Who doesn’t know Raja Kumari! So when she announced ‘The Bridge’ there was an evident curiosity amongst her fans and the industry alike. Once the album got released, it was a Raja Kumari that we hadn’t heard much before, specially in some parts. The album is a great mix of the essence of Raja Kumari which has developed so far, mixing it with some new themes as a sign of progression of the sound. We had an interaction with her recently, here are the excerpts of our chat:
How did your transition from songwriter to singer songwriter happen?
I have been, in the past, writing songs for some of the biggest pop stars in the US. When I used to write a big anthemic song, there was always a suggestion to give it to stars like Beyonce, Rihanna or someone very big. Later, I decided to keep my songs for my albums. Over a period of time, with my career shaping up, it now makes sense for me to be the voice for big anthemic numbers. It is like going back to my roots of writing songs, but now my voice is there to do justice to the soul of the songwriting.
Tell us something about the making of this album, ‘The Bridge’
This album is very different from every other project that I have done. All my previous projects were in the process of living, touring, meeting people and exploring collaborations, working on trends or possible trends, etc. This album was made in my home with my team of four during the COVID. We did not want to think about trends, what works, or what would people want to hear. This album was an outlet of expression, like a therapy for all of us, where we could say what we wanted to say as is.
There is a lot of intensity in this album, where is this stemming from?
The intensity is a result of pandemic induced life changes that we were forced to accept. My pre-pandemic life was very hectic and full of activities. I used to tour, meet people, meet fans, perform and be on the move. There was a lot of exchange of thoughts, energies, and much more. There were several outlets for my creative juice to flow. All of a sudden, pandemic happened, and everything came to a stop. There was a huge perspective change by way of introspection. From finding my worth to the kind of crowds I can draw to finding it within myself was a huge therapeutic process for me. This where the album’s intensity comes from and as you listen to it, you will notice progression of an individual.
Born To Win, No Nazar, Babylon, how do these songs relate to you?
‘Born To Win’ was written to tell myself that the world is not what you would like to think of it, it is ‘Kalyug’. It is a dark space in many ways but the one thing you do know is your ‘Dharm’. You know you are born to win as you know that God made you for a specific purpose. So have faith, put your focus back and win it! ‘No Nazar’ is about discovering myself more. While I talk about identity, I couldn’t myself give it a lot of thought as I was always tied up in work life. I could only explore myself at the surface and pandemic gave me the time to discover myself more. ‘No Nazar’ is about breaking all the toxic patterns in my life. ‘Babylon’ is about hitting the bottom, only to reach God and asking for help, which is what happened with me during the harshest phase of the pandemic.
‘Lovesick’ is the first time you have moved away from your all the themes covered so far in music. How did this song come up?
‘Lovesick’ is about love. This is one theme I have never addressed in my music so far. I have largely delved into weaving stories of a strong woman, self-determination, assertion, etc. With ‘Lovesick’, I touch upon the softer aspect of life and discovering the ability to love oneself before anything else. There was a time when, despite successes, I undervalued myself. But, with a deep introspection, I could find the ability to appreciate and be kinder to myself & the others.
‘Fearless’ is again a power packed song. Tell us about it
‘Fearless’ has a broader theme to it. In one part it is a continuation of progression for me. From ‘Babylon’ where I was down and scared, to transitioning into ‘Lovesick’ where I end up discovering myself better, there comes ‘Fearless’ where I am talking about resilience to fight back and move forward. Another context it has is the resilience of us Indians in general. The second wave struck badly and there was mayhem all across the country. However, I could see the perseverance of us Indians to ride through this extremely challenging time. That’s where ‘Fearless’ takes its another inspiration from.
How much does your Bachelor’s in Religious Studies with an emphasis on South Asian religions influence your lyricism?
It is probably one of the most important factors on how I look at lyrics. When I studied religion, it was about finding what is common and universal to all. This gave me a great insight into making gender neutral, ethnicity neutral songs. My songs can even be sung by men, they are very much gender agnostic. I have a deep obsession with Matsya Purana, Rig Veda, Mahabharata and the energy I derive from these historic times feeds me in my music. More than album, my visuals and art reflect everything I find beautiful about our culture. I always like to push our culture to the wider audiences around the world.
How challenging or not so challenging was going independent for you?
To be fair, things have become slightly simpler for me since I went independent. I have taken control of my work and career along with a very close-knit team that I have. I am no more going after the numbers and views. I believe I am a storyteller, and I would just want to focus on that. I will be working in a more interactive manner with the fans, where I share the content that I believe in and the fans tell me how they want to see it progressing by way of video, art, production, etc. Apart from this, I have signed up with WME and we are working on the US and India tours.
What are your plans for ‘The Bridge’ and the year 2023?
I want to take time with this album. I have stopped believing that one week after the release, the album is old. It took me three years to put this together and it will remain an engaging process for quite some time. There will be synched art works, videos, tours etc shaping up, which will be in deep connection with the theme of the album overall. I would like to bring an exclusive experience to the people with my upcoming works. It will include a more theatrical performance format, a lot of instrumentation and couture. Hyderabad, Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi, Kathmandu and many more cities are in the plans along with US Tour. I also have plans to engage more with Bollywood and Tollywood. With my Telugu background, I would love to play a role in promoting Telugu domination across the world! I am working on Godmother Festival, which will have leading female artists line up, although more information about it will come at the right time.
What is your plan with Godmother Records?
Under Godmother Records, we are looking to create a safe space for women artists. It is a place where they can find their niche and work on their craft. I know the challenges of the industry, having been there, and it is now my time to create a secure space for women artists across the board. Not many of us want to fight the structural patriarchy, so Svetha Rao has taken it up on herself to help other find a way for their talent in a secure environment with Godmother Records. We are looking to create an artist development platform for female artists to learn and grow.
What was the most empowering moment of your professional life so far?
Let me give you a background to it. I had been signed with major labels for over seven years. Everyone did what he or she could to help me move forward. I was signed with Nas’ Mass Appeal, one of the top names in the industry. He is like a God for all the rappers and for me too. But at some point, I had to make a choice to just go with my vision. Sharing this with Nas was the biggest challenge as well as the most empowering moment for me. And when he encouraged me to find a way for myself on my own, it was the start of the new life for me. Walking away from a big label like Mass Appeal was the most empowering moment for me so far, professionally.
Well, the world of Raja Kumari is complemented greatly by the deft management of Svetha Rao. Now with Godmother Records, we hope to see a few more power women breaking the barriers. While you keep streaming ‘The Bridge’ keep a look at the couture and exclusive experiences that are slated to come from the house of Godmother Records!