7 splendid songs that Raja Kumari can't get out of her head

Artist Raja Kumari speaks to Bazaar India about her musical influences, her favourite music genres, and the track she’s playing on loop.

Harper's Bazaar India

“Music entered my life through my mom’s singing,” says Svetha Yallapragada Rao, the American musician of Indian ancestry who’s famously known as Raja Kumari. “And because of my dance training in Kuchipudi, Kathak, and Bharatanatyam, I was surrounded by Carnatic and classical music, which helped me appreciate the power of rhythm.”

The 36-year-old has collaborated with icons like Gwen Stefani, Iggy Azalea, Fifth Harmony, among others, and has made a name for herself with her foot tapping rap tracks like Bindis and Bangles, Get It In, and more recently, Made In India (her take on Alisha Chinai’s 1995 hit of the same name). “My musical style is definitely fusion; it’s hip-hop with an Indian influence...that’s because I have one foot in America and one foot in India.”

Raja Kumari considers Lauren Hill her “musical mother, because I really resonate with her. She was in the group of Fujis with two male artists, and I just love how she was able to command power with her voice. Second, everything she said was so smart, with such poetic nuance,” she shares. Raja Kumari considers AR Rahman to be her “musical father, who is such an incredible fusion artist”. Of course, hip-hop and R&B are her favourites: “When I listen to rap music, I dissect it like a scientist and learn from it—what worked, what didn’t, and how I can apply it to my music.” Punjabi music figures are high on her list too, especially AP Dhillon’s new album which she thinks is “such a vibe”. 

While she admits she doesn’t listen to a lot of music because it consumes so much of her life, Raja Kumari explores new tracks through her friends and their playlists. And the one song she currently has on loop is Pasoori by Ali Sethi, which she loves for its composition and for his vocals.

Kumari's spectacular seven

Ape Sh*t by The Carters

Tangerine by Anik Khan

XFACTOR by Lauren Hill

Pasoori by Ali Sethi

Needed Me by Rihanna

Bewafa by Imran Khan

Love Is by Sublime