Published on April 29th, 2023 | by MuzikScribe


RAJA KUMARI: Godmother Mode


Now let’s hop right into this single, “RUN IT UP” — Tell me about this particular track; how did it come to fruition?

“RUN IT UP’’ is basically a record about abundance in its entirety. Like it’s about just kind of being comfortable in that power and confidence and, honestly, “RUN IT UP” is an interpolation of, you know, Punjabi MC record, “BEWARE OF THE BOYS.” It’s a record that really inspired me, it was one of the first fusion records that played on the radio in the United States. Like one of the first records I could hear Indian language on an American radio, so that record has always inspired me my whole life. So I wanted to put a flip on it and claim that power for the ladies as well, ‘cause instead of “Mudian to Bach Ke,” which means, “BEWARE OF THE BOYS,” I say, “Kudiyan tho Bachke Rahi,” which means “BEWARE OF THE GIRLS.”

Of course “RUN IT UP“ comes courtesy of your brand new LP, THE BRIDGE — Conceptually, what does that title represent both to and for you? 

THE BRIDGE is something that takes you from one place to another, and I feel like this is such a transitional album for me. I started recording it in the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 and completed recording it in 2022. And I think I went through the whole gambit of emotions, as we all did, but what I really dug into was my identity. And instead of talking about it in the duality, I started integrating it and kind of understanding that I don’t always have to put forward this really strong warrior princess. THE BRIDGE is the first album that I start to write love songs and they are the problematic side of the way that I view love sometimes. So I think that THE BRIDGE is not only from the west back to the east, or from ancient to the future, by bringing in the influences, but that music is the bridge between us and God. And I mean that because making this album was something that really saved me during a dark time when I wasn’t even sure people were gonna hear the album. But we made it and there’s something really pure about that.

THE BRIDGE is a “GODMOTHER RECORDS” project — What are your future plans and / or goals for the imprint? And, who all else – besides yourself of course – currently makes up its artist roster?

The idea for “GODMOTHER RECORDS” was really born out of this idea of putting God first and making a safe space for women in music. You know, with everything that’s come forward with MeToo Movement and people being more like honest about all the things they’ve faced, I just feel like women have another level of kind of pressure. And I feel like artist development is really important. So I want to focus on South-Asian artists, South-Asian female artists and it’ll obviously expand, but right now I’m looking for young pop artists, maybe even hip hop artists. It doesn’t matter the genre. I’m a genre rebel, so there’s no limitations there but definitely wanna support, nurture and curate South-Asian female talent.

As a lyricist, when you sit down to pen your rhymes where do you draw your inspiration from?

I’ve heard a lot of people talk about this, so I know that this a universal consciousness, but as a lyricist, I first actually try to write with melody. I just go and I freestyle on the track and I allow the melody to be the first language of the song because no matter what language the song is written in, people are gonna sing the melody. So I usually start with that and then sometimes the lyrics will just kind of, come through. But when I do sit and try to write my lyrics, I always try to think of doing them as simple and conversational as possible, as if you were sitting down and talking to me. Sometimes, the lyrics get heavy but if you know me as a person, I am pretty heavy sometimes. So my one main thing I try to do is, just kinda keep it conversational and have fun.

Reflecting, tell me more about your whole inception into music — When did you first become interested in it?

I think art has no borders between the different expressions and my childhood was spent just enveloped in Indian classical music. As a classical dancer, I got the unique experience to travel with the classical orchestra with singers and rhythm hugman’s and venu players and violin. So I got to create these really close relationships with Indian instruments as well as rhythm. Because Indian classical dance, you basically, make all these interlocking rhythms with your feet, so my introduction to music was through rhythm and being close to Indian instrumentation. But I think actually the conscious like decision to go into music was really when I was a teenager and it was my rebellion. It was something that was just for me. You know, even though my family was really supportive of art, it was really about classical art and classical dance. And American English, pop music, singing in those styles was something that was uniquely my experience and I think that’s why my music really, really dealt with identity in the beginning because it was really about making sense at these two worlds.

Now you’re a native of Los Angeles. So growing up in the ‘City of Angels’ / Do you consider to be your strongest musical influence?

I think it was such a blessing to grow up in Los Angeles. I actually grew up in Claremont, which is about an hour outside the city, but it was possible for me to come in and take classes, whether it was vocal training or dancing. But I think the greatest thing about living in Los Angeles was I had so much access to so many different creatives. There was definitely a musical infrastructure here where I could write with people and that would somehow reach a publisher and that would somehow, create opportunities that would lead me to a record deal and so on and so forth. So I think growing up in L.A., I just understood a lot more about the music industry and I took that knowledge with me to Mumbai, and that’s something I’d like to help try and create in India more; more of a infrastructure so really talented creatives can find a path for their music.

