Most of my close friends and I identify as third culture kids. We’ve had countless discussions about where we feel like we’re from, where we can call home and if we need to be pinned down by one place in particular.
Both my mother and one of my similarly confused third-culture friends, recently send me a link to a mini-documentary. The first line that popped up on the screen read:
“Can you make it in America without erasing your cultural identity?”
That’s a question we’ve often asked ourselves. Can we make it in the West, or in any foreign land, without losing ourselves? For most of my life, I’ve felt a bit lost. Not quite Indian, not quite a Hong Konger, definitely not British. I’ve tried to be all of those things, and then gave up trying to be anything after a while.
Also, sometimes in a so-called “global sphere”, “professional setting” or “diverse group” it’s not always appropriate to act or be a certain way, mainly because it could infringe on other people’s spaces, or an environment in general. The way I’m describing this is a little ambiguous, but let’s say you’re in a professional office environment, it’s natural to want to fit in with the majority. But what happens when you come home feeling drained at the end of the day, in a foreign land? When you put up too many fronts, the pretence can be jarring.
So, as a third-culture kid, I’ve definitely connected more to being Indian at university, but at the same time I’ve also become more comfortable with being in a stateless state. I wear my triple citizenship with pride, and I feel like it makes me more open and less judgmental of different walks of life, and different belief systems.
So why descend into the usual cultural confusion discussion? Because the quote we’ve just been discussing comes from a documentary about Raja Kumari, and upcoming hip-hop artist from Los Angeles. And yes, she’s Indian.
Raja Kumari (real name Svetha Rao) combines her love of hip-hop, her amazing vocal talents and signature street style with Bharatnatyam, popular Indian tunes and passion-infused lyrics. She laments on cultural indifference in her new track “Mute” featuring Elvis Brown, which could easily be the next hip-hop anthem of the lower floor of Smack (a club in my university town).
But it’s her track, Believe In You, that really speaks to me. The video and lyrics speak of growing into your cultural confusion, and embracing your ancestry as well as your current situation. The video pans from her childhood Bharatnatyam videos to her confidently dancing in a temple in Malibu (the juxtapostion is unreal).
Huge shoutout to Mum and Anu for introducing me to this fab artist. Raja Kumari’s EP is available for purchase as of November 17th, and her tracks are out on Spotify too. She was nominated for a Grammy in 2015 for writing a song with Fall Out Boy, and has also written songs for Fifth Harmony and Gwen Stefani.
It’s extremely inspirational to have an Indian person enter the foray of hip hop and popular music. I really hope Raja Kumari climbs the music ladder as fast as possible, because the world needs to hear her music, and her message.