Coming out of the Southern California community of Manhattan Beach, the all-female modern trio Bahari, which is vocalist/bassist Natalia Panzarella, vocalist/keyboardist Ruby Carr, and vocalist/guitarist Sidney Sartini, embody a youthful reflection of the creative spirit of the coastal lifestyle. “I grew up on an island off the coast of Kenya called Lamu, and Swahili is my first language,” Ruby explains. “We were all hanging out one day and the girls were asking me about words in Swahili and I told them that ‘bahari’ meant ocean. We thought it would make a great name for our group. We all grew up around the ocean and are very much inspired by it. Plus our music has a summery, California vibe, so it just felt right.”
With collective influences that span singer-songwriter folk and classic rock to contemporary pop, the members of Bahari have created a radiant, harmony-rich, brightly melodic sound. The songs range from the upbeat, clap-happy pop of “Dancing On The Sun” and “Summer Forever,” to the neo-psychedelic rock stylings of “Altar of the Sun,” to the spare, moody ballad, and first single “Wild Ones,” which finds the girls asserting an almost feral, us-against-the-world pack mentality when they sing: “We wake up to the sun / Burning while we’re young / We’re the wild ones / Raised by the wolves / We howl to the moon.” Warming to that theme, they refuse to “play by the rules” on “Reckless Youth,” which Sidney describes as a song about “doing what you want and being free.” The lyrics not only detail the girls’ lives and loves, they also offer listeners a sense of what it’s like to be a spirited, independent-minded 18-year-old woman in 2016.
Ruby, Sidney, and Natalia wrote all the songs on the EP themselves in collaboration with hit producers Rock Mafia, Tim James and Antonina Armato, who introduced the girls to each other in 2013. “Our first impressions of them were that they all sing from such a deep, unaffected place,” says Armato. “It’s very connected and from the heart.” Adds James: “What makes them strong as a group is that they all have different strengths, and together that has made for their strong bond as a unit.”
“We clicked instantly,” says Natalia. “The first day we hung out, we started singing songs we all knew.” The girls quickly discovered how well their voices blended together. Not long after, they wrote “Wild Ones.” “It came out in 20 minutes when were sitting on the couch,” says Natalia, adding that its mellow mood makes it something of an outlier among their burgeoning catalog. The girls brought the song to James and Armato, who loved it, as did Interscope Records, which signed Bahari after hearing it. “’Wild Ones’ means different things to all of us,” says Sidney, “but the one thing we all agree on is that it’s about being true to yourself.”
Each member of Bahari had an upbringing that reflects that philosophy, with all three intent on following their love for music wherever it led them. Born in Nashville, Natalia began playing piano when she was four. After moving to Manhattan Beach with her family at age five, Natalia took up the guitar as well. While her love for music only grew through her appreciation for Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash, she also decided to try her hand at acting. She enjoyed and found much success in her acting, but she could not deny her passion was music and went on to focus on pursuing a career as a musician. She says, “I acted to become a musician. People told me it was a way to get your foot in the door, to act and then do music. I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s what I chose to do.”
Though Sidney grew up five minutes away from Natalia in Manhattan Beach, the two had never met until introduced by Rock Mafia. As a child Sidney was obsessed with playing sports, but after developing a knee injury she decided to take on another hobby. “I was looking for something else to do,” she says. “My friends all surfed, so I started surfing and I loved it.” In the fourth grade she asked her parents for a guitar, which she taught herself to play. At age 11, upon discovering that she could sing, she began setting the poems she had been writing to music.
Ruby grew up in remote parts of Africa where her parents worked in wildlife conservation. Animals have always been a huge part of her life. “We had a leopard named Jamu and an elephant named Noah.” Her grandfather is also well known for having two male lions at his side. Inspired by the culture of her upbringing, Ruby developed a love to sing. While away at school, hearing a friend play the piano inspired her to teach herself. With her newfound interest in the piano blossoming, she soon found herself becoming more confident in her singing. “That’s when I started to come out of my shell a bit more with my singing, too,” she says. After doing a bit of modeling in London, Ruby eventually made her way to Los Angeles where she met Rock Mafia and was introduced to Sidney and Natalia.
“Now we’re like kindred spirits,” says Sidney about the group’s dynamic. Overall, the girls hope people will find their music positive, uplifting, and relatable. "I hope our music inspires people to think about things in a different way,” says Natalia. “It’s about putting our energy into focusing on what really matters, which is finding happiness and peace of mind. We want to explore a new spiritual reality where everyone cares a little more and thinks a little deeper. If we can inspire people to do that, hopefully we can make this world a better place.”
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