With only a ukulele, a vocal microphone, and a captivating voice, Nirvana Goberdhan has gone from Pepper fan to Pepper-endorsed.
Goberdhan, better known by her stage name Vana Liya, was recently signed to LAW Records, which is managed and operated by the close friends, family, and members of Hawaiian reggae/rock trio Pepper. The announcement of her signing was paired with the release of her new single, titled “Show Me.”
Vana grew up in Deer Park, New York, about 45 miles east of Manhattan. Her parents are from Guyana, at the southernmost end of the Caribbean. From early on, Vana was surrounded by soca, calypso, dancehall, reggae music (and, thanks to her dad, Elvis Presley karaoke). After finding punk-rock on her own, Vana’s musical worlds collided in middle school when her older brother introduced her to Sublime.
“I really connected with it because I liked the reggae style I grew up with, but it had the punk aspect I was into,” Vana told The Pier. “I had heard their staple songs like ‘Santeria’ and ‘What I Got’ but he put on ‘Roots of Creation,’ and that’s when I started really getting into them. From there it branched off and I was listening to Slightly Stoopid, Pepper, and Long Beach Dub Allstars.”
Her interest in the genre carried her to emulating her stars, at first with a guitar. After deciding a full size guitar was too big, her instrument of choice shrunk, but her popularity only grew.
“I started making minute long Instagram snippets in late 2016. Before I had a mic, I was actually recording videos on my bathroom floor because of the acoustics,” Vana tells The Pier. “My first repost was from Pepper – they shared an old cover I did of “Tradewinds” back when Instagram videos were only 15 seconds. From there I gained a little bit of a following and then I got noticed by bands like Rebelution, 311, and Dirty Heads.”
Yesod Williams, drummer for Pepper and LAW Records partner, told The Pier the LAW family is lucky to have Vana: “I instantly took note of how sweet and soulful her voice was,” Williams shares. “One key factor was we met at one of our meet and greets in Long Island, NY and she was so genuine. Sky is the limit for her in my opinion, it’s an honor to be a part of the process.”
Vana’s live show consists of her original music and a mix of covers from her favorite bands in the scene. One she loves playing is “Bowl For Two,” from The Expendables’ 2004 album Gettin’ Filthy.
“When you play it in front a reggae crowd they automatically recognize it and start singing along. But also when people who aren’t familiar with the song hear it, they know what it’s about and they start to chuckle – it kind of brings the crowd together,” Vana said of the Expendables hit.
Outside of reggae, Vana told The Pier her biggest influences are Dallas Green of City & Colour, Ben Gibbard from Death Cab For Cutie, and Ingrid Michaelson.
Currently, Vana is busy touring and putting together an EP, centered around her single “Show Me.” The track features Vana, backed by guitar, keys, bass, and drums by Tosh Peterson. The single was recorded at Greg Shields’ (Kash’d Out) studio in Orlando, FL, and produced by Joshua Saldate. Shields and bandmate Nick Gudzan helped Vana with writing.
Just a year ago, Vana Liya only dreamed of touring with her favorite band Pepper. As of today, that dream doesn’t seem too far off.
Watch: Vana Liya – “Show Me”
Watch: Vana Liya – “Bowl For Two” (The Expendables Cover)
Watch: Vana Liya – “Too Much” (Pepper Cover)