October 29, 2022November 24, 2022 6min readBy Arun S.
From practicing music at the age of eight to performing at venues across the globe, Ritviz became an iconic artist. His mother and father are both musicians and he is best known for composing the hit songs “Udd Gaye,” “Liggi,” “Jeet,”and more. The artist hails from Darbhanga, Bihar, India. Ritviz has released four EPs “Yuv,” “Ved,” “Dev,” “Baaraat,” and one recent album called “Mimmi.”
Ritviz has over 2,100,000 monthly listeners on Spotify and more than 449,000,000 views on YouTube. His awards and accolades include being selected for the Forbes India 30 under 30 list and more. Ritviz recently created an original composition entitled “Aavegi” which appeared in Disney’s newest series Ms. Marvel. Continue reading to learn more about Ritviz’s journey!
Let’s start at the beginning of your musical journey. As you were born into a family of musicians how did this impact the way you go about making music and who were some of your mentors and musical influences who guided you at the start of your journey?
I think obviously having my folks introduce me to music in the most organic way when I woke up in the morning was the best. From ma’s Riyaz [practicing music] and dad playing tabla music was never really pushed on me. I think my folks did their thing practicing their music I was pulled towards it. It was just a beautiful introduction to music and honestly my only very real mentor is my mom. I think her everyday validation really just helps me do what I do.
As you composed your first song at the age of eleven, let us in on how the progression continued which led to a greater drive and passion for music.
I think once I got a taste of creating of sorts and once the expression and the need to express kicked in then it’s just one after the other. I started making songs writing melodies and that became the most exciting thing because it was this cathartic process of creation.
While I am writing these melodies, I am also feeling so much better. I am feeling lighter and it’s therapeutic. This became my happy and most exciting time and things started looking up when I was creating. And from there just never look back and the hope that this stays.
I think in the middle when part of creating is also facing a block, when that would happen it took me a while to adjust to the creative block. Now I try to embrace it all if it goes up it has to come down sort off.
What was the first lyric you ever wrote?
I think it was 9th grade. I had written songs before but this one I published and it was out and we released it and everything. “Sochta rehta hu mai kya hoga mere yaar tune kya dekha hai jo mene dekha baar baar kaisi zindagi hai kaisa hai yeh pyaar cahu to marjaau par lagti hai mere yaar.”
I’ve interviewed many musicians through the years, but I want to try something different. Sing the first thing that comes into your head right now and I will add it as a voice clip.
As “Liggi” is one of your biggest tracks of all time we wanted to tap into what drives you as an artist. Is it the number of plays, the energy from live concerts, the ability to tell stories behind the music, or other reasons?
I think the ability to create? The high of creating while I create. I think that must be the most euphoric time that I go through every time a melody hits me. It’s like anything is possible right? The sky is the limit once the melody comes in place and I am so excited about it. I can turn this into anything. The world around me becomes hopeful and I turn and turn and turn into a positive person. So, its just a beautiful journey.
“Udd Gaye” is one of the first tracks I heard from you. Tell us the story behind the creation of this track.
So I fell in love in fifth standard. It’s based on my crush in fifth standard you know puppy love. I was infatuated and it took me 10 years to write this song. So, for 10 years this thought was marinating you know and I had a big crush on this girl. That’s that you know childhood love.
Let’s switch gears and talk about Ms. Marvel. Your tracks “Sage,” “Thandi Hawa,” and your original composition “Aavegi” appear in Ms. Marvel. How does it feel to have your music in the Marvel Comics Universe?
Honestly so over whelming and you know it’s such a big flex. But I think the biggest flex of it all is the fact that I am a part of a bigger soundtrack that represent South Asian music and so many other beautiful artists are a part. It’s great to have that kind of spotlight on the community.
Speaking of your track “Sage,” what was the process of creating this iconic track that so many were surprised and happy to hear while watching Ms. Marvel?
I remember I was really anxious when I wrote this song. What’s really interesting is the way I wrote this. It was a first for me where I experienced real time. I was really anxious this one night I was restless. I was moving around the night and I found myself right on the laptop. Right there I wrote this melody and I think the intro of that song is my anxiety that’s turned into a melody. It’s a very beautiful cathartic process of pouring those emotions into the laptop so that was a first for me.
