One of the most rewarding parts of what we do here at Teens Wanna Know is highlighting up-and-coming artists, especially those who are doing something positive for the world around them apart from their involvement in acting, music, literature, dance, or any other creative endeavor.
One such artist is Sonali Argade or, simply, Sonali. The South Florida-bred, now NYC-based singer recently gained some attention by winning a Rihanna “Diamonds” video cover contest with fellow students of the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University, which culminated in meeting the pop superstar in person.
Apart from her accomplishments as a singer, Sonali also contributes to a cause which helps children with a crippling disfigurement called cleft palate. We got the chance to ask her about this recently, as well as some general “get to know you”-type questions. Here is what she had to say.
1. Tell us about your involvement with Smile Train.
You are probably already aware, Smile Train is the world’s leading cleft palate repair charity. When I learned that all it takes is $250 to change the life of a person, I was motivated to raise money for the cause. I produced my first EP Speechless and donated all the proceeds from the sale of that EP to Smile Train. I am also involved in raising student awareness of Smile Train and the issues surrounding cleft palate. In fact, on October 4th, which happens to be World Smile Day, Smile Train will be launching a new school program, Students for Smile Train. I have the pleasure of participating and performing at this event.
2. Why cleft surgery? Is there a personal connection?
I was on a family vacation in Cambodia a few years ago; I witnessed the horrible manner in which a little girl was treated by her peers, just because she had a cleft palate. I was young at the time and didn’t fully understand it, but it was heartbreaking. A few years after this, I came across the documentary “Smile Pinki” that explains what the Smile Train is all about. When I saw this, I knew I wanted to do something to help.
3. Your name is beautiful and unique. Do you know the meaning behind it?
Thank you so much! Sonali is a Southeast Asian name derived from Sanskrit language. It means “golden.”
4. What is your ethnicity?
My family is from India, but I was born and raised in the U.S.
5. What drives you to write music?
I am inspired by everything I see around me. Sometimes I write down my own personal stories, and other times I enjoy writing from the perspective of my friends and family. It’s fun to step into someone else’s shoes for a minute. The beauty of songwriting and music is the ability to connect with so many people, without even ever having met. I like to write about universal things that many of us can relate to.
6. How have you grown since attending NYU?
So much. For one, the experience of living on your own and being completely independent forces you to grow up very quickly. Now that I live in the city, my confidence has grown tremendously, as has my appreciation of home-cooked meals 🙂 But musically, NYU has really shaped me. I am surrounded by so many talented peers, each having their own unique skills and sound. All of that has definitely inspired me to shape my own sound, and collaborating with my classmates is a huge learning experience for me. In addition to that, the faculty at NYU is incredible. I have the privilege of studying under Grammy award-winning professors every day, and I couldn’t be luckier.
7. What are your career goals?
As I said earlier, I want to touch as many people as I can with my music and songwriting. The bigger platform you have, the more of a chance you have to stand up and impact the world, even if it’s just a little bit. I want to do what I can to help others, and music is my tool.
8. If you could recommend ONE thing teens could do to improve the world around them, what would it be?
Respect yourself. Many worldly issues stem from problems within our own selves. For example, bullying is a cause that means a great deal to me. Most bullies are driven to their hurtful actions because they find something inadequate within themselves, and choose to lash out against others to cope. If you don’t first fix yourself, you can’t hope to help others.
9. What are you working on next?
I’m always writing and recording new music! I have a couple singles lined up for the next coming months, and I’m really excited to share them!
10. Any last words?
If you’d like to stay updated, please find me on Facebook, twitter, or whatever other form of social media you prefer! Links below 🙂
Watch Sonali’s latest music video “September” here: