New York-based Singer Rianjali on How Music is Her Religion and Prayer

by BG Staff

This post was originally published on our partner website

When she was just six-years-old, Deepanjali Bhowmick accidentally stumbled upon her destiny as a singer in the most unusual of ways.

“One day, I was taking a bath with all my rubber duckies and my dad heard me singing one of his Bengali songs from front to back. He had never taught it to me, but I was jamming out to it thinking I had utter privacy,” Bhowmick said. “He walked in and I got surprised [and] embarrassed. After I got out, he sat me down and asked me where I had learned the song and he asked me if I wanted to learn North Indian classical music from his Guru’s daughter, who had just moved here. I shyly answered ‘yes’ and thus began my journey. I didn’t necessarily ever want to get famous, but I knew I would literally die without music. It is my oxygen.”

Bhowmick’s father was a well-known Bengali singer in Bangladesh in his teens and early 20s. Even though she grew up listening to his music her entire life, her father never forced her into a music career.

Now, nearly two decades later, Bhowmick—commonly known by her stage name, Rianjali—has fully embraced her fate though there have been challenges along the way.

“I was born in Manhattan, but my parents sent me to New Delhi, India, because [my mother] made the brave decision to go to nursing school. My dad worked late nights and double shifts, and my brother was only five-years-old. It would have been a task to send a newborn to a babysitter, so I was raised by my grandparents and my aunt until I was about five,” Bhowmick said. “I barely even knew who my parents were. I thought New Delhi was my home and I loved it there.”

“When I got back to Queens, New York, my current home, I absolutely despised my parents simply because I wanted to go back to my grandparents and I didn’t understand why they took me away from them,” she continued. “It was just a confusing time and it took me over a decade to realize the sacrifice my parents had made and how hard it really was for them.”

When asked to describe her singing, Rianjali said that people have described her style as “Norah Jones meets Alicia Keys meets Adele” type-of-sound.

“I’m not entirely sure what that means, but those are some talented people, so I’ll take it!” she said. “I think I would say I’ve got a light R&B and acoustic pop type of style.”

Rianjali enjoys a wide variety of musical genres, finding inspiration from artists like The Beatles, to Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson. But if she had to choose one artist she looks up to most, Rianjali said that it would be Justin Timberlake.

“If I met him, I would just want to pick his brain. I know a lot of people might say, “really? JT? It’s probably because he’s hot’ — but he is one of the biggest pop stars in the world and [when I] look at him, he exudes humility and class,” she said. “You’ll never hear anything bad about him, and somehow, being married to Jessica Biel, he’s managed to maintain his privacy. He’s just a guy I feel like I’d be good friends with, and it doesn’t hurt that he’s ridiculously talented and hilarious.”

While Rianjali has always been drawn to American music and the majority of her music is English, she has never lost touch with her South Asian roots.

“[In music,] I started off with Hindustani Classical at around six, and I continued studying until I was about 17. As we all know, being in college doesn’t give you much time to continue practicing as much and I definitely veered off for a bit,” she said. “When I started playing guitar and singing things other than Indian classical, I knew that I wouldn’t forget where I came from and what got me here. One of the songs on my album will be a fusion song: R&B-based with tabla (Indian drums) and Indian classical in the background. It’s definitely one of my favorites and I think people will be pleasantly surprised. My South Asian culture will always be an influence and I’m rather proud of it.”

She noted that, as a South Asian performer, there is an awareness that South Asians are under-represented in the music industry in the U.S.

“Places like Canada and the U.K. have such a huge platform for South Asian artists. Lately, I’ve been meeting so many talented South Asians—producers, rappers, singers, visual artists, etc. I just wonder what could happen if we all just got together and put our efforts together, she said. “It could be explosive and amazing,” she said.

Rianjali’s real name is Deepanjali, but growing up, she said her grandmother called her “Ria,” and the name stuck.

“Music is basically my religion and prayer, even after I stopped identifying with God,” she added. “Ria, meaning “singer,” and “Anjali,” the second half of my name, Deepanjali, meaning prayer, equals Rianjali. Music is my prayer.”

Rianjali is currently working on her EP, which she hopes will be out by the end of the year. For up-to-date information about Rianjali’s music, fans can check out her website, where visitors will be directed to download links for her upcoming album. You can also get updates by following her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Soundcloud.

Be sure to also listen to Brown Boy Kaly’s “New World” featuring our new favorite Brown Girl Rianjali!

[Read Related: Hip-Hop Artist and Brown Boy Kaly on Feeling Like an Outcast in the Music Industry]

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