Rupa Marya is SingerDoc, GuitarDoc, ComposerDoc
Rupa and the April Fishes is a global alternative group based in San Francisco, California fronted by composer, singer and guitarist Rupa Marya who is also a hospitalist at UCSF. The group’s songs are a mixture of musical styles ranging from jazz to punk to reggae to chanson, with lyrics in multiple languages (primarily French, Spanish and English).
he group began as a duet between Rupa Marya and cellist Ed Baskerville, playing on streets, in streetcars and in art galleries, reflecting their nomadic spirits. From there the band grew into an eclectic group of talented musicians playing sold out shows in well-known venues around the country. The band came together to create a form of music that would build connections among the diverse population of the Bay Area. The band started off playing in local bars, with influences of street music, Latin grooves, Indian ragas and Romani soul. They played their first show at the Red Poppy Art House, an intimate performing arts venue in San Francisco. Rupa Marya’s vision of blending a mix of languages strives to forge a deeper connection, reaching beyond the boundaries of race and geography. Their music is often described as multifaceted, ever-changing, and redefining.
The group’s name derives from an old French saying, “les poissons d’avril”, roughly equivalent to the English term “April Fools”. It is an April Fools tradition in France for people to stick paper fishes on the backs of the unsuspecting. While the origin of the custom is questionable, Rupa remarks “one of the stories is that when a French king changed to the Roman calendar from the pagan calendar that was in wide use at the time, some people . . . still wanted to celebrate the New Year in April. So these are the people who would give the fishes, the April fish, to celebrate the beginning of the New Year. During the Bush Administration, we were feeling like April fishes—people who don’t believe the reality that’s handed to them by some higher order, but instead insist on the reality they perceive in front of them. It’s a political and social commentary.”
According to Rupa Marya, the title of the 2008 CD release of eXtraOrdinary rendition is a reference to the United States policy of Extraordinary Rendition. “I actually wanted people to Google the expression and then read the first thing that comes up is a Wikipedia article…” said Rupa Marya.
The title of the 2009 CD release, Este Mundo, means ‘this world.’ Of this release, Rupa Marya said, “Este Mundo is a collection of sounds and songs highlighting life’s accidental beauty and surging joy as well as their inexorable partner: human suffering.” Este Mundo was recorded by engineer Oz Fritz with an assortment of artists. Guests on the album included rapper Boots Riley of The Coup and other talented artists including Tin Hat’s trumpeter Ara Anderson and Djordje Stijepovic, a Serbian slap bassist. The album encompasses a wide variety of sounds and cultures ranging from Columbia cumbia to Indian ragas.
In 2013, Rupa Marya began court proceedings to challenge the copyright on “Happy Birthday To You”, arguing that the song has long since become a public domain work. Two years later in September 2015, a supreme court judge ruled in favor of Marya and Happy birthday was liberated from the unlawful royalties of Warner Chappel who was collecting over $2 million a year since 1988. The case is now filing for class action status in which up to $50 million would be returned to artist and producers who have used the happy birthday song over the years. <http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/plaintiff-who-challenged-happy-birthday-826652>
The group has toured extensively in North America, Europe and Asia.