In the past “Udd Gaye” and “Liggi” had marinated over time and then they turned into a song. With “Sage” it felt like I was facing something and right then I started writing so it was very interesting.
As you have performed live at many venues around the world from EDC Las Vegas, Sunburn Festival, the Bacardi NH7 Weekender, Zomaland by Zomato, YouTube Fanfest, and more what has been your most treasured performance? How does it feel seeing your name Ritviz on huge stages?
I think for me having my folks up on stage at NH7 Weekender Pune has to be my most treasured performance. Having them on stage for the first time in front of three thousand people and my home town. It was very beautiful.
Let’s jump into your newest project “Mimmi.” What were your thoughts, feelings, and emotions around creating this project?
So “Mimmi” is my mom. “Mimmi” is dedicated to my maa and the story of the album: it’s a parallel between adult me and childhood self. I am trying to find unconditional love in my semi adult life and that journey of me trying to find it is what the album really is. I have found an answer towards the end only because of the person that I was searching this with, which is my mom. That’s why its dedicated to her.
And the fact that me looking for unconditional is a conflict because if I am searching and looking for unconditional, it’s almost as if I am I am expecting. So, I don’t have to expect I have to be unconditional in nature and then there might be a result. I don’t have to think about the result anyway and that is basically the story of “Mimmi.”
As your role encompasses singer-songwriter, musician, and record producer we would love for you to break down your different roles and responsibilities and what they entail.
I think I don’t really see myself as honestly anything not even a musician. I think all of the art that I make is just a reflection of what I am going through in my life. So it just so happens that I am taking care of separate things branches under the music designation. I think it’s an interesting process but once I start writing a melody and I start focusing on the lyric or how starting structing the production everything just happens simultaneously.
Who would be your dream collaboration and dream collaborations on a track you produced globally as Ritviz?
I think my dream collaboration happened and that’s my mom and we just did “Mimmi” so that’s done and I am going to take this globally.
Have you faced adversity in the music industry while working in India as well as working globally?
Yeah, I think there is enough unfair stuff that happens which I think applies to a lot of industries if we really have to make a point here. I feel like one very general sense of support isn’t there in the industry because I didn’t receive it. I make sure that I try to show support.
Lastly, what do you hope individuals take away from this interview with Brown Girl Magazine?
I hope that people feel inspired to do what they feel is right and start trusting their own gut and their ear because we should be our own judge.
January 1, 2023January 1, 2023 7min readBy Brown boy
Wyatt Feegrado is a comedian and content creator from Walnut Creek, San Francisco, California. Feegrado moved to New York City to attend the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU. Feegrado always wanted to be a comedian and grew up watching “The Last Comic Standing” with his mom — his favorites being Alingon Mitra and Sammy Obeid. In 2020, Feegrado starred in the TV show “Bettor Days,” on Hulu and ESPN+, as the character Vinnie bets on the baseball team The Astros and wins big. Feegrado also has a podcast called “First World Problematic,” along with Vishal Kal and Surbhi, where they talk about a range of topics such as racism, sexism, and homophobia, and will be dropping an “Indian Matchmaking” Reunion show. Currently, in Bangalore, Feegrado is performing his first show in India, at the Courtyard in Bangalore. He was previously on tour in the United States. He recently dropped the Amazon comedy special “Wyatt Feegrado: De-Assimilate.” Continue reading to learn more about Wyatt Feegrado.
Do you feel that your upbringing in Walnut Creek and your personal experiences are what molded your comedic style?
Walnut Creek, for people who have never been there, is frankly a very white place. I must’ve been one of four or five Indian kids in my high school of 2000. I think growing up like that, you begin to believe that it’s a bit ‘odd’ that you’re brown. Part of finding my comedic voice was changing that perspective to say; it’s not weird that I’m brown, it’s weird that you’re not. That’s the paradigm shift — I don’t move through the world trying to impress people, why should I? Who are they? They should be trying to impress me.
What was it like attending the Tisch School Of The Arts and what classes helped shape you as a person?
