From Engineering To Poetry: Navpreet Sachdev

8 min


Indian-American poet and spoken word artist, Navpreet Sachdev began his career studying engineering. He soon found his passion for writing and took it a step further as a spoken word artist. The writer has been making the rounds on the college circuit and expanding his reach with phenomenal performances across the country.

Sachdev takes inspiration from everywhere from current events to his own personal emotional conflicts to tell a touching story. He has collaborated with artists like Gurl to create a new experience with his poetry.

We had the chance to sit down with this talented rising star to find out about his inspiration, the obstacles he’s faced as a Sikh poet and how he continues to improve his craft.

DissDash: What sparked your love of poetry?

Navpreet Sachdev: I started writing in 2011 and during that time, I was dealing with some personal struggles in my life. I was in a really dark place emotionally and couldn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t even remember the day I began writing but I just remember that I started writing and I didn’t want to stop. It didn’t simply feel good to write, it felt right. It felt as if this was what I was supposed to be doing with my life. Poetry provided me an outlet for all these thoughts and emotions welling up in my head; having this form of expression that allowed me to channel everything that was going on in my mind rejuvenated my spirit. From that point on, I knew that this is what I wanted to do with my life.

DissDash: You actually didn’t study English, literature or poetry in college, so how did you balance or integrate your education and your passion?

Sachdev: I was in my sophomore year of college when I began to write. At the time, I was studying engineering. But as I pursued writing, I was craving a platform to share these ideas. One day, my friend invited me to join him on his radio show at our college’s radio station. Being on his show was so much fun because I was able to voice my thoughts and opinions. That led to me switching majors to Communication Arts, which is a broad field of media. I initially started with a focus in radio, but then switched to film and television seeing as how my appearance plays such a huge role in my storytelling of my poetry. I also wanted to be able to have the skills to create content for my poetry on my own. My education and passion actually intertwined and brought me to where I am now.

DissDash: What was the hardest part of working the college circuit as a spoken word performer?

Sachdev: The most challenging aspect of working the college circuit is really just the inconsistency of booking shows currently. And I’ve learned that part of it is how the market functions. Schools don’t want the same act every year, or even the same type of act, for that matter. So, a lot of it is timing, consistency in doing what you do, and persistence. Eventually, as I build name value, that’ll hopefully change. But as of now, it’s tough to not be traveling and performing on a consistent basis.

DissDash: How has the experience been as a South Asian performer? How does your heritage fit into your work?

Sachdev: Being a South Asian performer is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it’s still a unique and fresh act because while the amount of South Asian performers have grown, there are still such a limited number of us. Especially being a Sikh male poet, it really plays in my favor in the college market because they’re always searching for diverse acts to bring to their campuses. On the other hand, because it is still so new and unfamiliar, I don’t think South Asian performers are highly sought after outside of the South Asian community.

As for how my heritage fits into my work, I discuss my background plenty both through my works and in conversation with my audiences during and after the show. Not only am I South Asian, but I have the turban and beard so it’s not really something I could avoid if I wanted to. I don’t want to avoid it though. I address it all the time. I constantly reference my faith and my roots in my poetry. Many pieces discuss being a South Asian born in America because that is a perspective that we’ve only begun to have conversations about. Ultimately, who I am as a South Asian, a Sikh, a Punjabi, and an American all play a role in my work.

DissDash: Have you found support from your own community?

Sachdev: It’s been a slow progression for gaining support from my community. When I first started this pursuit, especially in college, I don’t feel a lot of people thought much of it. I think they figured it was something I was just doing as a hobby while in college. Meanwhile, I knew all along that I was pursuing this as a career. However, over the past few years, I’ve witnessed the change. I’ve had relatives who used to clearly doubt what I was doing now express their appreciation and support. I feel that now since I am traveling, people see that I’m building a career with my art and the results show them that I meant what I’ve been saying all along. And now they respect what I’m doing and show love for it. I’m really grateful for the fact that I have people shifting their view on me. It’s what I have had to do all my life just being a Sikh, so it’s not something I’m unfamiliar with.

DissDash: We hear you have a new album coming up of your work, tell us more about the new project? What themes can we expect to see in the work?

