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Devendra Obi Banhart (born May 30, 1981) is a Venezuelan American singer-songwriter and visual artist. Banhart was born in Houston, Texas and was raised by his mother in Venezuela, until he moved to California as a teenager. He began to study at the San Francisco Art Institute in 1998, but dropped out to perform music in Europe, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Banhart released his debut album in 2002, continuing to record his material on the Young God and XL labels, as well as other work on compilations and collaborations.

Devendra Banhart
Banhart in February 2017
Background information
Born (1981-05-30) May 30, 1981 (age 38)
Houston, Texas, United States
GenresFreak folk, psychedelic folk, folk rock, New Weird America, latin, lo-fi
Occupation(s)Singer-songwriter, musician, visual artist
InstrumentsGuitar, vocals, piano
Years active2002–present
LabelsXL, Young God, hinah, Reprise, Nonesuch, Warner Bros.
Associated actsVetiver, Michael Gira, Megapuss, Beck, CocoRosie, Antony Hegarty, Little Joy, Joanna Newsom, Noah Georgeson, MGMT, The Strokes, Rodrigo Amarante

Early life and careerEdit

Banhart was born May 30, 1981 in Houston, Texas, to a Venezuelan mother, María Eugenia Rísquez, and an American father, Robert Gary Banhart. His given name is a synonym for Indra (Hindu), which was suggested by Prem Rawat, an Indian religious leader whom Banhart's parents followed.[1] Banhart's middle name Obi was modeled after Obi-Wan Kenobi, a Star Wars character.[2] Banhart's parents divorced two years after his birth and he moved with his mother to Caracas, Venezuela.[3] His mother later remarried and Banhart's stepfather moved the family to Los Angeles,[3] when Banhart was 14 years old.[4]

Banhart cites Axl Rose, Kurt Cobain, Mick Jagger, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and Ali Farka Toure as his inspirations to begin singing. When he found that he could not match their singing styles, he found success in singing in a "feminine style."[5]

In 1998, Banhart began studying at the San Francisco Art Institute on a scholarship[3] while living in The Castro, San Francisco's gay neighborhood.[6] He began to busk instead of attending classes and played his first show in a church at a gay wedding, performing Elvis Presley's "Love Me Tender" and the classic hymn "How Great Thou Art."[4] Banhart dropped out of art school in 2000[3] and left San Francisco after the dot-com bust worsened the city's economy.[4] He moved to Paris over the summer and opened shows for indie rock bands such as Sonic Youth.[3] Banhart returned to the United States in the fall of 2000 and played music in San Francisco and Los Angeles, until he was discovered by Michael Gira, owner of Young God Records,[3] after Siobhan Duffy, Gira's wife, bought a copy of Banhart's demo CD The Charles C. Leary and gave it to Gira.[1]

Banhart and Gira compiled an album from Banhart's recordings,[1] and in 2002, Oh Me Oh My, which was made up of short fragments,[7] was published by Young God Records and received favorable reviews.[8] He recorded two other albums and an EP for the label: Rejoicing in the Hands, Niño Rojo, and The Black Babies;[8] the releases had a simple acoustic sound.[6] Banhart changed to XL Recordings in 2005[8] and released Cripple Crow, which was recorded in Bearsville Studios, New York and had a more elaborate sound.[6]

Banhart's albums offer a variety of musical sounds, and he is often called the leader of the musical movement termed "Freak Folk." His lyrics are fantastical, idealistic, and poetic with the occasional trace of innuendos.[9]

Additionally in 2005 Devendra collaborated with Antony and the Johnsons on the award-winning album I Am a Bird Now. Banhart sings the introduction to the song "Spiraling" and plays guitar on "You Are My Sister" in which Boy George also appears.

Devendra was the first artist to design a t-shirt for the Yellow Bird Project, in 2006. He chose to donate the profits from the sale of his T-shirt to the Teenage Cancer Trust.[10]

In 2007, he started a relationship with actress Natalie Portman.

He recorded his second album for XL Records, Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon, at his home studio in Topanga, California.[8] The album charted on the Billboard 200 at number 115.[11] The album's song "Lover" was featured in the soundtrack of the movie Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, which included a cameo appearance by Banhart.[12]

Banhart performs at the 2009 Coachella Festival.