I hope I don’t get too much flack for this…but I don’t really think that NYU helped my career very much. Being in New York helped me immensely, it raised the ceiling on what I could achieve. I really appreciate NYU’s approach, they teach art as a fundamentally collaborative discipline, which I do believe it is. However, that’s just not how I learn. I’m a competitive person, I want to be pitted against my fellow students and prove I’m the best. That motivates me. I would say, if you want to use NYU or any art school to your advantage, understand that classes are only half of what you’re supposed to be doing. That was a pet peeve of mine, I used to see my fellow students finish class and simply go home. That’s not the way to do it in this industry. Every day, after school, I used to go to two or three open mics, send in self-taped auditions, and make opportunities of my own. You’re betting on yourself — so go all in.
What was the process of creating the comedy special “Wyatt Feegrado: De-Assimilate?”
In terms of writing the jokes, it’s the culmination of studying joke writing for 10 years. But I was approached with the opportunity in March or so, and I had my reservations to even tape a special — I’m a perfectionist so I wanted all my jokes to be some of the best ever written. But that’s just a bad strategy in terms of trying to make it in life. When an opportunity falls in your lap, you have to take it no matter what. Worry about whether you’re ready later. One time I was cast in a commercial for Facebook that required me to do skateboard tricks. I lied and said I knew how to do skateboard tricks at the casting call. I landed the commercial and then started practicing how to skateboard. I think the most important lesson in comedy you can learn is how to believe in yourself when nobody else does. I always have the confidence that I will rise to the occasion.
What was it like getting your special on Amazon Prime?
So Four by Three, the amazing production company that produced my special, has a very good relationship with Amazon, as they’ve produced a lot of content for their platform. They handled distribution for me, and together we made the strategic decision to also release De-Assimilate on YouTube. I think because of the over-saturation of streaming services you have to pay for, combined with the renaissance YouTube is having, where a lot of the content will have TV-level production value, more and more young people are turning to YouTube as their primary source of content. People are always asking who is going to win the “streaming wars.” My dark horse candidate is YouTube.
As a comedian how do you deal with hecklers?
So many comedians are mean to hecklers. I hate that. There’s no reason for that. They’re a person too and it’s not right to berate them unless they truly insulted you first. In my opinion, there are three types of hecklers — the heckler who is just too drunk, the heckler who thinks they’re helping the show, and the heckler who actually hates you or thinks you’re unfunny. I think only the latter deserves to be berated. The rest of them I try to work around, and tell them they’re interrupting the show in a way that doesn’t interrupt the show in itself.
What was the first joke you ever wrote and your favorite joke you have ever written?
Oh god this is going to be horrible. The first joke I every wrote was:
“Shawn White is a professional snowboarder, but a lot of people don’t know he is also very skilled in Curling, his hair”
That is so bad. I’m embarrassed. At least it disproves the BS some people say that “funny isn’t learnable.” That is NOT TRUE. What they mean is the infrastructure for funny scant exists. There’s no Standup Comedy Major in Art Schools or Textbooks that teach joke writing. There will be one day, but for now there isn’t.
My favorite jokes I write are jokes that I really think encapsulates the zeitgeist. My favorites on the special are the joke about how Jesus’ Disciples are Brown, and how the Vaccine is the first time anyone in the US has gotten healthcare for free.
Are there any jokes that you regret telling in front of an audience?
Of course. Referring back to my answer to the first question, any joke that has the underlying presumption that it is ‘odd’ to be brown — which is a genre of jokes that many Indian-American comedians in history have been pigeonholed into — I regret saying those type of jokes when I first started. Now I do the opposite. Sometimes I’ll do a joke about how Jesus was brown in Texas just to piss them off.
What has been your favorite project to work on?
Flying to Nashville to shoot Bettor Days for ESPN+ was great. I was just out of school at the time so it felt amazing to make money, travel, and work. Also the sets were fun and I’m still friends with the cast. And then getting to see myself on TV for the first time — thrilling.
Can you tell us more about your podcast First World Problematic?
