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Rika: ‘I Want to Represent Women of Color’

The English singer of Serbian-Indian origin discusses the lack of Asian women in global pop music, multiculturalism and setting new standards for music videos

Riddhi Chakraborty Oct 23, 2017

Rika wants to propel Indian culture into the global pop spotlight. Photo: Courtesy of the artist

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If one had to choose a single word to describe English singer Chandrika Darbari, it would be best to go with ‘confident.’ There’s a determination in the pop singer’s artistry that makes her hard to forget and it’s something she is aware of. “My goal is the big-time shot,” says the Serbian-Indian origin artist who goes by the mononym Rika, over the phone from Belgrade where she’s set to perform at the Miss Serbia finals later that night. “I want to be ‘legend’ status; I want to be in the industry for many, many, many years.” Although she has just three songs out so far, the level of interest around them outline her massive potential.

Rika first gained attention in December last year when her track “For Peace In Syria” went viral because of its heartfelt and powerful lyrics. “As a child myself—at the time I was 16—I just connected with it,” she says. “They did nothing to deserve what hit them. They were just normal children like me, living their lives and all of a sudden this tragedy happened.” The song hit over 800,000 views on YouTube within a week of its upload and is currently on a steady path to 1 million.

Results were similar for the video for her debut single “No Need” which came out in September; it’s already at 743,265 views as of this article while the sultry R&B track “Honest” which she dropped the same month has racked up over 130 thousand plays on SoundCloud.  But how does one make the transition from one-time viral sensation to someone who is able to deliver similar results constantly? Her woke lyricism and fearless exploration of multiple genres do play a big part, but in the age of visual media, it’s possible that the tight production around the “No Need” music video is a key player.

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Although filmed in Rika’s old high school in the UK, the vibrant video channels an American high school vibe instead, with scenes that cut between Rika hanging out with her friends in the cafeteria or at the school’s gym. The entire thing is tightly produced, filled with extras, dancers and urban fashion; all-round surprisingly polished for a first music video. “It’s my first single so I wanted to do it correctly,” she says. “Because most people who are beginning their careers… The quality of the stuff that comes out, I feel isn’t as good as when they’re at their prime later on. I wanted it to be the highest standard because that’s the only standard I want to deliver in the industry and to the public.”

“I wanted [‘No Need’] to be the highest standard because that’s the only standard I want to deliver in the industry and to the public.” Photo: Courtesy of the artist

After she says this, it’s hard to believe that Rika is currently just 17 years old. Her vision and drive belie her age and she’s determined to bring Indian culture into the global spotlight in her own way. We talk about the very prominent lack of brown women in the global pop music and discuss that perhaps people are hesitant to step into the industry because there are very few examples of success. “For the people of color, for women…  I want to represent them and be an inspiration for them,” Rika says. “I want people to look and me and think, ‘If she can do it, I can do it’.” She adds that a lot of Indians and Asians believe they’ll only work commercially in the Asian market, but it’s simply not true—she uses Priyanka Chopra, currently one of the world’s most successful Indian superstars, as an example to back up her point.

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While “No Need” and “Honest” have both been very Western-influenced because of her love for R&B and pop, she wants to start introducing Indian elements into her upcoming releases and find a balance between both. “In my next single which I’m releasing, I’m mixing Western with bits of Indian instruments.” She is however hesitant to reveal more.

Currently Rika is working on expanding her collaborations and discography—UK DJ duo Brunelle’s glittery remix of “No Need”  is simply the beginning. There’s an EP with a January release on the cards as well as an LP she’s working on as a side project. “I really want them to connect and feel something,” she says when I ask about what she wants her listeners to take away from her music. “I want them to be able to listen to it years from now and still relate to it.”

Watch the music video for Rika’s single “No Need” below:

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