Banhart has performed at Carnegie Hall[13] and the Hollywood Bowl opening for Gilberto Gil,[14] as well as at Bonnaroo and Coachella music festivals.[4] He founded a record label, Gnomonsong, with Andy Cabic of Vetiver, in 2005.[15] In 2007, he signed with Neil Young's manager Elliot Roberts, who also contributed vocals to Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon.[1][16]

Banhart released an album in 2008 entitled, Surfing, with Megapuss – a collaborative project with Gregory Rogove and Fabrizio Moretti of The Strokes and Little Joy. Comedian Aziz Ansari is featured on the album's track "Duck People Duck Man" under the alias "Grandpa P Darwish".[17]

In 2009, he signed to Warner/Reprise and released, What Will We Be.[18] Later that year, at the band's request, he produced a remix of Oasis' "(Get Off Your) High Horse Lady".[19] Along with "Neighbors", Devendra remixed the Phoenix song "Rome" from their 2009 album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix.[20]

On September 4, 2009, Beck announced his second Record Club covers album, Songs of Leonard Cohen. Banhart contributed, alongside MGMT, Andrew Stockdale of Wolfmother and Binki Shapiro of Little Joy.[21]

He is a collector of music artifacts.[4] Banhart wrote the foreword for and appears in his friend Lauren Dukoff's book Family: Photographs by Lauren Dukoff.[22][23] He has also written the introduction to a selection of poems by Kenneth Patchen.

On October 27, 2009, Banhart released What Will We Be, his first record on Warner/Reprise. Banhart and Jon Beasley, who were credited as art directors for the album's artwork and packaging, were nominated for a Grammy in 2011 for Best Recording Package.[24]

The film Life During Wartime, directed by Todd Solondz, features a musical collaboration between Banhart and Beck. The song plays over the film's end credits. Banhart sings lead vocals while Beck adds backing vocals and also recorded the track. The lyrics were written by Solondz and the music by composer Marc Shaiman.[25]

Banhart is an avid skateboarder, and in March 2010 broke a bone in his right leg while skating, only hours before a concert in Phoenix, resulting in the cancelation of future shows in Utah and Colorado.

In 2011, he collaborated with Marisa Monte and Rodrigo Amarante on a version of the song "Nú Com a Minha Música" for the Red Hot Organization's most recent charitable album "Red Hot+Rio 2." The album is a follow-up to the 1996 "Red Hot + Rio." Proceeds from the sales will be donated to raise awareness and money to fight AIDS/HIV and related health and social issues.

In April 2012, Banhart took place in artist Doug Aitken's audiovisual project "Song 1" at the Hirshorn Museum in Washington D.C. Banhart joined Beck and James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem in performing "I Only Have Eyes For You" for the project that uses eleven high-definition video projectors working in tandem to blanket the museum's entire surface with a video of the performance.[26]

In July 2012, Banhart performed on The Eric Andre Show during the show's first season.[27]

On December 3, 2012 Banhart announced his new album, Mala. The album was released on March 12, 2013, and was Banhart's debut album for Nonesuch.

In June 2016, Banhart released the first track of his ninth studio album, Ape In Pink Marble, titled 'Middle Names'.[28][29] In August 2016, Banhart released the second track of his ninth studio album, titled 'Saturday Night'.[30][31] His ninth studio album, Ape In Pink Marble was released on September 23, 2016 on Nonesuch Records.

His tenth studio album, Ma was released on September 13, 2019 on Nonesuch Records.[32]

Visual art and other mediaEdit

Drawings by Banhart were featured in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and in the Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels.[33][34]

Banhart's drawings have also been featured in the Art Basel Contemporary Art Fair in Miami, FL, the Mazzoli Gallery in Modena, Italy, Spain's ARCOmadrid. and the Andrew Roth Gallery in New York.[35]

His drawings were featured in MOCA's exhibit "The Artist's Museum", in which the works of influential Los Angeles based artists from the last 30 years were presented. As part of the exhibition Banhart collaborated with artist Doug Aitken and musicians Beck and Caetano Veloso for a musical and visual performance piece.

Banhart was a participant in Yoko Ono's second Water Piece project.[36]

He read Joan Miró's poem "A Star Caresses the Breasts of a Negress" for the recorded guided tour of Tate Modern.[37]

In June 2015, Banhart released a collection of drawings, paintings, and mixed media pieces, titled "I Left My Noodle on Ramen Street," published by Prestel Publishing.[38]

In November 2018, Devendra Banhart curated part of the program for the Dutch Le Guess Who? festival.[39]


Banhart's music is often associated with the New Weird America genre, along with Vetiver and Joanna Newsom.[40] The New York Times has called his songs "free associative work"[7] and SPIN magazine has written that "Banhart's albums offer ashram-appropriate guitar strums, trippy-hippie tone poetry."[41] Various publications have described his style as psychedelic folk,[42] avant-folk, freak folk,[7] Lo-Fi, hipster folk revival,[43] and alternative folk.[8]

Some reviewers, including AllMusic, The Times, and Mojo, have pointed out similarities between Banhart's songs and production with that of the early 1970s band Tyrannosaurus Rex (an early version of Marc Bolan's T. Rex).[44][45][46][47][48] In a May 2004 interview with Arthur magazine, Banhart stated that he was unaware of the music of Tyrannosaurus Rex until after he began writing and recording songs.[49] Devendra Banhart instead prefers to credit Vashti Bunyan, Caetano Veloso, Simon Diaz[46][47] and Arthur Russell[50] among his main influences.


