Indian- American rapper, Svetha Yallapragada Rao, profoundly known as Raja Kumari is setting high bars with her fusion of western hip-hop and traditional Indian music in the male-dominated music world.
She is famously known for her work with DIVINE in ‘City Slums’, Madhuri Dixit in ‘Made in India.’ Kumari has also collaborated with artists like Fifth Harmony, Gwen Stefani, Iggy Azalea, Knife Party, and Fall Out Boy.
During the 2020 Pandemic, the rapper was signed by Nas Mass Appeal India records for proliferating the culture of Hip-Hop in India.
However, she felt that the label didn’t understand her or knew how to market her; hence she created ‘Godmother records’ which is her independent label in 2022. She once said in an interview, “I created Godmother Records to finally be sovereign in my art. Keeping God first and being a mother to the babies, I’m looking to curate and support female talent from India and around the world. It’s a huge day, just like that I became CEO and certified director.”
Raja Kumari On Bindi: A Part Of My Identity
In an interview with SheThePeople, Raja narrated an incident when a director offered her a big budget if she removed her bindi. She said, “The label had actually told me that when I wear a bindi or talk so much about the culture, it alienates so much of the community, so if you are willing to not wear the bindi then I will give you this budget.”
What gives a man the right to tell a person what are the things that will define them and their identity? It fails to give another person, especially if it’s a woman, a space to say ‘no’.
Continuing her incident she said, “I agreed to it in the moment, and then I went to the video shoot with a bindi and I walked up to them and said, I dare you to take it off my head and I shot the video; what were they going to do? I was already there.”
In 2020 she released a music video ‘Bindis and Bangles’ that reflected the mosaic-like culture of India, and in almost every interview she reiterated that she loves wearing bindis and they are a big part of her identity.
Throughout her career, she had to deal with a ‘string of men’ and their stereotypical ideologies and opinions, a few of which also told her that Indian girls don’t rap.
Defining one’s own identity
Everyone has and should have the freedom to decide what will constitute their personal and social identity and no one has the right to tell anyone what ought to be and what not.
For instance for Raja Kumari, wearing a bindi made her feel seen, more connected to her culture and confident; and at the moment, saying no to a record label for a big budget is challenging and tough, but she chose her identity and does not have any regrets about it.
It’s absurd to think and know that someone might expect you to give up a part of your identity that you feel is integral to you, just because they don’t like it.
You build, create and define your own identity which is one of the most emancipating things for a human being.