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.
In 1998, Banhart began studying at the San Francisco Art Institute on a scholarship while living in The Castro, San Francisco's gay neighborhood. 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." Banhart dropped out of art school in 2000 and left San Francisco after the dot-com bust worsened the city's economy. He moved to Paris over the summer and opened shows for indie rock bands such as Sonic Youth. 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, after Siobhan Duffy, Gira's wife, bought a copy of Banhart's demo CD The Charles C. Leary and gave it to Gira.
Banhart and Gira compiled an album from Banhart's recordings, and in 2002, Oh Me Oh My, which was made up of short fragments, was published by Young God Records and received favorable reviews. He recorded two other albums and an EP for the label: Rejoicing in the Hands, Nio Rojo, and The Black Babies; the releases had a simple acoustic sound. Banhart changed to XL Recordings in 2005 and released Cripple Crow, which was recorded in Bearsville Studios, New York and had a more elaborate sound.
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.
He recorded his second album for XL Records, Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon, at his home studio in Topanga, California. The album charted on the Billboard 200 at number 115. 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.
Banhart performs at the 2009 Coachella Festival.
Banhart has performed at Carnegie Hall and the Hollywood Bowl opening for Gilberto Gil, as well as at Bonnaroo and Coachella music festivals. He founded a record label, Gnomonsong, with Andy Cabic of Vetiver, in 2005. In 2007, he signed with Neil Young's manager Elliot Roberts, who also contributed vocals to Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon.
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".
In 2009, he signed to Warner/Reprise and released, What Will We Be. Later that year, at the band's request, he produced a remix of Oasis' "(Get Off Your) High Horse Lady". Along with "Neighbors", Devendra remixed the Phoenix song "Rome" from their 2009 album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix.
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.
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.