R&B/Pop singer Ranjini is the latest singer to throw her hat in the competitive world of Female singers. The one thing that sets her apart from the other singers is that she has her own R&B sound; with her naturally high tone and training in East Indian singing art-form called Carnatic music; Ranjini has created a unique sound that is mesmerizing.
By fighting the pressures of her Indian Culture, Ranjini is steadily proving to herself and others that you can follow your dreams and have a successful career in the arts. She is truly a shining star that is about to set the world on fire.
SayWhatNews: Tell us something about Ranjini no one knows.
Ranjini: The very first time I ever sang a solo on stage, I was 6 years old… and terrified. I sang the whole song with my head facing down towards the floor. Even now, years later, there's still a side of me that's hopelessly shy!
SayWhatNews: Where did you grow up?
Ranjini: I was born and raised in the suburbs of Richmond, VA
SayWhatNews: At what age did you start singing and dancing?
Ranjini: I remember seriously singing at 5 years old, and a year later, my mother started me in classical Indian dance lessons.
SayWhatNews: Have you had any professional training?
Ranjini: My mother, also a classically trained musician, was my first vocal coach. She was intent on teaching me the East Indian singing art-form known as Carnatic music. I credit her with training my ear, teaching me vocal control, and foremost, gifting me with a love for music.
Later, throughout junior high and high school, my performance training really came from being in my school show choir. I was blessed to have a director who really believed in me and made me realize that I could actually sing and perform professionally. So with each solo, I knew it was an opportunity to hone my craft on stage.
Like I said before, I had to overcome that fear of being in front of crowds, so in that way, experience was the best teacher. Finally, when I met and auditioned for Quincy Patrick, and he signed me to his label, Qwilite Records, everything else that I was missing as far as being an artist, he stepped in and guided me. He's worked with some of the greats from Usher to Alicia Keys, so I've been lucky to have someone of his caliber training me every day towards my goal!
SayWhatNews: Ranjini you learned how to play the piano by ear. What inspired you to learn how to play the piano?
Ranjini: It's funny because no one else in my family plays the keys, but I remember being in my elementary school music class, and I had to have been about 5 or 6, and they had this upright piano for the teacher to use. All the time, I'd see my classmates going up and playing whatever they knew on the piano, and I remember just wishing I could play.
So my Dad bought me this small keyboard, and the first thing I learned to play by ear was "Heart and Soul". After 2 years of playing by ear, my parents saw I was serious and then decided to help me find a teacher. 2 years after that, they bought me my first piano, and that's when I just went crazy with it! I've always been inspired by artists like Stevie Wonder, Richard Marx, and Brian McKnight because not only are they amazing songwriters, but phenomenal pianists as well.
SayWhatNews: Do you play any other instruments?
Ranjini: Yes, I play an Indian stringed instrument called the "Veena". It's very similar to the sitar. My mother is an incredible Veena player, and she passed the art down to my sister and me.
SayWhatNews: Tell us about your culture and why did you have to fight the pressures from the Indian Society because you wanted to follow your heart/love of music to become a singer?
Ranjini: First let me say that I'm very proud of my East-Indian heritage – specifically the spiritual values that Indian culture has embedded in my lifestyle. However, Indian society as a whole puts a great emphasis on doing well in school, and pursuing higher education as the only means to becoming successful.
I was taught by my parents to do it all and do it all well. I had to be a stellar student plus a great dancer, singer, and pianist. But what no Indian parent expects is for their child to fall in love with an "extracurricular activity" to the point that that's what they choose for their career.
For me, the arts weren't just hobbies – it was so much more. So when I chose to leave school (at the time I was in my first year at NYU), that was when the fight really ended. The struggle was internal, and I was finally free when I just accepted that there would be people from my community that wouldn't agree with my choice, even if they meant well – and I had no intention of fighting a backwards mentality. Instead, I choose to focus my energy in the studio.
SayWhatNews: Do you still experience those pressures?
Ranjini: Not so much anymore, maybe because I'm just kind of over it. I'm sure there are still people I grew up with that think I'm crazy for trying to make it in the record industry. I believe that you can choose to be put under pressure, or choose against it. In most cases, no one else can forcefully pressure you into anything. The only pressure I allow myself to feel is when I see a great performance by Beyonce or Chris Brown, or watch live performance videos of Michael Jackson back in the day. That kind of pressure is good, 'cause it gets me right out of my chair and into work mode.
SayWhatNews: How hard was it to put your college career on hold and pursue your dream as a recording artist?
Ranjini: It was like standing on a cliff and getting ready to jump. You know once you jump, you can't get back on that cliff. And yes, I know college will always be there, but for what? Just to be able to say I have a degree? If my dream was to become a doctor or lawyer, then of course I would have to go to school. But what I want is to record music and perform for people, and help inspire future generations of Indians to pursue careers in the arts too. For my dream, school wasn't part of the equation.
