Raja Kumari is looking to blend the sounds of Eastern classicism and Western pop music together to create a uniquely Indian-American brand of banger. The subject of our latest Uncharted wants to be the representative for young South Asians who don’t see enough of themselves in American pop culture.
“It was damaging to look around and not see anyone like myself,” she said. “I tried to push my culture aside. I felt that ‘Indian’ didn’t belong with ‘American.’”
Of course, all of the noble goals and novel ideas in the world wouldn’t mean much if Kumari didn’t have the songs to back it up. Luckily, the mixture rap and classical Indian sounds that she calls “BollyHood” is also catchy as all hell. To see what we mean, look no further than her exclusive performance of her single “Believe In You” for Uproxx, up above. The long-time songwriter goes in over a live thavil beat, switching between languages as fluidly as she does genres.
The move away from English at the end of the track is a bold one for someone looking to break big in the United States, but Kumari isn’t just making music to appease American audiences. She says she wants to “be the artist that she needed as a child” and also uses her music as a way to carve out a space of her own.
“I had to go make a place for me,” she said.
Seeing her on the stage — creating hip-hop backed by traditional Indian instruments — it’s clear that she succeeded.