Once upon a ride in Paris...
With the doors of Expo 2020 Dubai now open to the public, people can expect grand performances as an everyday occurrence at the Expo site. As part of the Late Nights @ Expo show, Raja Kumari, the Indian-American rap artiste-singer-songwriter set the stage ablaze with her latest hip-hop chartbusters.
We caught up with the Grammy-nominated artiste at the end of her live performance for the Expo launch weekend, on October 2, to hear her talk about her future plans. Marking her first performance back on stage with live audience since the pandemic, the rap artiste admitted to “feeling exhilarated”. “It’s been so long since I’ve performed back on stage and today, it just felt like I’m home.”
Raja Kumari, who’s also been featured in Bobby Friction, a BBC Asian Network programme, said, “Dubai is always such an amazing city to visit. The energy of the crowd is surreal. Even though people couldn’t stand, I could just feel the energy come through.” The 35-year-old artiste, known for her collaborations with renowned singers including Gwen Stefani, Iggy Azalea and Fifth Harmony, expressed her excitement, being here for the Expo’s launch weekend, “I know it will be going on for a few months, but I’m so glad I got to witness the Expo right at its start,” she said, adding that there’s no better city in the world to host an event of this magnitude.
“I’ve had a look at some of the artistes that are performing, like A. R. Rahman, who has his whole orchestra here. It’s simply amazing to see so many different people from so many different cultures have come together. There’s no other city that can do it. Dubai is the best city to host the Expo,” she said.
Outlining her future plans in the city, the award-winning artiste also revealed that she recently shot in Dubai a music video for one of her latest songs from the new album. “One of the first lyrics in the album is about Dubai, so I decided that I needed to come here to shoot it,” said the award-winning rapper.
Launching her latest song, Made In India, for the very first time, the singer mentioned that the Expo stage made for the perfect setting to debut a song so close to her heart. “I think of my music as being a bridge, to bring the West back to the East. A lot of people in America and the West only know us by the ‘Made in India’ tag,” she said, adding this song was written just a few weeks ago. “It’s come straight from the recording studio to this stage.”
The Indian-American artiste, who also featured in Gully Boy, the Bollywood movie on India’s budding hip hop culture, is known to put Indian rap music on the global map. “I fell in love with music first through listening to A R Rahman; I call him my musical father; and then through artistes like Lauryn Hill and Fugees,” she said. Born to Telugu parents, the rap artiste mentions she drew parallels between Indian classical music and rap very early-on in her journey. “Actually A.R. Rahman made the first Indian rap! The Patti rap song. People should really go back and listen to that. Indian classical and rap are very similar in their musical rhythms.” Grateful for the opportunity to experience a live audience once again, the rap artiste signed off saying she’ll be back soon for exciting, new musical plans that may take shape in the city.
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Syed Salim's OSR Mall that comprises Q Cinemas, which screens latest films from Hollywood, Bollywood and other languages