SayWhatNews: Quincy “Q” Patrick the CEO of Qwilite Entertainment who has composed hits for artist like Alicia Keys, Usher and Babyface is your mentor; tell us how you were discovered?
Ranjini: While I was still in New York going to school, I auditioned for Q to be in a girl group. He was forming a multi-cultural group and he thought it would be really different to have an Indian girl in the mix. I remember I was real nervous auditioning for him, 'cause when I walked into his studio, I immediately saw all his gold and platinum records on the wall and, needless to say, I was very intimidated.
I sang "His Eye Is On the Sparrow" a cappella for him, and a couple days later he signed me to his group. What a lot of people don't know is that I actually sang back-up for two of the girls most of the time. But once in a while I was given a lead part and little by little, my confidence started to build.
I learned so much about my voice and performing when I was in that group. It was like going from being the star player on the high school basketball team, to being drafted for the NBA. I was a rookie! But like so many other girl groups, ours fell apart. We had done a few shows in the New York area, and what I didn't know that Q later told me, was that a few audience members had approached him about doing a solo record on me. Once the group broke up, he told me it would be a lot of work, but I had a good shot at being a solo artist. And that's where we are now.
SayWhatNews: What sets you apart from other R&B/Pop artist?
Ranjini: I'm rooted in R&B but I can flip it at any time and sing in Hindi without a trace of that soulful R&B flavor. I think my tone, which is naturally on the high end, also kind of sets me apart; it has a bit of that Indian nasal touch to it. I used to think it was annoying to listen to, but later I realized that might just be my signature sound.
SayWhatNews: Which artist or group would you love to do a collaboration with and why?
Ranjini: I'd love to collab with Sean Paul. I love reggae, always have, and I think reggae beats marry well with Indian-inspired hooks – that would be something kinda hot. Also Alicia Keys, two pianos back-to-back come to mind. That would just be amazing.
SayWhatNews: What CD are you currently listening to that you can’t get enough of?
Ranjini: I keep my iPod on shuffle, 'cause my attention span is very limited! But my two biggest influences are Beyonce and Michael Jackson. If I went into study mode, I'd pick up their CD's and listen from beginning to end. Same thing with their performance DVD's…amazing.
SayWhatNews: Ranjini, you have performed in Canada, India and throughout the U.S. what do you like to do to have fun?
Ranjini: I love to cook. I'm always trying out new recipes and testing my goods out on whoever's around. Practicing the piano for fun is actually relaxing for me. When I’m not rehearsing a song for my set, you can catch me playing a classical or jazz piano piece – I don't sing at all when I'm playing these songs, I just listen. It's Super-relaxing.
I'm also a big movie buff. I get my rentals mailed to me from blockbuster, so whenever I get a chance to chill, there's usually a movie waiting to be watched. And it's not often that I get to go back home to VA, but when I do, nothing tops that. Being with my family and just being able to goof off and be myself with them is the best!
SayWhatNews: Who picks out your clothes and decides on your hair style?
Ranjini: Right now… I am! I can't wait to get some help in this area. I have my own sense of fashion, and I know what looks good on me and what doesn’t (heels yes, flats no – I'm a shorty). I do my own make-up most of the time, and as far as the hair goes, I've been going to the same salon for years. All the stylists there are Brazilian and beautiful, and they really know what they're doing. I love 'em.
SayWhatNews: Do you have a favorite fashion designer? Who and Why?
Ranjini: I like Nicole Miller, and there's this other line, Jovani. Both designers are feminine and sexy at the same time. Great red-carpet pieces! For more street wear, I like KLS, AppleBottoms, and Rocawear. I have a pair of the best figure-hugging straight leg jeans from Dereon in my closet… I can't help but feel sexy when I rock those.
SayWhatNews: When can we expect an album?
Ranjini: Sometime in 2008. We've recorded close to 50 songs for this upcoming album. The hardest part is going to be picking the 12 that will make the cut. All killers no fillers… you'll be able to listen to the CD from beginning to end without wanting to skip.
SayWhatNews: What’s in the future for Ranjini?
Ranjini: In addition to the album release, we're working on some international shows right now - Germany, Japan, and of course India. I'm also performing for the Asian Music Awards in London, that's gonna be in March. And we've been in talks with some producers over in Bollywood about doing some work on an upcoming film. I'm really excited about that! In the meantime, my first two singles, an upcoming "This Guy" and "MusicBox", as well as my remix to "Don't Matter" feat. Akon are getting added to rotation across the U.S. It's been a great year, and 2008 God-willing will be even bigger!