Sachdev: Yes, I am releasing my poetry album entitled “Modern Times” on Tuesday, April 2nd, 2019 on Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, Pandora, Amazon, Soundcloud, and Saavn. There are ten tracks and each of them discusses the idea of being a person of color in America. I address the topic through various aspects of what that existence means by talking about my personal experiences. From seeing my people stereotyped in the media to my first encounter with racial prejudice, each poem explores various ideas from my lens. But I don’t only talk about Sikhs or South Asians. It’s about all people of color and the varied yet shared struggles we face because of our skin tones. I’ve worked incredibly hard on this album and I cannot wait for people to hear it!

DissDash: What is your favorite poem?

Sachdev: Are you asking of mine? I couldn’t answer that. If you’re asking in general, there are two. One is called Poetic Bloodlines by Gemineye and the other is What’s Genocide by my favorite poet Carlos Andres Gomez.

DissDash: Who are your inspirations?

Sachdev: In the field of performance, Carlos Andres Gomez, Noyz, and Bo Burnham. Carlos is a poet who I have not only studied and admired when starting out but has become a friend. His poetry is so powerful and captivating. I truly owe a lot to him because if I didn’t discover him and analyze his performances, my craft would’ve developed differently. Noyz is a Sikh hip hop artist from Toronto who I am also thankful to call a friend and he is so incredibly talented. I’d argue he’s one of the best lyrists. His love for his music and focus on his art over fame is what I really admire about him. Bo Burnham is a comedian and performer who built his fame through Youtube and then started doing one-man shows. He’s also recently gotten into directing and writing films. What I love about him is his talent, his ingenuity and his constant desire to evolve.

Outside of performance, my inspirations are my family, specifically my parents. The journey my father has gone taken to come to America and build a life is one that as a privileged first generation South Asian American, I can’t fathom. And the fact that he supports me in my endeavor when many South Asian parents refuse to show that support to their children wanting to pursue the arts is something I am forever thankful for. And my mother has always been so loving and caring. I’m able to talk to her about my struggles as well as my triumphs. My parents are always there for me and I love them so much for that.

DissDash: If you weren’t a poet, what would you be?

Sachdev: If I wasn’t a poet, I’d probably still be pursuing film. Storytelling is something I think I was born with. The medium with which I do that can change but I will always be a storyteller. So either I’d be creating films and television, starring in them, or performing in theaters on stage. I don’t think I could get away from that world.

DissDash: What do you do to improve your craft?

Sachdev: I constantly rehearse. I’ll be walking around my house eating a snack and then just start reciting a poem. Poetry is constantly working to get out of me that I just recite whenever and wherever. On top of that, I go to open mics. Much like a comedian, I use them to test out new material or tweak old material. I call open mics my gym. It’s where I work out…my poetry. I also study other performers and not just poets. I mentioned Bo Burnham before. I’ll watch comedy specials and pick up little techniques for performing on stage. I watch a lot of television and film and analyze actors. I also listen to a lot of interviews with actors, writers, and directors. I gain new insight into performing, writing, and existing as a growing public figure. I know I’m not there yet but it’s good to know how to handle different challenges thatmay arise when I do become more known.

DissDash: What advice do you have for other amateur writers and performers?

Sachdev: I have three main pieces of advice.

Just do it. Don’t question if it’s a good idea or bog yourself down with all the logistics before you’ve even begun. If you want it badly enough, you’ll figure out a way. So start doing what it is you’ll love and then let that passion drive you to find your way.

Don’t let yourself get complacent. I believe there’s always room for improvement so never stop working on your craft. Experiment with new styles and mediums. I don’t use music in my works. But I have done it before. And I probably will put music to some of my words in the future again. So challenge yourself, step out of your comfort zone, and do
something new with your work.

Be authentic. I’ve learned that who you truly are will resonate more than anything. Art is subjective so not everyone will necessarily vibe with your work. But they will respect you if you’re genuine. I’m a quirky, awkward, goofy guy and that comes across clearly on stage. And my willingness to be myself and be open about it really resonates with my audiences. So don’t feel the need to be something you’re not.

DissDash: Where can our fans find your work, and are there any new shows coming up?

Sachdev: I have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Soundcloud, and Youtube. I almost exclusively use Instagram though. For Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud, and Instagram, you can find me at @navthepoet, and my Youtube channel is NavNavNav because it’s all about me! I also have a few shows coming up at various Penn State campuses.

NILA

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Nila Choudhury
Nila is a freelance journalist and Clinical Psychology Doctoral student who was born and raised in New York City. There is very little she loves more than Harry Potter marathons, pizza, 90s Bollywood, bagels, falooda, and her family. She hopes to use her powers for good by spreading mental health awareness and positivity in the South Asian community through her love of writing.

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