Yes! First World Problematic is the comedy podcast I host with Vishal Kal — yes the same one that broke Nadia’s heart on Indian Matchmaking — and Surbhi, another close comedian friend of mine. We’re all Indian-Americans, and we discuss a wide variety of topics, such as dating, pop culture, and just in general make a lot of jokes. ALSO! We just released an Indian Matchmaking Season 2 reunion special — we brought back all the cast members of season 2 for a tell all! In Jan we plan to do a Season 1 reunion.
Who do you look up to in the world of comedy?
Man. I’m a student of a looooooooot of comedians. So so so many people I look up to. Steven Wright and Dave Chappelle are my first loves. When I was a kid, I used to think standup was just time pass, until one day I stumbled upon Dave Chappelle: Killin Em’ Softly on YouTube. That is what made me realize that standup can be high art. That is when I knew I wanted to be a comedian. Steven Wright is the comedian who first inspired me to write jokes, many of my first jokes emulated him. I have learned so much about modern Joke Structure from Dave Attell, Emo Phillips, Dan Mintz, and Anthony Jeselnik. Bit structure I take directly from Louie CK and Bill Burr. As for my comedic voice, I learned so much from Paul Mooney. Listening to him is what I feel really unlocked my approach to comedy, the way how he is so mean, so aggressive. He talks about white people the way the media talks about black people. I always thought us Asian people needed that, an Asian comedian that talks about Asian-American issues, but not with the friendliness you typically see Asian comedians portray. He taught me to be in your face. And Chappelle taught me how to be nice about it.
Do you feel that South Asian comedians can be easily pigeonholed?
Historically — unequivocally yes. In the modern times, much less so. I very much think South Asian comedians in some sense pigeonhole themselves, by trying to emulate past South Asian comedians, who were pigeonholed by the market. I do think now, and it is completely because of social media, there is a market for every kind of comedy. Like I said in my previous answer, I’d like to be a South Asian comedian with the confrontationality that we have historically only seen from Black comedians.
But you know who is really pigeonholed nowadays? Female comedians. This may be a tangent, but if there was a Female comedian that talked about Female issues, with the hostility towards men that Bill Burr will occasionally have towards women, in my opinion she would likely be the GOAT.
How do you feel social media such as Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Facebook, and Snapchat have changed comedy?
Social media has been a truly beautiful thing for comedy. It has completely decentralized the power structure of our business. Back in the day, if you wanted to get famous, you had to do comedy that appealed to the white men who held the power at the networks, at the talk shows, in the writers rooms. They still do control all those things, but now because of social media the people watching our stuff are representative of the population, and we can grow our followings because the market is wider. Now if you have a social media following, you have all the leverage, and therefore you see a multitude more styles of standup comedy out there. Also social media in my opinion is the third great comedy boom. Seinfeld made standup a household art form, Netflix made it possible for people to binge watch standup, and now Tiktok and Instagram have proliferated standup to the point where it is EVERYWHERE. There are more comedians than ever and there’s a bigger market for standup than ever.
Lastly, what do you hope individuals take away from this interview with Brown Girl Magazine?
Us Indian-Americans are at a very interesting financial and cultural intersection. Indians are the richest ethnicity in America, and culturally Indian parents will generally pay for their children’s college, unlike other ethnicities. If Indian parents were to hypothetically support their child to go into the arts, just like they may support them in getting their Masters degree, I believe Indians would have an astronomically higher chance of making it in the arts than anyone else. The greatest gift you can give your artist child is financial support in the early stages, since we all know the early stages of the arts make next to nothing. We just have to get rid of the Doctor, Lawyer, Engineer only BS that I would argue is a remnant of the Caste System in India.
Also, remember to call white people Euro-Americans. It helps the movement!
“Take what you want//Take everything” reflects on a time with my partner and our cat, Layla. It’s a retelling of the chaotic night I adopted her. I didn’t know why Layla hid from me. When I chased her around, it scared her more. “Take what you want//Take everything” juxtaposes our first night, filled with misunderstanding, with the rest of the time we spent together. My fond memories call back to the loving moments Layla and I shared.
