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Emerging ensemble Aruna and the Sirens sings of the shadow pandemic on ‘Have You Seen My Sister?’

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Responding to what the UN dubbed the “shadow pandemic,” Bath, ON-based band Aruna & the Sirens have released an anthem calling attention to the global surge in gender-based violence.

“Have You Seen My Sister?” starts strong with powerhouse vocals from songwriter Aruna Antonella Handa with harmonies by band members Alejandra Ballon, Caitlin Holland, and Lindsay McDonald. The song’s first line is a call to action: Won’t you remind me to wonder who’s missing from the corridors of privilege?”

Aruna & The Sirens is an acoustic band with original songs spanning genres including folk, classical and jazz. The band has performed at clubs such as the Monarch and the Burdock in Toronto and has made appearances at festivals including Nuit Blanche, Canadian Music Week and Open Tuning. They plan to release their first LP in the coming months.

Aruna’s vocals are reminiscent of Tracy Chapman and Janis Joplin, while the Sirens’ voices lift the sound with soaring harmonies. The band asks the listener to consider the relationship between a lack of power and disproportionate representation in incidents of violence.

The track transitions as the vocals and other instruments drop out, allowing the cello played by Grammy nominated Dave Eggar to take the spotlight, creating a sense of wind and motion. This shift in tone suits the lyrics of the final part of the track, as the song reminds listeners of the various roles women play in our lives and how profound that loss can be.

Accompanying the vocals is the band’s rhythm section with Raphael Roter on drums and Chris Adriaanse on upright bass. In addition to Tennessee based Dave on cello, among the many guest artists are Ontario-based Doug Tielli on acoustic guitar and Boston-based Antje Duvekot providing further vocals.

The track is a collaborative effort with contributions of artists from the US, Mexico, and Canada. In 2020, when Aruna read about the so-called shadow pandemic, fueled by increased alcohol consumption and people trapped in lockdown with their aggressors, she reached out to New York-based friend and producer David Seitz, whose credits include work with Moby, Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen.

At that time, Aruna and David were working on the band’s debut full length record, and they discussed the possibility of creating a socially distanced, collaborative recording of selections from Aruna’s song cycle “Have You Seen My Sister.” The project was partially funded by a grant from FACTOR.

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