all so beautiful and lush.”
The band members see themselves as a blank canvas looking to continue to define themselves as undefinable, while also letting the fans have a good time coming up with new descriptors for the band.
“We’ve been called ‘cosmic art hop’ or ‘phantom breaks,’ all these different titles, and it just gets more and more fun,” Nobahdee said. “I think that it’s incredible because we’re just trying to break off. Let’s make new genres, let’s make new style of music.”
It’s all about musical innovation, with the band working together to put sounds together to make something fresh and new. They’re not just a band, but a true team looking to lay out unheard sounds.
“I imagine this as sonic Play-Doh; each member brings so much sonic sound that it can’t be completed without all four of us,” Nobahdee said. “The sense of discovery is nothing short of Star Trek, we’re on an Enterprise trying to boldly go where no one has gone before.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at email@example.com.