Grammy-nominated Indian-American rapper Raja Kumari talks about collaborating with Madhuri Dixit-Nene for the debut single ‘Candle’
In the last week of May, actress Madhuri Dixit Nene made her singing debut with the track, ‘Candle’. She had collaborated with Raja Kumari, an Indian-American songwriter and rapper who was nominated for the Grammy Awards in 2015 and has worked with Gwen Stefani, Shannon K, Iggy Azelea, Fifth Harmony, and other such noted names in the music world.
Madhuri and Raja Kumari, who also won the Broadcast Music, Inc. Award in 2016, co-produced the track, during the lockdown the recording was done online, with Madhuri in Mumbai and Raja in LA.
Raja Kumari, whose real name is Svetha Yellapragada Rao, is a Telugu girl who has been shuttling between India and the US on work for the past couple of years.
Talking to us about her collaboration with Madhuri, Raja says she is delighted to have teamed up with the actress, whom she considers her inspiration and mentor. “She’s so naturally talented and always pushing the envelope to perfect her craft,” Raja says.
Raja’s conversations with Madhuri, who she now considers family and friend, centred on making different kinds of music with a message.
“She wanted to make music, knowing for certain that it had to have an underlying message,” says Raja.
That said, composing tunes during the lockdown was certainly a different and surreal experience, Raja tells us. “It was an interesting experience, one that encouraged us to bring in innovation at work while writing and recording songs, and technology facilitated those processes,” she says.
Thankful for the blessings
Raja, who has been a part of the music scene for over a decade, attributes her success to perseverance, dedication, a supportive family and her need to explore the diverse alternatives in the field of music.
The hip-hop artiste is unabashed about counting her blessings, including the opportunities to collaborate with Grammy Award-winning producers and artistes over the years. “From being an aspiring singer and songwriter to a recording artiste, while transcending national borders and influencing people all over the world — it all feels very gratifying,” she reflects.
Raja’s family now live in Hyderabad. In fact, Raja reveals that as a child, she visited Hyderabad every summer.
“I have great memories of the city the times my cousins and I went to Golkonda Fort, and the times when we sat under the tree in my garden eating guavas, for instance. Whenever I am in India, I make it a point to visit Hyderabad,” says Raja, who also reveals that she speaks Telugu at home.
Raja considers music the most powerful way to express love. And when she creates music, she tells us, she ensures that she is respectful of that expression.
Raja’s music is exactly how she is in life a combination of East and West.
She is known in the industry for her uncanny knack of infusing Indian classical rhythms into rap songs, making her a significant voice of the growing hip-hop community in the country.
“When I decided to make music, I did not want to leave out things that I found to be most beautiful. So I like to blend them and have my music reflect the way I am. Because what I learnt over the years is the significance of being authentic. If you stay authentic, you can make memorable music, which will always resonate with people,” she says.
Raja hopes to create Telugu songs someday. She tells us she is definitely looking to make a project in Telugu. “I am currently searching for amazing Telugu writers to help me with that,” she adds.