• Electronic / World Fusion / Drum & Bass
  • Location:
    ASIA: Singapore
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Growing up in Singapore, Rajesh Hardwani (a.k.a. r-H) fed himself musically on everything from funk and soul, to blues and hip-hop. This wide variety of influences would later play a vital role in his work as a musician, though he eventually expanded his creative palette even further to include electronica, big beat, drum and bass, jazz, and much more. It’s no surprise that some people find it difficult to classify his style. However, what may come as a surprise is how easily r-H takes these countless influences and meshes them together into a remarkably cohesive and wildly infectious sound that is all his own.

r-H got his start as a DJ back in the 80s, though he soon found himself spending more time at the microphone than at the decks. Soon he was writing his own rap songs, which he would later perform while serving as MC at different events. “This emboldened me to record and produce my own album,” he recalls. But although r-H had the songs, he didn’t have the beats to support them, and with the cost of digital music gear being much higher back then, he couldn’t afford the equipment to create the beats he needed. He also had a mandatory stint of military service on the horizon, and he quickly realized that his musical aspirations would have to be put on hold.

"Think Bruce Lee mashed up with Amitabh Bachan. One of the most innovative new tracks!"- DJ Adil Ray, BBC Asian Network, on r-H's song, Tim Sum Vindaloo from Black Asia Volume 1

But his time with the military proved to be a blessing of sorts, because it was in boot camp that he met Anthony P V, who would later serve as the sound engineer on r-H’s debut rap album, Ethnic Jam, which r-H began working on in 1994. The album was released two years later, and stood out from other rap albums because of the way the raps were fused with Indian percussion. Aside from the help of Anthony P V, the creation of the album was largely a one-man show, with r-H writing, composing, producing, designing, and marketing the album himself, making it a tremendous learning experience for the young musician.

“It was one of my most trying moments,” says r-H of the album’s creation, “but I loved every minute of it. The bulk of my salary went into recording costs and printing the CDs. It was scary. I did not know, at times, what I was doing. I knew very well that I wasn’t going to make up for all of the expenses. This is Singapore, and local music productions don’t do that well.” But financial success was not the immediate goal. More important than that, r-H was still searching for his musical voice, and the hard work he put into his debut album helped him find it.

Instead of being inspired to begin work on another, r-H completed his first rap album and decided to take a different path, one that led toward working as a producer and remixer. “I came out focused and confident,” recalls r-H of completing his debut album, “and I learned how to use digital audio workstations and everything else about digital technology for the music and recording industry. I learned how to prepare press releases for various industries and what were the best times to send them out. I learned about the process behind the manufacturing of CDs, and the buying and selling policies at record stores, the importance of coding, that is, Universal Product Code and International Stndard Recording Code (UPC and ISRC). You couldn't learn this at school back then. You need to be hands-on with some element of pressure to succeed in this sort of environment. For me, finance was the pressure.”

"I don’t believe that there is a more proper group of words than “Has that girl just stuck her wet finger in a light socket?” to describe what I look like as a result of the excitement that I have pent up inside of myself in the anticipation of listening to this album."- Elley Wilson, IOM Magazine, on BlackAsia Volume 1

But the financial pressure that forced him to learn all angles of the music industry also helped his creative side take major strides forward, and all of the new knowledge he accumulated helped develop many of the strategies he has been refining and perfecting ever since. These days, r-H uses hand-held digital recorders to collect sound samples, and digital audio workstations to edit and fine-tune them. When he is satisfied, he blends the resulting sounds with Asian instrumentation and weaves a theme of hip-hop, jazz, or drum and bass through the entire piece.

