The singer and activist breaks new ground with her latest single
One would be hard-pressed to find a musician more insightful, and passionate than Ridi. Raised in Switzerland, and trained in jazz and classical music from a young age, Ridi’s music is Western pop meeting Indian musicality and beats. The palpable Indianness of her music incorporates her roots in a way that is refreshing.
Fresh off the success of her internationally acclaimed single “Top Guy,” which has amassed 2.7 million views, Ridi’s latest track, “Merry Go Round,” is creating waves on TikTok.
The track was produced by Grammy-nominated German dance music producer Mousse T (who worked on Tom Jones’ hit song “Sexbomb”) and British Indian music producer Diamond Duggal. It’s got a catchy melody you’ll be humming all day.
Growing up, Ridi experienced racist bullying at school. This not only influenced her music, but also an anti-bullying initiative she co-founded with her sister, Stop the B. The platform has received strong support from celebrities such as international footballer Ronaldinho. In 2021, she became the youngest speaker at the UN World Anti-Bullying Forum.
Ridi spoke to SEEMA about her story and her music.
Tell us about yourself. Where did you grow up, and what was your journey to becoming a musician?
Just like most children I croaked around the house for a while at the top of my lungs, having fun with the instrument nature gave me. Thankfully (for my parents) I was enrolled into a singing academy at the age of 8 where I got classical and jazz training! That was the first time when the technical aspect of singing really intrigued me! During school I would love to participate in musical theater and whatever choir and singing opportunities they had!
But what really made me dive into music professionally was when I faced a few hardships at the age of 15. I was being bullied for who I was, and quite frankly anything I did. So being the loud person I am, I very quickly learned to speak up for myself. However, it was to no use, since no teacher or person in power would listen or help. It felt as though it was me against the world (as for me – or any child – their school and class peers are their world).
Soon after, I was told to leave the establishment for speaking up. That’s really when my music career started. It was a way for me to express what I was going through as a teenager, with all the pressure and anxieties that teenagers face. It’s never easy, especially when people so often hide behind social media to make hurtful comments. I dealt with this by turning to the people I am closest to and openly speaking to them about anything upsetting me. But not everyone has that, which is why I created an online community for young people to turn to when they need support.
You have taken a strong stand against bullying. What’s the story behind that?
Stop The B is so important to me, and it’s the first anti-bullying platform by young people, for people, that I set up with my sister, Vasundhara Oswal. As many as one in three children have been bullied online. With more time than ever spent on screens for school and social media, this problem is only set to grow. That’s why our campaign not only focuses on stopping bullying, but also to stop being bystanders. We are encouraging young people to speak out when they see bullying or trolling, and to take a stand to help the people being bullied.
Our social media platforms have created a community where young people feel like they can share their stories and experiences in a safe place, and get advice and tips. We now have around 28K followers. Alongside this, we are working with academics and professionals to conduct research to make a real change to the way bullying is perceived and handled in schools and online. It’s unfortunate that there is such a strong stigma attached to talking about being bullied. I remember when people tried to bully me, I felt somewhat ashamed of speaking up about it, because that would put me in the position of being the outcast or the weirdo! But I slowly realized that if we keep having this type of mentality, not only does it harm ourselves but young people who may have to experience similar circumstances!
It’s a shame that people only take bullying seriously once somebody takes their own life so we really wanted Stop The B to help not only bring awareness, but to help young people realize that they are not at fault! The number of times I see people think that they were and are at fault is baffling.
What are your thoughts on South Asian diaspora music?
South Asian music and musicians are becoming increasingly popular in the global music scene. “Jalebi Baby” by Tesher was such a great example of how Indian musical influences can be taken to the mainstream Western pop audiences and be enjoyed by all.
I truly feel more South Asian music needs to come to the scene. We have so much culture to offer that it’s a shame that it’s not been done yet!
I feel that one reason we haven’t come out as strong as we should is because of the stigma attached to some of our countries. For example, me being Indian, growing up in a Swiss boarding school was never easy, I felt as though I had to constantly hide my culture and country due to the snide remarks and borderline racist (I only say borderline racist because they were kids) comments my peers would make.
It’s such a shame that we are not taught from a young age to appreciate different cultures. However, if more South Asian music does come to light in the mainstream pop market, more kids will start appreciating and vibing with their country, which is one of the main reasons I want to incorporate the Indian sounds and instruments in my music!
Tell us about your latest song, “Merry Go Round.” What were you going through in life when inspiration to write it came up?
“Merry Go Round” means so much to me and I’ve put so much time and effort to get this right. Heartbreak, loneliness, love, joy and many more feelings, are all emotions we experience from a young age and are, ironically, the same emotions we experience when we’re older. So, in essence, we’re all just living on a merry go round.
“Merry Go Round” explores the circular nature of life and the fact that no matter what age we are, no matter what phase of life we are in, what we go through and the difficulties we experience all come back around in different ways and different complexities. We may choose to forget who we are for a while and instead explore the world around us, but in the end we will always remember who we are inside. That, no matter what, no one can ever break us. Actually, for a while I was transferring to many schools. That’s really when I felt like I was stuck on a merry go round. I felt like everywhere I went and anything I did it all would just come back to bite me and I just felt stuck!
What’s your song-writing process like?
Well, there is no set procedure for me! The song-making process can really start anywhere and at any time. For example, when I’m sleeping sometimes melodies will pop into my mind. Then I start making up little songs in my head. Then I will feel afraid to lose these little songs so I wake up whether it is 2 a.m or 3 a.m. and will record them on my voice memos. However, when I actually get down to using those melodies it can be a few days to a few months. The song-making process is really like a puzzle to me: you have to keep all your pieces (melodies) safely compiled and one day some will fit perfectly together to make a song.
This is actually how I made my latest song, “Merry Go Round.” An Indian melody had popped into my mind and I had kept it for a while. A few months later I thought the idea of a merry go round was really cool and could have been an awesome metaphor. So then slowly the song started coming together. Once the writing process is done, I usually start to work with producers, which is always great. But sometimes I can go a little psychotic and can start to restart and redo the song whilst we are in the producing stage. But I guess that’s the fun and thrill of it!
Whilst making “Merry Go Round,” it was such an honor to work with legendary producers such as Mousse T and Diamond Duggal, who have decades of experience with the very best musicians, including Tom Jones and Shania Twain. I learned a lot while being able to keep my unique sound and voice, allowing us to create a fun, energetic and authentic track, which I hope listeners will love!