Devendra Obi Banhart (born May 30, 1981) is a singer-songwriter and visual artist. Banhart was born in Houston, Texas and was raised by his mother in Venezuela, until he returned 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.
Banhart was born May 30, 1981 in Houston, Texas to a Venezuelan mother and an American father. His given name is a synonym for Indra, the Hindu god of rain and thunder, which was suggested by Prem Rawat, an Indian religious leader whom Banhart's parents followed. Banhart's middle name Obi was modeled after the Star Wars character. Banhart's parents divorced two years after his birth and he moved with his mother to Caracas, Venezuela. His mother later remarried and Banhart's stepfather moved the family to Los Angeles, California, when Banhart was 14 years old.
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. 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, France, over the summer and opened shows for indie rock bands. 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.
He is a collector of music artifacts. Banhart wrote the foreword for and appears in his friend Lauren Dukoff's book Family: Photographs by Lauren Dukoff. 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 2010 for Best Recording Package.
Banhart’s numerous tattoos are applied symmetrically and inspired by esoteric symbols, which give his ink a mystical and enigmatic feel.