Banhart's live band has had multiple names, including Spiritual Bonerz[51] (the 'z' is silent) and The Grogs.




Year Album UK Albums
US Billboard
US Billboard
2002 The Charles C. Leary
2002 Oh Me Oh My
2004 Rejoicing in the Hands 100
2004 Niño Rojo
2005 Cripple Crow 69 13
2007 Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon 93 115 3
2009 What Will We Be 109 139 4
2013 Mala 143 139 2
2016 Ape in Pink Marble 18
2019 Ma[32]

Singles and EPsEdit

  • The Black Babies (2003)
  • Sight To Behold/Be Kind (2004)
  • Little Yellow Spider (2004)
  • At The Hop (2004)
  • I Feel Just Like A Child (2005)
  • Heard Somebody Say (2005)
  • Chinese Children (2005)
  • Xiu Xiu/Devendra Banhart split 7-inch (2005)
  • White Reggae Troll (2006)
  • Carmensita (2007)
  • Lover (2007)
  • Baby (2009)
  • 16th & Valencia Roxy Music (2009)
  • Foolin' (2010)
  • Something French/Loring Baker' (2014)
  • Middle Names (2016)
  • Fig In Leather (2017)

Collaborations and compilationsEdit


  1. ^ a b c d Campion, Chris (August 12, 2007). "Stranger than folk". The Observer. Retrieved May 7, 2009.
  2. ^ Bemis, Alec Hanley (August 28, 2005). "The Soft Revolution". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 14, 2009.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Kamps, Garrett (January 8, 2003). "Man of La Mantra". SF Weekly. Retrieved April 20, 2009.
  4. ^ a b c d e Beck, John (April 17, 2009). "The wide, way-out world of Devendra". The Press Democrat. Archived from the original on April 21, 2009. Retrieved April 23, 2009.
  5. ^ Banhart, Devendra. "Stirring Ska, Rock, R&B and Hip-Hop into a Freak-Folk Stew."New York Times (1923–Current file), New York, N.Y., 2009.
  6. ^ a b c Vaziri, Aidin (October 26, 2005). "Sweet, shocking, mesmerizing – Devendra Banhart follows his sprawling, childlike musical muse". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved April 20, 2009.
  7. ^ a b c Bemis, Alec Hanley (December 12, 2004). "Freak Folk's Very Own Pied Piper". The New York Times. Retrieved April 20, 2009.
  8. ^ a b c d e MacNeil, Jason; Loftus, Johnny. "Devendra Banhart – Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved April 20, 2009.
  9. ^ Alec, Hanley B."Freak Folk's very Own Pied Piper." New York Times (1923–Current file), New York, N.Y., 2004.
  10. ^ Nme.Com (January 31, 2007). "Clap Your Hands, Wolfmother design T-shirts". Nme.Com. Retrieved September 23, 2016.
  11. ^ "Artist Chart History – Devendra Banhart". Billboard. Retrieved April 20, 2009.
  12. ^ "Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist Offers A Devendra Banhart Cameo, New Vampire Weekend". Stereogum. August 14, 2008. Retrieved August 13, 2009.
  13. ^ Nelson, Steffie (August 9, 2009). "Lauren Dukoff's 'Family' photos of free spirits". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 22, 2009.
  14. ^ Cromelin, Richard (June 28, 2008). "Devendra Banhart in tune with Gilberto Gil". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 22, 2009.
  15. ^ Vozick-Levinson, Simon (April 13, 2009). "Papercuts' 'You Can Have What You Want': Stream this indie gem here". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved April 23, 2009.
  16. ^ "Elliot Roberts: Overview". Allmusic. Retrieved August 16, 2009.
  17. ^ "Megapuss Revealed or I Believe Your Dickskirt Is Caught in My Microphone". The Fader. June 19, 2008.
  18. ^ "Warner Bros. Signs Devendra Banhart". August 3, 2009. Retrieved October 26, 2009.
  19. ^ "Oasis ask Devendra Banhart to remix them – audio". NME. June 10, 2009. Archived from the original on October 15, 2012. Retrieved August 14, 2009.
  20. ^ "Listen: Devendra Banhart Remixes Phoenix". Pitchfork. September 28, 2009. Retrieved October 9, 2009.
