May 2024: It’s all about the process and focusing on a longer-term vision: Raveena Mehta

Raveena Mehta, an Indian-Belgian artist is one of the fast-rising names in the industry. Independent in the truest sense, she has been creating a soundscape that she believes in and resonates with. Trained in Indian Classical and Western contemporary since the age of 6, her first album, “From Deep Within”, came out at the age of 12. She has recently released a soulful track, ‘Na Ja’, which has gained great traction with the audiences. We had a conversation with her for the May 2024 cover story and the clarity, authenticity as well as vision had us enchanted. Read more about what she has to say here:

Born in Belgium, stayed in India, UK, US, how have these cultures shaped you as an artist?

Honestly, Its everything. Your exposure to the world shapes the lens with which you internalise your surroundings. Having grown up in the West and the East, my cultural identity and its exploration has been a large part of my personal and professional journey. Living in Belgium, I was part of a greater community of diasporic Indians who brought culture, language, food, all to the small town of Antwerp over many decades. This led me to appreciate my culture in a deep rooted way. When I moved to India, it was interesting to understand and feel the juxtaposition, life almost felt more international in the very cosmopolitan, Mumbai. The culture shock really led me to deep dive into questions surrounding belonging, identity, perception, value systems at a very young age. Hence, my own exploration of identity and culture became a large part of my evolution.

You have an interest in history, tell us about that.

I have always been very interested in history, especially Indian history. Having studied Fine Art formally, I was able to explore post-colonial critique, partition as well as erasure through my art. Through my various moves, I understood the depths of generational trauma within previously colonised countries. I became aware of erasure and how history is written, where in most cases it is written by the oppressor, this leads to a very specific self-perception – in the self and the other. I later understood the importance of understanding my ancestry and lineage so I could essentially have a better understanding of myself. Learning about one’s own history to me is a starting point to understand your own truth, and subsequently carve out an intentional future.

From history to the present, your song ‘Na Ja’, how did the song shape up?

The ideation for Na Ja came about last year. I wanted to create a song that is rooted in the melancholy of longing, desire, rooted in long distance love. I like to get engaged in the entire creative process and vision for the song. I direct and create mood boards for most of my own songs, similarly with Na Ja, the process was incredible and very rewarding. The song is soulful and heartfelt, through the video i wanted to work with a VHS, almost film, old world aesthetic to really bring forward and do justice to the audio.

Watch ‘Na Ja’ here:

What is your vision for yourself for the times to come?

I have always been a longer-term thinker, so I generally work backwards from an ultimate vision I have for myself. It is always more about the process as opposed not a short-term fame for me. My aim is to be consistent with my art and make steady steps towards a greater vision which is very much rooted in prioritising my state of mind and making an impact. I am enjoying the process of putting out my music independently – being an independent artist really brings me a lot of the creative agency and autonomy. I really appreciate that.

As an independent artist, how do you see industry placed to provide structural support to an artist like yourself?

I have a lot of gratitude towards where the industry is today. For me, pursuing art in itself is a privilege. I operate in my life with a lot of gratitude, it allows me to remain self-aware. For artists who want to take an independent route, I do believe the industry is in a good place. Distribution has never been easier, while this does make it saturated, at the end of the day your work will no doubt speak for itself. Being consistent and having good people around you is integral.

Your take on working with labels v/s working independently?

I would love to work with labels, I have been entirely independent so far – I have had a few discussions with labels through the years and I’m always open to the right opportunity.

Photo Credit to Zeeshan Shabbir

What kinds of challenges you have to go through to put your music out?

Being an independent artist can be quite a lonely journey. You don’t necessarily have massive teams working behind you or for you, you are generally the only one that can make things happen for yourself – it’s quite entrepreneurial. As an independent artist, you have to have a lot of internal drive, if you lose momentum, your process and work can suffer. So, while being independent gives you a lot of autonomy and agency, which I value a lot, it can also come with its pitfalls. This is why keeping a small circle and good people around me is a big priority. It keeps me in a growth-oriented headspace.

How was the experience of ‘Bewafa’ reaching the biggest ever audience for you as an artist yet?

I felt an immense amount of gratitude. I started my journey with releasing my first album when I was 12 years old, so it’s been quite a while, where I’ve learnt a lot and gained perspective and wisdom through the process. Watching your music reach people, impact them, make them feel something, it is a surreal feeling. I make music from a very pure and honest place and when that honesty connects with people, that’s where I feel most successful.

Watch ‘Bewafa’ here:

How was the collaboration experience for ‘Na Ja’ with Azaad and Ysoblue?

We have a really deep understanding of each other’s artistry and have a lot of respect for each other. I have worked with Ysoblue for other songs too; he really understands my sound and what I’d like to bring across sonically. Azadd wrote Na Ja so effortlessly, he understands exactly what I was trying to communicate. I have a lot of gratitude to be able to work with people who understand me as an artist.

What is your plan for the rest of the year 2024?

I have various songs lined up, a very exciting EP with Rishi Rich, you will definitely be hearing about this shortly. Another very exciting avenue for me is going to be releasing some of my English songs very soon!

In your collaborations, what kind of experiences you look to derive from a collaboration?

In my collaborations I look to create a very authentic environment. Energy is very important to me for a fulfilling process, so I prioritise creating a virtuous cycle and in most cases, it is very reciprocated with positive energy which leads to special outcomes in music. You cannot fake a vibe; the music doesn’t lie. It is imperative as an independent artist to be aware of the fact that this is a chosen path, it is important to be deliberate in the collaborations as well. So, all in all, I would say, respect, authenticity and virtuous cycles make for amazing collaborations.

Well, with the kind of work that is coming out from Raveena, we surely feel 100% energised and geared up to keep a tab on what’s to come more! While we look forward to the release of her new songs and the upcoming EP, ‘Na Ja’ plays on loop at MusiCulture!

Photo Credit to Zeeshan Shabbir

Article by Sneha N.

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