Meet Ambika Nayak, Mumbai’s rising soul star

Ambika Nayan at Soho House Mumbai in a bedroom at night sat on a char in the middle of the frame. The room is dark and there is a single warm light shining on her. She is sat leaning forward with her knees crossed. Her elbow is resting on her knee and her head in her hand, in which she is also holding a lemon. She is wearing a blue and white gingham dress, red scrappy heels and has red lipstick on

Following her residency at Soho House Mumbai, the artist and actor talks to Praachi Raniwala about her latest dancehall-infused single and what’s next for her

By Praachi Raniwala    Photography by Ishaan Nair

Singer, DJ and actor Ambika Nayak started releasing her own music under the name Kayan in 2020. Six singles later, she’s already amassed a strong following. We invited the singer to Soho House Mumbai to complete a week-long artist residency, where she wrote her latest dancehall-infused single, ‘On My Own’. ‘The song is about being by yourself and being absolutely OK with that,’ she says. ‘It’s an amazing feeling, and one that I’ve worked on for a long time. If you’re comfortable by yourself, everything else is easier.’ 

Kayan has always been surrounded by music. Her mother is a Hindustani classical vocalist, and taught music classes from their family home. Kayan herself is also classically trained as a dancer and singer, and went on to study at music school in Mumbai.

Ambika Nayan at Soho House Mumbai in a bedroom sat on a pink sofa. She is leaning against the arm rest with her head resting on her hand and her legs are up on the sofa and slightly crossed. She is wearing a yellow playsuit and is looking towards the window to the right
Ambika Nayan at Soho House Mumbai laying on the bed with her head resting on her hand. She is moving her hair out of her face with the other hand and is looking straight to camera. She is surrounded by white duvet

‘My classical training really helps with my voice. I will never forget what my teachers taught me when I was learning classical,’ she says. ‘The training is super rigorous. I wouldn’t say there is a direct influence in terms of sound, but in the sense of discipline, it has had a big impact.’

We catch up with Kayan to hear how her residency went, the creative process behind her latest single, and what’s coming up. Listen to the conversation above. 

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