Such memories defined us; they reverberated in my partnership. I wonder if my partner, like Layla, only remembers her fear of me, over our shared moments of love. The title, a Kanye West lyric, is an acknowledgment that their happiness together–without me–destroyed my sense of self. When I see their photos, I wonder if I can see myself reflected in their eyes. I wonder if they still keep kind moments of our time together.
I remember when she would look at me from behind a laundry basket.
A small simple cat with green owl eyes. She was afraid of her new home and its owner. Shit, I remember the night I got her, she hid under my bed, in the middle just out of my reach for maybe 6 hours, watching me. She didn’t eat anything the entire day. When the night fell I was afraid she’d starve or come out and attack me. I was just scared. I didn’t have a childhood pet, I’m not white, I didn’t know what to do. I picked up the whole bed and yelled that she needed to move. I chased her into the closet with a vacuum cleaner. When she ran in, I called my lover and yelled to her that she wasn’t helping enough, she needed to be there to help me. That was our first day together, me and that cat. No one will ever have that memory but me and maybe her.
It was during Ramadan, my first year fasting.
Our problems had already begun by then. Enough so that I decided to fast and show retribution. I’d try to change into a more patient and understanding self. Like the Prophet (SAW) I guess. To become someone that my lover could feel safe around. Somehow, getting a cat felt like it fit into that picture. I’d be a cat dad, you know, gentle. We’d raise her. I’d fast and become New Again. Maybe I’d wrap an inked tasbih around myself and show I’m a man of God.
I don’t know how a cat remembers fear any more than I know how a lover does.
I know her body stored it. My cat’s must have stored it too. That first night, I wish I could tell her that I was afraid too. It doesn’t make sense that I was afraid really — I’m bigger, more threatening. We don’t speak the same language anyway, so how could I ever tell her? She learned to trust me though, in her own way. Her small bean paws would press on my chest in the mornings. She’d meow to berate me for locking her out some nights, or when I was away from home too long.
She lives with my lover now. They share photos with me, they’re happy together.
I saw my lover once, it was on 55th and 7th, Broadway shined blue performance lights over us. She wore a red sacral dress. She said her mental health has never been better. I think she was trying to tell me that she’s doing well, because she knows I care for her. I don’t think she was trying to say she’s happier without me. We don’t speak the same language. I actually think they are happier with just each other. And I loved them both, so it hurts. Sometimes, not all the time. And it doesn’t always hurt that bad. Other times it does get pretty bad, though. I probably owe it to myself to say that.
I look back at the photos, the ones of our life together, and the ones of their new life.
Two green owl eyes, and two brown moonlit eyes. I look for myself in them.
“Confessions to a Moonless Sky” is a meditation on the new moon and guilt. I wrote it when I was living in Dallas and was driving back from a dusk prayer. The new moon terrified me on that drive. I was diseased by the knowledge that my partner, at the time, had seen the worst parts of me. There’s immense shame in this piece—it seized my self-image. If the moon could become brand new, then I could start over.
I often ponder on the moon’s reflective nature and pairs of eyes. I’m hyper-fixated on how I am seen by others. Unfortunately, the brilliance of seeing your reflection in another person leads to negativity. After all, those who are too keen on their own reflection are the same people who suffer from it. It is possible to use shame to fuel one’s retribution and personal growth, without becoming consumed by it.
We can look to Shah Rukh Khan succumbing to alcoholism in his own sorrow and then later imbibing his sadness in Chandramukhi. “Confessions to a Moonless Sky” is a lesson for us: Don’t be Shah Rukh Khan in Devdas, instead embody pre-incarnation Shah Rukh Khan in Om Shanti Om!
Sometimes when the moon abandons the sky, I wonder if I drove her away.
If she comes back, will she be the same? How I wish she would come back new, truly new! That way she’d have no memory of the sin I’ve confessed to her. You noxious insect. Sin-loving, ego-imbibing pest. You are no monster, for at least a monster has ideology, it sins with purpose. You sin just to chase ignominy.
But the moon won’t say that, she never does. She’ll just leave the sky and return days later, slowly. And I’ll wonder if she’s new, perhaps she won’t remember my past confessions. What does it matter? Were the moon replaced with one from a different god, I’d drive her away, too.