California Dreamin’

Written by Stefan Slater | Photographed by Kat Monk

“We all wanted to pursue music from a young age,” says Ruby Carr, a vocalist in the musical trio Bahari. The band, which started in Los Angeles and includes Natalia Panzarella and Sidney Sartini, released their first single, “Wild Ones,” in 2014.

More recently they focused on writing music and hitting the road, releasing their first EP Dancing on the Sun on Interscope Records and performing with Selena Gomez on the artist’s Revival Tour. The band, Ruby notes, is currently working on their album, and they’re eager to share their sound with fans—both dedicated and new—across the world.

“It happened really fast, but it happened organically,” says Natalia. The three musicians first connected in 2013 at Rock Mafia Studios, though at the time they were each working separately on their own individual music projects.

Though Natalia was originally born in Nashville, both she and Sidney grew up in the South Bay. Ruby had recently moved from Kenya—where her parents work in wildlife conservation—to Los Angeles to pursue her music career. “We met there [at Rock Mafia], and we became friends,” shares Ruby. “We started singing and doing covers, and then we just decided that we should do more.”

The trio notes that it took them around 20 minutes to create their song “Wild Ones.” They shared it with some of the producers at Rock Mafia, and the response was positive.

“I feel like they didn’t think that a bunch of teenagers were all that dedicated, but they realized we could do this. And we just really wanted it,” says Natalia. Within a short time frame the trio connected with Simon Fuller, their manager, and started making music.

The band’s name touches on a critical theme for the trio. Ruby speaks Swahili, and one day when all three were hanging out together, Sidney and Natalia were asking more about the language. “We were asking what certain words meant,” Sidney says.

The Swahili word for ocean, “bahari,” popped up. All three were in agreement—it was a perfect fit for the band. “Being around the beach and the South Bay influenced our music a lot,” says Ruby.

The band has, as Sidney puts it, a distinct California sound. They derive much of their inspiration from West Coast bands of the ‘60s. The Beach Boys and The Mamas & The Papas in particular have influenced their music tremendously.

That musical era is a pivotal one for Bahari. “It’s when harmony met with rock ‘n’ roll and pop music. It’s influenced us so much,” says Ruby.

The band also finds that photography and philosophy—Ruby is a fan of Alan Watts’ work—play a role in inspiring their work.

All three have a love of beach culture, and coupled with their shared musical interests it’s easy to see how the band developed their particular style of West Coast-inspired music. “California is seen as this place where the weather is great and your dreams come true,” says Ruby. “And it’s true; when I moved here I fell in love. The whole thing that everyone believes about California—the culture and its influence on music—all of that has affected us.”

All three musicians provide vocals, though each member has their individual tastes for instruments. Ruby plays the keyboard, Sidney plays the guitar and Natalia serves as the bassist. The trio enjoys songwriting, though they do note that it can be challenging.

“Sometimes it’s hard. In the end we just have to go with a gut feeling,” says Ruby. “But we do have each other, so if we don’t know if something is good, then we can just work with one another.”

The previous year was one of growth for the band. Aside from releasing their EP, they also had their first opportunity to play before thousands of fans while touring with Selena Gomez. “It was scary at first,” says Sidney.

Ruby adds that participating in such a major tour operation was a blessing. They learned a lot about the ins and outs of touring, and after a while performing before thousands started to feel natural.

“There’s no better feeling than hearing others sing back the lyrics you wrote. You want to [perform] every day,” she says.

With their EP behind them, the band is now focused on finishing their album. Being that the band finds California culture to be so inspiring, they try to spend much of their time—both individually and as a band—in the South Bay.

“I’ve never really lived anywhere else,” says Natalia. “But even when we’re on tour, I haven’t found one place that I’ve liked better.”

The band is also keen on growing artistically. Though their songs have what they call a “beachy vibe,” they hope to start exploring more substantial themes.

Ruby notes that their single “Dancing on the Sun” has a summery sound, but she says the song has a more somber undertone. “It’s about death. We realize that so many people don’t live in the moment, but no one’s going to be here forever and you should just have fun,” she says.

The trio points out that when they wrote their EP, they were young—around 17 years old. “But we are older now, and we want to send a stronger message,” says Ruby.

With their next album, Bahari plans to retain their California sounds and their love of harmony. But they also want their album to showcase to their fans that, as Ruby says, “It’s OK to be happy.”

Or, as Sidney points out, “We want people to be who they want to be.” =