Coming from a musical family and a mixed cultural background exposed Toronto born Chela Rhea to a wide range of influences and diverse musical styles. Her parents and aunts and uncles had carved out successful careers, garnering Juno and Grammy accolades along the way. Chela was introduced to the recording studio when she was still in a bassinette and by the time she turned seven was singing background harmony on the Syren CD ‘Wisdom of the Heart’. She regarded music as a second language and grew up believing everyone in the world must be a musician.
Lea Harper, also a published poet, encouraged her daughter early on to begin writing lyrics. Chela’s father, Carl Harvey (Toots and the Maytals), a renowned guitar player and producer was on the road a lot and would leave his vintage guitars in her safekeeping. The fact both parents play guitar may be why, at 16, Chela gravitated to the bass. She lists “the mysterious universe” as her biggest influence. She has drawn inspiration from artists as divergent as Loreena McKinnett, Opeth and the Bulgarian Womens Choir, but the album that has had the most profound effect on her musical sensibilities is Robert Plant and Jimmy Paige’s live record ‘No Quarter’ with its seductive middle eastern overtones.
When her family moved north to a lake in Haliburton, she sought out musicians whose playing she admired. Engineer and multi-instrumentalist, Ryan Chalmers (Mindsight/Born Destroyers) and guitar connoisseur Justin Hie (Wolves of Anson) agreed to help her. They taught her songs by Tool, System of a Down and Rage Against the Machine. By the second lesson she was bringing in her own compositions and before long had pulled together a band. ‘Labyrinth’ played at school coffeehouses, open stages, and local arenas in ‘Battle of the Bands’. Labyrinth was the perfect appellation for the journey Chela had embarked on. “It appears to be a maze,” she says. “But if you follow the path you’ll reach your destination.” ‘Oversoul’ and ‘A Distant Mirror’, written during this period, are still part of Chela’s repertoire. She recorded her first six song demo at Chalmer’s basement studio before moving to Toronto to take a course in Recording Sciences at Number Nine.
At 19, she met Dustin Anstey. The two formed a songwriting partnership and in that window of possibility between Chela working nights and Dustin finishing high school, threw themselves into writing and recording. Dustin laid down instrumental tracks and Chela wrote the lyrics and melodies. Calling themselves ‘Ethereal’, which literally means ‘the fine atmosphere pervading all space’ or in action ‘to purify and refine’, it was a transformative time. During this time she learned to play a few power chords on the guitar, but never took it to the next level until later. For the singer-songwriter, Ethereal was another stepping stone in the honing of many skills. Now she could compose, play and program the music herself. Her resolve was encapsulated in the image of Sarasvati, the four-armed goddess who plays the vina. To Chela, she seemed the epitome of feminine power, an all encompassing creative energy -- the perfect metaphor for a multi-tasking musician. The singer’s name carries its own portent. Chela is a Sanskrit word for spiritual student. In the Greek myth, Rhea is Meter Theron, mother of the gods. In 2008 Chela decided to pick up her guitar and experiment with what she knew. Carrying over her bass knowledge to the guitar, she wrote a list of songs under the name Sarasvati. Still without any formal knowledge of the instrument, Chela just let the creativity flow. She was determined to do it all on her own. Write, play, sing and record.
Sarasvati’s demo is enhanced by Loreena McKennitt’s Hurdy Gurdy player, Ben Grossman who also plays Riqq, Darbuka and Mazhar. Musician extraordinaire, Ed Bernard added violin. It is her plan to ultimately incorporate this instrumentation into her live band, with additional hand drums. Chela envisions a stage performance that is an all-encompassing experience, one that “engages all the senses.”
Sarasvati songs are deeply personal yet universal. Chela’s voice ascends from the raw emotional landscapes of disenchantment and loss to a vision of a higher order. Long told, ‘because you’re a girl you can’t do it as well’, Oceans Can Wait is ultimately about liberation and self-empowerment, and in the male-dominated genre of hard rock where the electric guitar still carries phallic connotations, those stigmas still exist. Dysmorphic addresses distorted self-image. Body Dysmorphic Disorder is perpetuated by a beauty myth that panders to perfection, persuading young women to fixate on their flaws to the point of obsession that in extreme cases has led to suicide.
Sarasvati is a unique fusion of Eastern music with a heavy alternative sound. Driven by a brooding intensity, the music is as elegant and exotic as the artist herself. The songs are wholly original yet ring with familiarity -- a compelling combination, and one, beyond a doubt destined for wide audience appeal.
With each musical entity, Chela’s sound has evolved. In this incarnation, Sarasvati reveals an artist in full possession of her powers, fulfilling her finest passion. Now, in 2010, Chela has dedicated her time to learning the guitar, and taken on a regular practice routine. She is very excited to improve her skills so she can ultimate improve her creative abilities. Stay tuned for new material!
Amps: Ashdown Engineering
Recording software: Presonus
My voice can be heard as the narrator on Amogh Symphony's latest concept album TQHC:
Intereses de la Banda
Music, philosophy, history and religion.
Miembros Singer/Songwriter/guitarist/bassist @ VII facebook.com/thebandvii, 2nd Guitarist @ Kartikeya
Bassist @ Coal Chamber (Reunion Tour 2011-2013).
Chela (Sarasvati) - Vocals, guitar, bass, some form of pseudo hand drumming and programming. I have a few projects I'm working on right now.
Ciudad de origen Toronto/Haliburton
Sello discográfico none
Influencias Middle Eastern/Indian music, Bulgarian women's choir, Natacha Atlas, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant's No Quarter album (live), Opeth, Tool, Loreena McKennitt, Tori Amos, Katatonia, Deftones, Karnivool, Meshuggah, Devin Townsend, APC, Machine Head, Pantera, Gojira, Animals as Leaders, DevilDriver, Blotted Science, Cynic,Tribal Fusion... The list is far to long and forever growing... I love music :)