Rimi Basu, an emerging world fusion music artist originally from Washington, DC, felt she needed to draw up her creative instinct one day. She chose to do so by venturing out into a cemetery in the middle of the night to perform a sacred Indian ritual for the Goddess Kali, who represents energy and power. This tradition is, perhaps unsurprisingly, called the “left-handed” path of worship in Hindu religion.
The left-handed path does well to describe most of Basu’s life and personality. An ex-medical school student, who dropped out of her prestigious program to run away to India, of all places, and pursue her passion for music, she has since completed two music albums and traveled around the world, performing and studying music, as well as completing an MBA from one of the world’s top business programs, INSEAD.
The behemoth, glittery century-old Hindi film industry that has become known for its catchy musical scores and formulaic romantic plotlines has influenced much of the landscape of popular music in India today. In this landscape Basu presented herself in her debut album as a bit of an oddity: a foreigner with an American accent singing subtle songs with her characteristically high-toned voice in a language she was still learning by ear. Basu was moreso at odds trying to navigate the entertainment world in India as an American. “It was challenging to adapt to the working culture of India,” she said of the competition, not only in terms of the vast talent pool but of the traps an ingénue to the industry must learn to step over. “People would try to take advantage of me financially and physically. It was a formative experience in that I had to learn to look out for myself and take care of myself.” However, her album received acclaim for a debut production, garnering high sales and generating demand for events around India.
While in India, Rimi trained with renowned musicians and pundits of Indian music, including Ajoy Chakrobarty in Kolkata, India. However, her love affair with Indian music started from a young age, as she was trained in Indian classical music and dance and had a deep affinity for the Indian arts and entertainment. The daughter of Indian Immigrants-turned Washington bureaucrats from Calcutta (Kolkata, as it is known in their homeland), she grew up negotiating multiple selves: One who attended an Indian Language School that her father founded in Washington DC, and another, who avidly listened to hip hop, rap, and American pop with her Black, Asian, Latin, and White peers. All of these influences culminates in her music, which reflects her own multi-faceted upbringing and identity. Basu produced two albums in India, The Unveiling (2006) and Crossing Over (2009), which received acclaim and a high demand for performances in India. Thereafter, she performed across India, Southeast Asia, Europe, and the United States at various venues large and small for appreciative audiences. Adept at languages and a believer in the fusion and unity of cultures, she has sung in over 5 languages in her songs, including English, Hindi, Arabic, Spanish, and Bengali.
Rimi has now found herself back in the United States, residing in Washington, DC and working on a new Bollywood electronica project with various artists and DJs in order to propagate the brand of Bollywood fusion. Her goal has been and will continue to be increasing appreciation for Bollywood music and culture through unique and experimental fusion with Western styles. Rimi is well-equipped to be the USA’s first Bollywood electronic pop diva. A talented and dynamic singer and dancer of various styles, ranging from Indian classical to R&B and pop, her unique brand of cultural fusion engages and intrigues a broad range of listeners. Her trademark style of blending Indian and belly dance with vocals in her performances has kept audiences in awe worldwide. She is also quite possibly one of the most adventurous Indian-Americans raised in the USA.
The more you know about Rimi Basu, the more you come to understand her art as an extension of the way she takes on living: unorthodox, experimental, improvisational. And most of all, deeply visceral: what is meaningful lies in experience, and experience lies in feeling, and she draws upon whatever source, tradition, or element will allow her to feel and to impart what is meaningful. That is both her philosophy, and her style.
by Elizabeth Zinar