American rapper, songwriter and singer Svetha Yallapragada Rao, better known by her professional name Raja Kumari, has played a major part in changing the dynamics of independent music.
She has been strengthening the Indian underground music movement through her collaborations with artistes across the globe.
Raja Kumari, who celebrates her birthday on Tuesday, spoke about the virtue of an artiste, the subjects that she addresses through her work, and her idea of collaborations.
Revealing her birthday plans, the rapper says, “The situation in the city (Mumbai) is that most people are Covid positive. I have a few girlfriends, we have all been tested negative. We will have dinner together, listen to the ’90s Bollywood tracks and have some good times.”
The musician is also well versed with Kuchipudi, Kathak, and Bharatanatyam. Ask her how other artforms enhance her craft of music and she quips, “I see all my music through the lens of classical dance whether it is the rhythm, how the composition is put together or the costumes and the mood. I try to take everything into account through the perspective of dance and put them together in my music and not keep it linear, it has to be a well – rounded process for me.”
Sharing the idea of her distinctive voice as an artiste, she says, “My work addresses the identity and the duality of being from two different cultures. It also talks about the expression and experimentation of bringing the ancient to the future and the west back to the east.”
Of all things, an artiste has to be authentic in their voice and choice as per her opinion, “Authenticity is the greatest virtue of an artiste. If you can make somebody relate to your lyrics and if you could express something to your heart then you can inspire so many people.”
Speaking on her idea of collaboration, she states, “Everytime I collaborate, I learn something new. I like to take myself out of the box. We as people take ourselves too seriously at times. So, when I collaborate I try to do something completely different whether it is pop or a Punjabi track. I keep on introducing myself to a new set of audience.”
The Internet has been instrumental in the rise of several artistes in the world but Raja Kumari likes to keep an open view on the Internet, “The internet is both a blessing and a curse. It gives you the power to distribute your own creation and to represent yourself the way you want. Having said that, I wish people cultivate a longer attention span.”
She further adds, “I remember as a kid I used to buy albums and listen to the red stretch but now people’s attention span has plummeted. They just watch and judge a piece of music based on a 15-second loop, which is detrimental to art.
The global artiste ends the conversation on an inspiring note for all the upcoming artist, who are trying to find their footing, “If you really love being an artiste you should learn from the artiste whom you love but at the same time be yourself because there are so many artistes out there so the more authenticity you have as an artiste the better it will be for you, your art form and the audience that you wish to engage with.
“There is only one you so just be authentic and keep on exploring your sound as much as you can”, she signs off.
–By Akshay Acharya