The café was dark. Brick walls, red and black floorboards, black and white portraits of music legends. The walking bass from the jazz quartet invited the crowd to lean in closer. Gary Singh was sitting at a small table in the back of the room, partially covered by shadow, a backlit plume of dark hair streaked with swirling gray streams settled on his shoulders. The atmosphere pooled with his gray on gray outfit and his serious demeanor to give our meeting all the basic elements of a hardboiled detective novel. This would be one of those places you would expect to find him, either here in this moody café or out wandering the back streets on foot of the city that he calls home.
After receiving his Bachelor’s in Music at San José State University and traveling around the world working for the International Computer Music Association, Singh chose Interdisciplinary Studies at San José State for his graduate program, allowing him to continue his exploration of music, as well as explore his wide range of interests: computer studies, art history, and creative writing. It was the perfect choice for a man that has always let creativity lead him, and it was during this graduate study that this creativity led him to a realization he had something unique to offer to the city of San José: his view of it.
The self-described “anti-man about town,” Singh has the unique ability to weave the do-it-yourself attitude of his punk background with his disciplined training from SJSU. He carries the tranquil confidence to blend in anywhere and is as comfortable in a dive-bar as he is in a luxury box. His work shares this paradoxical sense of ease. Seeing the city through the lenses of his Eastern and Western background, he approaches his subjects with that same sense of duality and an open mind. His first opportunity to blend these halves of himself came with a part-time job with the Metro Newspaper Silicon Valley, where he found that his ability to write about the hidden layers that form the city resonated with the people of San José. His part-time job turned full-time and now continues, almost thirteen years later, with his popular weekly column, Silicon Alleys. While he continues to write his column, Singh also works for various other publications doing travel writing and feature stories, as well as recently becoming a published poet. He also has had his paintings featured in various art shows and regularly displays his travel photography throughout the area.
With a background in music and computer science, a Master’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies, his newfound passion for creating poetry and art, and his unique eye for photography, his varied interests and knowledge allow him a wide range of freelance writing work. They also find their ways into his weekly column, for which he wanders his hometown and tries to reveal the pulse hidden beneath the silicon veneer, the art and culture that forms the soul of the city, and the people that are fueling it. He wants to expose the passion of the city that people tend to miss from behind their car windows. “What I write about is the San José condition,” he said, “as opposed to the human condition.” In a city known for leading the future of technology, Gary Singh walks the streets and reminds us of the past that we are missing.
by Steven Suiter