Photo by Carey Costa
Desiree Das Gupta is a musician. She’s got a voice that can give you goose bumps, an ear to learn a song in minutes before performing it, and an outlook that radiates so much positivity you can’t help but feel it whenever you’re in her presence. From the age of 11, Desiree was writing and singing original pieces for anyone that would listen, and attended Cawthra Park, a performing arts high school in Mississauga, Ontario.
All artists know (or at least should know) that a career in the music industry isn’t guaranteed. Not everyone will get signed; not everyone will hear themselves on a movie soundtrack; and not everyone will play a concert for 50,000 people. Desiree knows this. For years she’s heard people tell her that she would need to change her style/genre/ideas in order to succeed.
…it diminishes all the other things I felt I had to musically offer – writing, arranging, vision – as well as dismisses all the hard work and talent of the people I work with…
It doesn’t help that many of the people telling her to change were men. The same men who took one look at her and assumed she was just a voice and knew nothing about the craft.
I spent my first real live experiences as one of two front women of an indie pop band and I was often treated like I don’t know about sound equipment or technical aspects of the job. Going into a job and having to state my credentials everyday was frustrating.
Everyone has to pay their dues. You play the gigs with 3 people in the audience, you get bumped out of a lineup and you hear rejection more times than should be acceptable. It’s all how you deal with that, that makes the biggest difference, and Desiree is someone who has figured that out.
Of course there’s negativity but I don’t think drawing attention to it is what’s healing it. Letting my art speak for me has been much more productive because it allows other people to come to their own conclusions and that’s going to resonate more than complaining.
Desiree is the first to say that any negativity she’s encountered has helped her and allowed her to grow. She truly believes that for women in the industry, being the best self you can be and taking any criticism to help make yourself the best self is what will elevate everyone.
She also doesn’t claim to do any of this on her own. Starting with her mother whom Desiree says is ‘her own kind of cutting edge’, she helped her daughter see her own strength with realistic advice and unconditional support. At 12 years old, Desiree and Megan Chacra wrote their first songs and then performed with each other in The Novellas where she began to work with Tatiana Haas.
We were very cheeky, theatrical and comedic in our writing and wrote a lot about taking charge of ourselves as people while still getting lost in the romance of the world.
This was also when outsiders began to tell Desiree she needed to change, like the name of the band (they went from Twosome to The Novellas) and that their style wasn’t that popular. At such a young age, many girls would give up, thinking they weren’t good enough but Desiree kept at it.
I could weigh other people’s opinions heavier than my own but then I remember art is so objective. As long as you’re doing what you do, the right opportunities will surface. I want honesty, innovation, nostalgia and diversity in my art. If I stick true to those things then the people who also love those things might recognize that.
Working with Tatiana and Samantha Maloney, Desiree’s writing partners, the ladies are able to support one another. Every idea is worth looking at because you never know where it will lead.
Kaleidoscope Horse (Desiree Das Gupta on Vocals, Samantha Maloney on Guitar, Seam McDonell on 2nd Guitar, Kyle McDonnell on Bass and Taylor Barber on Drums) is another haven for her. For 3 years she’s been a member of the psychedelic band and recently put out an EP that’s available for download at https://kaleidoscopehorse.bandcamp.com for free. But even with the band, the same outside ideas keep popping up.
The idea that singing is meant for girls and instruments are meant for boys is bullshit. I just want people to listen and enjoy, regardless of gender. Because of this, I’m becoming less apologetic of my womanhood. I’m no longer embarrassed by my gender. I am who I am and I’m not going to be ashamed of the space I take.
Which is exactly how every woman should feel. To be lucky enough to do what you love and be supported by family and friends is what we strive for, and Desiree has reached that goal. No matter what happens in the future, the music will get her through it.
For anyone interested in upcoming shows, Kaleidoscope Horse will be playing in Toronto on February 18th at The Supermarket with Drago Dit Dragon, and March 29th at The Supermarket with Steady Hussle. You can also find Desiree on Facebook and Instagram.
About the Author
Stephanie Lekas is a writer that loves science fiction. You can find her books here.