Sister Sai is the moniker of musician, songwriter, and producer Saira (pronounced sī’ rǝ) Raza. Her work displays a wide range of musical influences including jazz, folk, electronic, and classical. In her recordings, Saira employs any and all instruments within reach including vibraphone, guitar, bass, found sounds, synths, but she primarily performs with her first love, the cello. Her album Inertia was included in Creative Loafing Atlanta’s 40 Best Albums of 2016. Her most recent release Extempore, which reflects the experimental loop-based style of her live solo sets, was included among Immersive Atlanta’s 30 Best Local Records of 2017.
Saira learned to play cello through public school education and as a teen, took private lessons from New Directions Cello Festival founder Chris White to explore jazz music for cello. After a hiatus from playing cello for several years, she began taking lessons again with Okorie Johnson and shortly after began performing as support to hip hop artists. In 2013, she began recording her own compositions, releasing four solo albums to date, as well as several collaborations with 10th Letter and Visitors. In 2016, she participated in Red Bull Music Academy Bass Camp at Bonnaroo alongside 19 other U.S. based emerging music artists.
Sister Sai has two different live incarnations. For solo sets, Saira creates live improvisational compositions by layering loops of cello and vocals, combined with effects and a sampler. Listeners have described her solo sets as meditative and trance-inducing.
In contrast, Sister Sai also performs as a full band, with Saira at the helm on cello and vocals in addition to bass (Steven “Teeks” Cervantes/Gage Gilmore), guitar (Chris Edwards), drums (Jared Pepper), and synth (Alexa Lima). Full band sets are energetic and dynamic, showcasing the amazing skills of each musician on stage.
In addition to music, Saira also loves printmaking and was one of three emerging artist residents at Atlanta Printmakers Studio in 2016. She is currently part of the Hughley Fellowship program with Wonderroot.