From punk rock to acapella, Vancouver musician receives his first Juno nomination

Ruby Singh, a musician of 20 years, says he didn't start playing music until he was a 20-year-old theatre student.  (Submitted by Ruby Singh.  - image credit)
Ruby Singh, a musician of 20 years, says he didn't start playing music until he was a 20-year-old theatre student. (Submitted by Ruby Singh. - image credit)

While the pandemic paused many lives, Ruby Singh did just the opposite. In the midst of lockdown, the isolation spurred him to create his now Juno-nominated acoustic album, Vox.Infold.

"Loneliness really echoed through the record … This was before we really knew anything about the virus. We thought singing together could kill us," said Singh, a 46-year-old Vancouver-based artist, who was born in Blairmore, Alberta.

Several of the Juno awards were announced Saturday evening ahead of the live show Monday, and Sing, who was nominated for global music album of the year, lost to Toronto artist Lenka Lichtenberge and her album Thieves of Dreams.

Nonetheless, he says the experience has been great.

"It's such an honour to be nominated amongst such incredible artists … so that feels like a real big win in and of itself," said Singh.

While a lifelong fan of music, Singh says he didn't get bit by the music bug until he was 20 years old and a theatre student at the University of Fraser Valley in Abbotsford, B.C.

"My friends were musicians in a punk rock band, and they just threw some sticks at me one day," he said.

"I remember hitting the skin of a drum and feeling something that I'd never felt before. I just kind of followed that impulse and here we are."

Soon after, Singh says he dropped out of theatre school to pursue music and spoken word.

WATCH | The music video for Ruby Singh's CODES OF THE FALLEN : S.O.S.

From Bjork to A Tribe Called Quest to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Singh's inspirations in music are just as diverse as his own work.

"I make everything from ambient to hip-hop to dance music, and this [album] is a complete acapella project," said Singh of his album Vox.Infold that brought together vocalists from Indigenous, Inuit, Black and South Asian backgrounds.

"All the sounds that you hear on the album are all made from the human voice."

Joining Singh on Vox.Infold were vocalists Dawn Pembeteron, Inuksuk Mckay, Tiffany Ayalik, Russell Wallace, Tiffany Moses, Shamik Bilgi. The album was mixed by John Raham.

He says with different styles and expertise in the group, much of the album he wrote and arranged was left open for interpretation and to change with the flow of production.

"[For example] we have the PIQSIQ sisters who are bringing in katajjaq or Inuit throat singing into the album. I'm not writing that. They're bringing that themselves," Singh said.

With that level of collaboration, Singh says it doesn't feel right to see only his name on the Juno nomination for the album.

He adds the album was a symbol of "fantastic human beings coming together and supporting each other" in a time of isolation and uncertainty.

Submitted by Ruby Singh
Submitted by Ruby Singh

Singh has travelled around the world from Jaipur to London to Albuquerque. He says a 4D music installation of the Vox.Infold album finished playing in Berlin and Paris recently and is headed to London next month.

The installation created for Vancouver-based Lobe Studios, a spatial sound studio, allows listeners to be immersed in the music being played from the ceiling, under the floor and through vibroacoustic panels.

"We didn't really know how to present the album, so we did it with [Lobe Studios]," he said, adding many people still don't know about the unique space.

While he may not be a Juno winner this year, Singh says the Juno festivities so far in Edmonton, Alta., have been nothing short of inspiring.

"Everybody was there to just celebrate other art, other artists and people that make art happen in the world."

With multiple projects on the go, Singh says he'll continue sharing his art through multiple platforms.

His next performances will be at Lobe Studios on March 23, 25, and 26.