  21. ^ a b Lindsay, Andrew. "Beck, MGMT & Banhart cover Leonard Cohen". Archived from the original on January 10, 2010. Retrieved April 8, 2012.
  22. ^ Nelson, Steffie. "'Family': Devendra Banhart and other free spirits". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 19, 2009.
  23. ^ "Family". Retrieved August 19, 2009.
  24. ^ "53rd Grammy Awards Best Recording Package Nominees". Retrieved June 9, 2018.
  25. ^ "LISTEN: Banhart, Beck Movie Soundtrack Collabo". SPIN. Retrieved April 8, 2012.
  26. ^ Dayal, Geeta (April 18, 2012). "Doug Aitken's Song 1 Wraps Museum in 360-Degree Panoramic Video". Wired.
  27. ^ "The Eric Andre Show. Season 1, Episode 6. "Jack"". IMDb.
  28. ^ Lozano, Kevin. "Devendra Banhart Announces New Album Ape in Pink Marble, Shares New Track Middle Names: Listen", Pitchfork, 24 June 2016. Retrieved on 26 June 2016.
  29. ^ "Devendra Banhart – Middle Names [Official Audio". YouTube. June 24, 2016. Retrieved September 23, 2016.
  30. ^ Yoo, Noah. "Devendra Banhart Shares New Song "Saturday Night": Listen", Pitchfork, 29 August 2016/ Retrieved on 29 August 2016.
  31. ^ "Devendra Banhart – Saturday Night [Official Audio". YouTube. August 29, 2016. Retrieved September 23, 2016.
  32. ^ a b Minsker, Evan (June 18, 2019). "Devendra Banhart Announces New Album Ma, Shares New Song: Listen". Pitchfork. Retrieved June 18, 2019.
  33. ^ "Abstract Rhythms: Paul Klee and Devendra Banhart". San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Retrieved August 13, 2009.
  34. ^ "It's not only Rock 'n' Roll, Baby!". Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels. Archived from the original on January 13, 2009. Retrieved August 13, 2009.
  35. ^ "Behind the Music: Devendra Banhart's Visual Art Takes Center Stage". Fast Company. Retrieved April 8, 2012.
  36. ^ "Grapefruit: Yoko Ono in 1964". Retrieved February 19, 2013.
  37. ^ "Tate Podcasts". Tate Museum. Retrieved May 26, 2006.
  38. ^ "Devendra Banhart Is Putting Out a Book Titled I Left My Noodle on Ramen Street". Pitchfork. Retrieved May 26, 2006.
  39. ^ "Revealing the curators & initial line-up for Le Guess Who? 2018". Retrieved June 21, 2018.
  40. ^ Rutledge, James (November 5, 2004). "Joanna Newsom and the New Weird America". BBC. Retrieved May 2, 2009.
  41. ^ "Devendra Banhart on". October 27, 2009.
  42. ^ Hall, Nicholas (April 7, 2009). "Devendra Banhart's footloose folk". SF Weekly. Retrieved May 2, 2009.
  43. ^ Burton, Brent (November 11, 2005). "Irregular Folk". Washington City Paper. Retrieved April 8, 2012.
  44. ^ AllMusic page: "Devendra Banhart biography."
  45. ^ The Times article: "Devendra Banhart: What Will We Be."
  46. ^ a b Splendid article: "Features: Devendra Banhart Archived December 17, 2008, at the Wayback Machine."
  47. ^ a b "Devendra Banhart". Archived from the original on May 22, 2011. Retrieved 2011-05-17.
  48. ^ Stylus Magazine article: "Cripple Crow review Archived October 27, 2011, at the Wayback Machine."
  49. ^ Arthur Magazine article: ""So Righteous to Love": Devendra Banhart, interviewed by Trinie Dalton (Arthur No. 10/May 2004)."
  50. ^ Schreiber, Abby (July 12, 2012). "Devendra Banhart on His New Album His Thoughts on the EDM Scene and Making Ostrich Egg Omelets With Beck". Papermag. Retrieved July 27, 2012.
  51. ^ "Devendra Banhart Coast to Coast – The Roxy, Boston, MA and the Orpheum Theater, Los Angeles, CA". Junk Media. Archived from the original on April 13, 2009. Retrieved November 9, 2007.
  52. ^ Martens, Todd (September 17, 2005). "Banhart's 'Crow' A Groovy Trip". Billboard. Retrieved April 25, 2019.
  53. ^ a b c "New Release Guide - Issue 20" (PDF). WEA. August 8, 2016. p. 7. Retrieved April 25, 2019.

External linksEdit