WATCH: Music beyond the binary - Meet GrapeGuitarBox, one of Bengaluru’s rising indie stars
With their debut EP ‘Out’ coming soon, Bengaluru musician Teenasai Balamu, aka GrapeGuitarBox, who identifies as non-binary, shares their journey in music.
The world tends to operate through a binary lens acknowledging only two sides of gender - man and woman. Breaking this stereotype is Teenasai Balamu (24) aka GrapeGuitarBox, a musician from Bengaluru who identifies as non-binary*.
Teenasai’s interest in music began at age 10 when they decided to learn how to play the keyboard. A few years later, they started uploading covers of popular songs on YouTube, gaining more visibility. But their music career’s pace really started picking up in 2016 when they were featured in Rolling Stone India as one of the budding artistes to listen to.
In a conversation with SocialStory, watch Teenasai Balamu talk about music, gender, and the LGBTQIA+ community, and catch them performing Run.
Since then, Teenasai has explored several opportunities like collaborating with singers Shruti Haasan and Bidisha Mohanta, and even giving a TEDx talk at DY Patil University. They also tried their hand at theatre, which they said was a new but fun experience.
Before taking up music as a full-time career, Teenasai tried a variety of professions, including freelance writing, but none of them resonated with them as well as music did.
Earlier this year, Teenasai announced that their debut EP, titled Out, was in the works, giving listeners a sneak peek by releasing two tracks 28 - acoustic and Run. To them, this milestone has been the most exciting part of their journey as a musician.
Apart from their musical achievements, Teenasai’s experience as a non-binary person plays a vital role in their journey.
“When we talk about gender, we have a habit of looking at just ‘man’ and ‘woman’. We start associating certain behaviours and activities with a person’s gender and very often, don’t validate people who don’t fall in the binary," says Teenasai.
They added, “Because I have a female body, people expect me to behave a certain way, and when I don’t behave that certain way, they get shocked.”
Teenasai also runs a series called The Queer Question with their partner on Instagram where the two answer questions from people curious about the LGBTQIA+ community, or are navigating through their own identities. They are also part of almaarii, another Instagram project in which people write about their ‘closets’ as though they were physical spaces and collaborate with artists who turn these descriptions into art work.
*Non-binary is an umbrella term for those who neither identify as a man nor a woman.