In having said that, how do you classify your overall sound and / or style?

I think I keep defining it. I feel like THE BRIDGE is such a good way to describe it. It’s one foot in one world, one foot in the other. My musical style is definitely coming back to my roots which is going back to my musicality and developing more complex emotions. Definitely always gonna have 808’s, definitely gonna have that hip hop because as a child, I didn’t really feel like I was accepted in American culture until I really heard Timbaland and he was using all these Indian sounds and Indian beats so hip hop is always gonna be a safe space for me. So my overall style, I would say is definitely developing. I’m maturing, I’m the godmother and now, I’m growing up so I’m definitely going to this chic kind of, really contour space and I’m really enjoying working with all the Indian designers.

Where does your moniker originally derive from?

Well, everybody really had trouble saying my name growing up. Like S-v-e-tha, that was such a difficult sound. People would butcher it like a million ways. “Sa’venta,” “Sa’Vita,” whatever they came up with and I ‘member, I was making my first demo when I was like fourteen years old and they wanted to change the spelling of my name. So from going S-v-e-t-h-a, they wanted S-a-v-a-e-t, I don’t know what they wanted. But I was just like…wow…this is just too much. Let me figure out something that’s easier for people to say and, at that time, I had just started getting into hip hop in high school and I would be like, in these rap cyphers and they would always call me, “Indian Princess” and I loved it, it was cool. I was like one of the only girls that was around so it was like out of respect. So obviously, through my classical training and my obsession with Indian culture as a child and mythology, I wanted like this mythological name and all the princesses were “Raja Kumari,” so my name would’ve been “Raja Kumari Svetha” but I just thought “Raja Kumari” and Raja by itself means “King” and “Raja Kumari” means “Daughter of the King” so it means, Princess but I just loved that every man would have to call me king.

What particular string of events actually led to your initial linking up with Nas and later signing to his label?

I think Nas coming to India was definitely during the time when ‘GULLY BOY’ was being filmed. I had been part of the scene for quite some time and one of the females that was . represented there and when I was filming for the film and I was actually on set for ‘GULLY BOY,’ I played myself. I was playing a judge in the rap battle where they were competing to win an opening spot with Nas. So I remember seeing his name there and being…like…I wonder if he’s involved in the film so it turns out he ends up being a producer ‘cause I’m sure he was fascinated to see what a world hip hop had become in India. I would describe hip hop as a seed that was sent around the world and it planted in India but it was the same the tree, it came out of the same eggs, the same type of need for expression. You know, the youth and what not, I was really happy to see that he connected with the whole hip hop scene. Around that time, his label, MASS APPEAL, had decided to make a imprint in India, MASS APPEAL India, and I had just gotten out of my EPIC deal and I met Peter Bittenbender, the head of MASS APPEAL at Sole DXB, and we just connected. I think he saw the vision at that time and, it was 2019, right before the pandemic. So I was coming off of MTV HUSTLE, I just had this TV show in India where we were looking for the next rap superstar and just had a lot of eyes on me and it was like a really abundant time, period. So when they offered me the deal, it was just amazing and historical and to this day, really, really means a lot to me that I’m the only female he’s ever signed. Like all of us, the pandemic interrupted all of our plans so I actually wanted to release THE BRIDGE earlier. I’ve had this name for quite some time. I started working on THE BRIDGE but obviously, all of us didn’t know what to do. So I had released one single, “N.R.I” right after I signed and during the pandemic, it would become very difficult for me to release any music. I was still in America, the rest of the label was INDIA MASS APPEAL, was in India and I think people were able to do their thing there but I just realized that I wasn’t just an artist from India; I was a global artist as I’ve always been, so I think that was one of the things that contributed to me just wanting to be independent and just being the person in control. What would lead to my eventual departure? My eventual departure really came about for the fact that I had started to do every part of my career. I had been now writing the songs, recording the songs, I’d been part of the production. I was controlling the images, I was directing the music videos. I was doing everything and I just needed the vision to align. And though coming out of the pandemic, I think everybody was weary about how to release music and I think I just knew I needed to do it my own way. And I did speak to Nas about it and it was really comforting for him to tell me…“you know, I know you’re gonna be a superstar and you’re gonna do it your own way.” And I think what that really meant to me was, if one of the greatest rappers in the world couldn’t just walk me through the door, it was gonna be a door that I would have to build for myself. So I credit Nas with inspiring me to do this for myself.

Switching gears here, what exactly do you want people to get from your music?

