Asha Puthli

Asha Puthli Forever

Jazz singer and full-blown icon is what you would know Asha Puthli to be. But underneath it all, she's an eccentric, open, self-proclaimed child who loves balloons, hates routine and yearns to be free.
Adele Luamanuvae
Sydney, AU

Asha Puthli shines like the brightest star in the solar system.

The 79-year-old jazz singer’s escapades include shooting for Studio 54, acting in a James Ivory film, and singing about finding a lover in outer space. But Puthli has been retired for almost 40 years since then, skipping past the 90s and much of the 21st century. Her 1976 album The Devil is Loose is easily one of the most spellbinding and influential albums to come out of the 70s and is said to have inspired enigmatic disco legend Donna Summer. A sonic concoction of psych rock, free-jazz, pop, rock and disco throughout the album forged a path for radical musical experimentation at a time when many artists had only begun to scratch the surface. And Puthli has always been a renegade – almost 50 years after the album’s release, her freak flag continues to fly.


But when you strip away the accolades, boisterous outfits, and icon status, Puthli says her freethinking, childlike adoration for the world (and the birth of her son) far outweighs any accomplishment she has on paper.


Asha Puthli: the renaissance woman

“Spiritually, I'm 6000 years old, mentally about 19, and emotionally, 5. Chronologically, I’m in between,” she told VICE.

“I cry very easily. I laugh very easily. And I hope I've been able to retain a certain innocence that children have.”

Throughout our conversation, Puthli’s attention swerves and pivots, an endearing and curious caricature that involves her interrupting me to tell me she “loves the way my mouth moves when I talk” or my (apparently unique) way of using the word “infatuate.” Quirks like these only serve to make you beg for Puthli’s attention, but she will tell you it’s because of her absolute awe for the youth of today.

For decades, Puthli has been a source of inspiration for many artists who followed in her footsteps. American singer-songwriter Raveena named her album Asha’s Awakening after Puthli, and her most popular song “Space Talk”, has been sampled by The Notorious B.I.G., The Pharcyde and G-Unit. Just as artists have cut themselves a slice of the Puthli pie over the years, Asha’s source of inspiration now is those whom she has already inspired. And her light shines the brightest when we talk about it.

“I'm very, very much in gratitude for all the crate diggers, the samplers, the hip-hoppers. They've kept longevity on some of those songs…that span over five decades now,” she said.


“I'm inspired by their enthusiasm, energy, sense of humour, joie de vivre, just everything,”

“I'm so excited that there's a whole new audience of people who weren't even born when I was recording.”


Archival image of Asha on TV

While there is some level of self-restraint and awareness on show, Puthli tells me she has no self-discipline or routine despite her hectic life. And while she knows complimenting someone on the way their mouth moves could be understood as unusual (“one would think I’m a crackpot”), she is far from one.

Instead, Puthli is delightful and infectiously whimsical. She pokes her tongue at the “seriousness” of life, the homogenous societal structure of “work, eat, sleep, repeat” we are all roped into. While it’s easy to admire her approach to a life that is free from the weight of the world, Asha expresses that her ability to stay entirely mischievous and incredibly doting of the world around her does not come with a step-by-step handbook. It comes from within.

“Whimsy cannot be held,” she said.

“Spontaneity is whimsical. Spirituality is a state of mind. It's a state of being. And I think in music, sexuality – or sensuality — and spirituality are very connected. They both have to do with procreation, which is the essence of humanity,”

“I believe in forces guiding something to you. I feel young people can manifest whatever they want when they want it badly enough. I know I sound a little bit weird and crazy.”


Timeless Asha

Little does Asha know that her “weirdness” and “craziness” make her a timeless woman. A woman of all ages, all lifetimes, and all beings. A woman free from societal and cultural chains, formalities and expectations – a self-identified space cadet. When you look through archives of interviews over the years describing Asha Puthli’s life, the word “extravagant” often pops up. But Asha prefers the word “free”.

“I don't know why people would say extravagant. I must have been in an extravagant mood or something. Maybe I bought too many balloons,” she said.

“Free is the only way you can live, being true to yourself. Break the rules if you have to; break the taboos where you think there is no justice.”

“Live your life. I love you, I love you, I love you.”

Asha Puthli will be playing Melbourne’s RISING Festival on Saturday June 8. Tickets are available here.

Adele is the Junior Writer & Producer for VICE AU/NZ. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter here.

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