RIKA, aka Chandrika Darbari, has just won the Artist of the Year ASIA award at the 18th Annual Urban Music Awards 2022. The win celebrates RIKA’s recognition in the highly competitive global music industry.
It is a source of great pride when our compatriots – the Indian diaspora living abroad – win laurels in their respective fields. This is certainly the case with RIKA aka Chandrika Darbari, who just won ASIA Artist of the Year at the 18th Annual Urban Music Awards 2022. With over 2.7 million music fans Voting to choose the winners in all categories this year, this win celebrates RIKA’s recognition in the highly competitive global music industry. On this auspicious occasion, she joins the Sunday Guardian for a conversation. Excerpts from an edited interview:
Q. How did you get into the music business? Did your Indian roots influence your choices?
A. I’ll start with the second part of your question. My great-grandfather, J Nigam, was the first officer of the ICS during the British Raj. He resigned from his role as a magistrate, when the British asked him to shoot the revolutionaries. He refused and instead joined them as a freedom fighter. This made him a hero in the town of Ballia where he has his own statue. My father and his family are from Agra but he grew up in Delhi. I visited Delhi with him and also went to Mumbai, which I really liked. It was amazing to connect to my roots and embrace my heritage. So yes, to answer your question, my Indian roots definitely played a big role in my choices.
I’ve been writing songs since I was nine years old and always thought music was the best way to express myself. I studied music in high school and got an A* and took classes with the prestigious Berklee College of Music. One of the first songs I ever wrote became my first single called “No Need”. It was released independently in 2017, and I was amazed at how well it performed. He has performed on MTV India and B4U Music, and he has also ranked top 80 in India! I have never looked back since. I learned to play the piano on my own when I was nine, and when we had our first lockdown due to Covid, it gave me the opportunity to hone my guitar skills. I also improved my understanding of the production side of music.
Q. How did you feel winning the Urban Music Award?
A. I feel so grateful and honored to have won. I thank all my fans and all those who believed in me. The support for my music and the love I receive is the greatest reward. I was even honored to be nominated alongside amazing artists like B Praak, Sidhu Moosewala, Neha Kakkar and Jasmine Sandlas. The awards ceremony was also beautiful. I hadn’t been to a real event since Covid and it was a really great experience. I took my family with me and it was so nice to celebrate this victory with the people who are dearest to me.
Q. Was it difficult for you to break into the competitive global music industry?
A. I would say the biggest competition is with myself. I always strive to improve what I’ve posted before. I tend not to watch what other people are doing, simply because I’m not like other people – there’s only one me in the whole world. Fighting the urge to follow trends is probably a challenge for most artists because it’s a constant battle between staying authentic and staying relevant to today’s mainstream audience. However, I believe that if you stay true to yourself, your work will become timeless. Authenticity never goes out of style.
Q. What’s it like working with Warner Music India?
A. I feel blessed and grateful for the trust that Jay Mehta, the MD and the team at Warner Music have in me. It’s a very exciting and innovative team to work with. I’m used to being led by my brother Resh and my dad and we’re a close-knit family, and the Warner Music India team makes me feel the same. I hope our journey together will be successful in India and around the world. We released a song called “Love to You” with the talented Ankit Tiwari last year. This song got me on the cover of New Music Friday India on Spotify and got editorial support from Jio Saavn and Apple Music. I can’t wait to show everyone what Warner Music India and I have been working on together!
Q. How would you describe your genre of music?
A. My music is a reflection of myself – it’s young, honest and very memorable! I always stay true to my heritage and try to incorporate the best of Indian sounds into my Western flair. I have an affinity with pop music because I grew up listening to it. I also love sad acoustic tracks that really show someone’s deepest feelings and are the perfect cross between vulnerable and addicted. I’ve written a lot and I feel like I’ve found something very special and new sonically, which I can’t wait to share with the world!
Q. Outside of your music career, you’re a social media star – do you think that’s a necessary part of the music personality?
A. I think social media is an amazing tool to connect with your audience. I see that the most successful have the magic balance between letting the world in and having a piece of their life to themselves. Plus, social media gives you the opportunity to expand your audience in places you couldn’t a decade ago. Everyone can now find things they individually love and connect to.
Q. What does it mean to represent the Asian diaspora on the world music scene?
A. It means a lot to me. I grew up never seeing an Asian pop singer on MTV, so when I get messages saying how much I’ve inspired another Asian’s career or passion for music and singing, it really touches me. I love my culture, my heritage and I carry my roots with pride. It’s amazing to represent Asians on the world music scene. With so much talent, we are surely the next to conquer the world.
Q. What are you working on next?
A. I’ve made so much new music lately, and I can’t wait to share it all with you, but the best things in life take time and hard work. I only want to release something that has all my heart and soul, otherwise it’s unfair to the listeners. However, I plan to release some special projects in the coming months! Please follow me on Instagram @rikaoffical to follow my journey!
The interviewer writes lifestyle articles for various publications and her blog www.nooranandchawla.com. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.