I want them to feel empowered. I want them to hear some of their deepest, darkest feelings that they don’t wanna say them out loud but they can hear them in the music. And I hope that it makes people dance and that it makes people move. That’s really why I made the music.

If you could collaborate with any one artist, living or dead, who would it be and why?

I’d been really lucky with my collaborations. I have gotten to collaborate with Sidhu Moose on his last album and I’ve got to work with John Legend, A.R. Rahman and other amazing people, this list goes on but I think I feel like I would really love to collaborate with Bob Marley. I came the closest possible when I got to work with Stephen Marley a few years ago and it was such an amazing experience and I got to meet Damian Marley and we made a little collection of records that will always be very special to me. And I hope actually to release them in the future. So Bob Marley, or in the modern times…I would say…I’d love to collaborate with Bad Bunny. I just want that Latin-Indian crossover to happen.

If you could play any venue in the world, which one would you choose and why?

That’s a really good one. I mean, there’s so many incredible venues. You know what would be very special for me? The Pasadena Rose Bowl…I feel that was like this like amazing venue near my house that I like saw Justin Timberlake at and like some of the most amazing artists. That would be like really amazing. I’ve done a lot of really incredible venues, but I think also Big Bridges in Claremont, where I grew up. That would be amazing.

On a more serious note, are you happy with the current state of Hip Hop? And, even more specially, women in rap?

Well, I think you’ve seen like so many new artists get like opportunities. I think the current state of hip hop is just expanding. I think people are just starting to venture out of these like traditional limitations of what they think hip hop is. I do feel like when I really get empowered by listening (to) a lot of music that comes (from) female artists, but I wish that some other types of like dialogue could be included. I just feel like I don’t personally really relate as much with some of the music that is being exulted. Like when I was listening to music growing up there was Foxy Brown, Lil Kim but there was also Lauryn Hill and there was Missy Elliott and there was like all different types of music being put out from all different types of women, so it was like you could pick the mood. So like when I’m going out, I feel like listening to a certain type of music and then, you know, when I need to like get over a personal heartbreak, I wanna listen to poetry and something strong. So I just wish it was like more and more opportunities in genres but it is happening. I mean, I’m coming home so I’m trying to offer that a new type of idea, a different perspective. But, yeah, I would say it’s definitely better than what it was before.

What do you feel has and will continue to be the key to your longevity?

Authenticity has always been important like no matter what it was: hard decisions to leave label situations, to change teams, you know. I think I’ve always just been authentic to myself and my intuition and what is always right. I think, also, I’ve always had a very clear vision about what my art is supposed to be. You know, like what space it’s supposed to take up, what it’s supposed to help me heal in my life so as long as people need a voice for that kind of experience the authenticity would always connect. As I grow in my artistry, as I move forward with the next five to ten years, I just want to focus on musicality and giving a voice to dialogue that’s in our culture that maybe hasn’t reached the mainstream.

Do you have any other outside / additional (future) aspirations, maybe even completely away from music?

Actually, I do. I mean, I think as an artist there’s no lines between the different expressions of art, so I’ve dealt with visual for the last seven or eight years with making music videos and working with those kinds of things on film and how to establish emotions. And I think the classical Indian dance, I really learned a lot about setting the scene and I think I want to now go maybe behind the camera, or in front of the camera and start working in the film space. It’s really fascinating to me to be able to tell a story in such a layered detail, there is so much information to be packed in a visual screen and pairing music with that could really be something incredible.

What’s an average day like for you?

I feel like, my life goes in like seasons where it’s like the album creation season then like, the rest and then, the touring season and then the rest. But an average day for me, you know, when I’m working is definitely I get up in the morning and I have to make my chai…that’s like my ritual for myself no matter where I am in the world. I make my ginger, my ochre chai and then I usually have to get on calls in the morning because when I’m in America, I’m doing business with India so I need to speak to them before they go to bed. That’s exactly twelve hours difference so if I get up at 6am, I’ll be like on calls until about 10, 11am, just locking up India, making my first calls for America. Then in the middle of the afternoon…I, you know, like to do whatever things that are needed to be done. Like right now, we’re putting out an album so whether it’s taking care of my interviews or turning, you know, not only am I an artist but I’m also my label head, so I will be working on content or scheduling with teams and whatnot. I just realized that my days are boring, ha ha! But an average day is basically like trying to connect with myself. I like to watch documentaries. I like to like listen and just kinda follow the inspiration for the day. I always take my dog out for two walks and I just love to hibernate and heal and get ready for the next burst of energy. And when I’m recording, I literally just like don’t leave the house for like a week and I just make music like every day and once the song is done, I go outside and listen to it in the car. And that’s how I know that it’s worked.

