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Grammy Nominee Raja Kumari Talks About Bollywood Music

Grammy-nominated Indian-American songwriter Raja Kumari, also a rapper, desires her music -- that she uses as a bridge between the East and West

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Raja Kumari is a very famous songwriter who writes for American singers. IANS
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Grammy-nominated Indian-American songwriter Raja Kumari, also a rapper, desires her music — that she uses as a bridge between the East and West — to reach far and wide. And so, she wants to get involved in Bollywood as it has a “great impact” on the world.

The California-based artiste with roots in Andhra Pradesh has been performing in India, appearing on reality shows and also teaming up with Indian talent for songs.

American music scene is different from India’s. VOA

What else is she planning to explore in India?

“I want to use my time in India wisely and explore the opportunities and try something new. I want to do more stuff in Hindi films. It (Bollywood) has such a great impact on the entire world. The idea that something I write can reach so many more people, that’s exciting for me as a musician,” Kumari told IANS over phone from Mumbai.

The music scene in India is “completely different” from that in the US.

“In India everything is Bollywood music. It is the most popular genre. The genre that we are making (in the US) is a new thing here… the independent music

Also Read: Music lessons boost children’s memory and grades

“In America, there isn’t much opportunity for Indian singers in mainstream music. It is something that we are trying to change,” said the artiste, who was a celebrity guest in Amazon Prime Video’s Unscripted Original, “The Remix” where she collaborated with contestants Yash and Kryll to recreate Bollywood number “Ankhiyon se goli marein”.

The “City slums” hitmaker also got to fulfil her dream of visiting Himachal Pradesh, popular for its scenic beauty.

“For the show ‘Lockdown’, (singer-composer) Kailash Kher and I had to remix two songs in our style and shoot the music video. It was completely crazy. I was lucky to have a partner like Kailashji. He made it really easy for me and enjoyable. We shot in Himachal Pradesh. That was a dream of mine to go and spend time there. It was amazing,” said Kumari.

“Lockdown”, a ZEE5 project, is a series where each episode brings together a celebrated Bollywood singer with a YouTube singing sensation. Locked in one location for a day, these musicians collaborate to recreate two songs.

Kailash Kher is one of India’s most famous singers.

The musical reality show will also feature artistes like Raftaar, Shekhar Ravjiani, Gippy Grewal, Shirley Setia, Darshan Rawal, Arjun Kanungo and Jonita Gandhi.

So is this a competition show?

“We are not competing. We are just participating in the opportunity. These are collaborations that normally wouldn’t happen. Every episode is a challenge,” she said.

“The show has been shot all over India rather than just in a Mumbai studio. It’s a cool way to show the beauty of our country,” she added.

Without sharing much about the two songs that she worked on, the fan of Indian classical and fusion music said: “I sang in Sanskrit. It was my first time ever. That was a big challenge for me. So, it was awesome.”

She had previously collaborated with notable artistes like Gwen Stefani, Iggy Azalea and Fifth Harmony.

Is she writing for more American or global singers?

“I am working on my own album. I will be releasing it this summer. I have a lot of songs which I have been doing mostly for my album,” said Kumari.

But she doesn’t want to give up songwriting.

“As a songwriter, it is amazing to be able to put other people’s emotions (into a song) and to help them. But as a performer, rapper and singer, there is nothing like being on the stage and connecting with people and getting a chance to share music with the world. I couldn’t let one go for the other,” she said. IANS

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OrchKids- Bringing Joy To Underprivileged Kids Through Music

Nema was accepted into the Baltimore School for the Arts where she now studies music.

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In Baltimore, a free after school music program called OrchKids is being used as an instrument of change for children in underprivileged neighborhoods. In the past 10 years, more than 1,300 children have received free group music lessons, and free instruments, from flutes to trumpets to violins.

The program was started by Marin Alsop, music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, who said OrchKids also aims to create social change in a city where about 40 percent of the population live in poverty. She hopes that if more children of color learn an instrument that “orchestras will better reflect the diversity of our communities.”

For 15 year old Nema Robinson, OrchKids has given her more opportunities than she ever imagined. Four years ago, the quiet teenager started taking the group violin lessons and quickly progressed.

Her teacher, Ahreum Kim, grew up in Korea and studied at the prestigious Peabody Institute in Baltimore.

“Nema’s determination has helped make her a top violin student” Kim said. “OrchKids is doing a lot for Nema, by giving her confidence, the practice of being in front of an audience, and musical skills she can be proud of,” she added.

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Nema’s musical journey began when she and her mother, Susan Johnson, saw an OrchKids concert. Johnson was amazed to see black kids performing classical and opera music. “You just don’t see that,” she recalled thinking, “And I’m elbowing Nema and telling her, ‘This is what you should be doing.”

Nema enthusiastically agreed, and soon after started taking violin lessons that have given her the opportunity to play all kinds of music. She is especially proud of being a violinist in the Orchkids jazz band.

OrchKids has been instrumental in guiding many students, some from difficult backgrounds, by providing a place where they feel respected and safe.

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“Some of the students come into the class with baggage,” said Kim. “That could be due to poverty, or trouble at home. It is helpful when I learn about their families.”

Nema had a rough start in life as a drug addicted baby. With both her parents in prison, her aunt became her guardian and mother.

“She’s my number one supporter and has helped me a lot,” said Nema appreciatively. She pushes me. If it wasn’t for my mom I don’t think I would really be this good at playing the violin.”

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OrchKids has been instrumental in guiding many students.

Aside from the camaraderie and the encouragement that OrchKids provides, Nema also enjoys performing. I like seeing the audience, and their clapping and standing up after the performance,” she said. “It just makes my day.”

Thanks to her free violin lessons, Nema was accepted into the Baltimore School for the Arts where she now studies music.

Also Read: China Set To Spend Billionaire on ‘One Belt One Road’s, But Some Focus on Poverty

She hopes to earn a college degree in music so she can teach other black children, like herself, how to live their lives on a high note.

“It doesn’t matter what race you are, you can play music. If it’s your passion then it’s your passion,” Nema said with a smile. (VOA)