Please discuss how you interact with and respond to fans…

You know, my fans are pretty awesome. There’s some like weird people that just come to my page to have their commentary on me and things that are not in my control like skin tone, or body size or whatever and those people I just kinda ignore. Sometimes, I will fight with them because I think like it’s funny. But I leave it for my fans, they’re super protective and they’re super loving and sometimes when I forget to love myself, I just think about how much they love me. Here I am, looking in the mirror, trying to find everything wrong with myself and there’s my fans just showing me all the ways that I’m great and it’s such a sweet relationship, honestly. And anytime I go on my IG live I feel the love. I always try to stay after my shows and make sure to meet people that have traveled for the show or who’s ever there to meet me. As much as I can I try to be there. There’s been a few fans in my life that have been so consistent and so supportive that they’ve become friends. My close friends always laugh cause they know, I’m like, “it’s like a fan turned friend,” and they understand the relationship because it is personal and it is really sweet so I have a great relationship with the Kamari Kids, the Kamari Kingdom.

What is your favorite part about this line of work? Your least favorite? And, why?

My favorite and least favorite thing is the exact same thing, which is the amount of travel. I love traveling because I get to constantly go to new places and I actually can’t give up one for the other. I love India so much and I also love being in America near my family and everything that our family’s created here, so it’s kinda hard to be in both places, but I would say my favorite part is just being able to like jump on a plane and leave behind one side of the world and go to the other one. But it’s also my least favorite because I’m always leaving something behind.

What advice would you have for someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Be very clear with yourself very early on and figure out exactly what you want because it will look different than the people around you. My visionboard is covered with pictures of Lauryn Hill, Madhuri Dixit and Deepika Padukone, because I just loved the way that she looked so elegant in that image. It wasn’t necessarily that I wanted to be like her, it was just like I want that moment. You know, and I think I made this visionboard about now, twelve years ago and I’ve seen moments from it just come to life because when we focus on our vision and we’re clear about it, we define it….you know? I made like a section of my visionboard that was places I wanted to visit, holy places and and one was what I wanted my house to look like and actually my closet currently kinda looks like the image I put up. And this is me holding a platinum record and I would go on to sell, many millions of records and when I made the visionboard, it was just (a) so far away thought. So I would say when you enter this industry, be very clear about what you want. Not everybody wants to become a Super Bowl performer champion extraordinaire. You might just want to impact a certain area of music. You might just want to have a certain type of life. Just figure that out because music will take you in so many directions and as long as you have your compass calibrated to what you actually want, you will have a lot of success in this life because if everybody that puts in honest effort and is consistent and puts in their 10,000 hours, you will get your chance.

Looking ahead, say five or maybe even ten years from now, where do you all see yourself?

Wow, I love this question! Five years from now, fully in my godmother mode…I would like to have a family one day in the next five to ten years. In the next five to ten years, I wanna see myself behind the scenes, when it comes to the musical direction, scoring, kind of like getting more into creating art in many verticals, whether it’s like being on camera, being behind camera, writing different things. I really wanna see my charity, Kamari Kids, up and running and I’m really, really focused on music education so I really hope that I made an impact in five to ten years with the way that people pursue musical careers in India. If you have a talent, there should be an infrastructure that you can show your talent that isn’t just TV shows but a real way to have a structure of songwriters and stuff. Hopefully I will have some Grammys on the shelf. And if I can help an Indian girl born in India that maybe wouldn’t have had a lot of access to the resources to learn about music and get access to international standard and win Grammy out of India…that would be such a huge, huge accomplishment for GODMOTHER RECORDS.

As for the immediate, what’s next for Raja Kumari?

Next for Raja Kumari is THE BRIDGE. This album has been a culmination of years of work that I think as we come out of the pandemic and they declare it over and we all kind of wonder, “was that kind of like some fever dream we all went through? Some collective trauma?” But like this album is this thing that I created that will last, and will remind me that I did survive all of those different trials and tribulations and that I’m a stronger person. So what’s next for Raja Kumari? It’s coming home to America! It’s the homecoming tour! I think I’ve earned the respect and the blessing of India and now…it’s time for me (to) represent our culture worldwide and I really see myself expanding in the U.S., as well as the U.K., and bringing my music to new places and just getting all these ideas that are in my head and bring the fruit to fruition like a farmer. But yeah…that’s…that’s the future. New album, gonna be touring the U.S., putting out a lot of new projects visuals and just making art. That’s it.

Any “parting” words for our readers?

It’s okay to, to be confused about where you come from but just remember who you truly are. Remember why you started things and it’s totally okay to evolve and to redefine yourself and evolution is part of the project.


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