An avid traveler, r-H takes his digital gear with him wherever he goes in order to record any sights and sounds that may become part of or inspiration for future audio and visual creations. This helps explain some of the remarkable diversity of r-H’s music, which includes elements of Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Malaysian, and Arabian cultures. The diversity is obvious not just from track to track or from one album to the next, but even within the course of a single song. When asked what makes his style unique, r-H answers, “Various genres and sounds from different lands in one track. I can not help but produce this way. I can start with a hip-hop beat and a cello as the bass, but have the Chinese erhu and pipa take over the melody and the Indian sitar bring in the hook. The bridge could be a drum and bass groove with Punjabi chanting. It’s music. It’s a repository of cultures through sound, and the variations in the track express my mood at the time of production.” This diverse approach to the craft seems to be attracting a diverse audience, as r-H already has fans scattered across the globe, from Iceland and the Netherlands to Malaysia and Australia.

"BlackAsia Volume 1 is an amazing cross-fertilization of different Asian influences, and ingeniously reflects the cultural mix-up Singapore lives in. Speaking about Asian fusion funk...dammit! This cd will def. be worn out of being played too many times, will seriously need to make a backup copy!" - DJ Kamisetti, Netherlands

Despite all this, you may still find yourself wondering what the music sounds like. In order to answer this question, we must first look at some of r-H’s influences, which he is more than happy to discuss. Earth, Wind and Fire, Kool and the Gang, KC and the Sunshine Band, Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock, L.L. Cool J, Run DMC, KRS 1, Mozart, Bach, Sly and the Family Stone, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, A.R. Rahman, James Brown, B.B. King, Aerosmith, Wise Guys. These are just a few, though this partial list helps us see how diverse r-H is in both his listening and his creating. But you must also ask about artists he sees as similar and like-minded in what they create. Moby, Fat Boy Slim, Nitin Sawney, Badmarsh and Shri, Photek, Talvin Singh, Chemical Brothers, Basement Jaxx, DJ Icey, DJ Shadow, Karsh Kale, Groove Armada. Again, this is just a small portion of a long list.

But perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind is that r-H is not a musician that simply chops up and regurgitates things that other musicians have already done. His influences range from the aforementioned lists of fellow musicians, to the people and politics of the worlds around him. “I read all the time,” says r-H. “Psychology, culture, technology, and travel excite me. Such information makes you think. While most of my musical work is instrumental, my approach to a project and the feel of the track is based on my thought process at that time, and sometimes that depends on what recently had a great influence on me. It’s usually a subject that I just read.”

With his debut electronica album, Black Asia Volume 1, r-H has taken one big step toward reaching the goals he has set for himself, which include remixing for established artists worldwide and making a living through his music. Using an astounding variety of instrumentation, r-H aims to show you how Thai, Japanese, and Indian grooves and chants sound when layered over break beat and drum and bass.

And he isn’t going to just sit back and wait to be noticed. In addition to promoting Black Asia Volume 1, r-H is already hard at work on Black Asia Volume 2. In the future, r-H hopes to become involved with more remixing collaborations with other artists, and he plans to produce a sound library of Asian sounds and effects. But his aspirations in regard to the Asian culture do not stop there. “I want to see Asian artists and musical instruments receive recognition and success worldwide. I realize that Asian musicians tend to be followers and not leaders. That is, they’d sing in their mother-tongue, but to UK garage, American hip-hop, or blues. You never find it the other way around, and you can’t blame them. It’s a business at the end of the day, and the demand and supply factor plays a huge part. I incorporate ‘Asianism’ in my tracks, and I hope to show the world that Asian music and instruments can play a major role in music production, regardless of genre.”

"The aspect of his song, Sushi, from BlackAsia Volume 1, that really impressed the judges is its creativity. In a musical climate where there is so little risk-taking, the song Sushi is refreshing in its originality. With over 11,000 entries from 77 countries, winning ISC is a tremendous accomplishment for an artist." - Candace Avery, Founder, International Song Writing Competition, Nashville, TN

Obviously, r-H is an artist who has set a high bar for himself, but he is also an artist who seems capable of going above and beyond that to which he currently aspires.


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  • Profile Last Updated:
    06/09/18 16:46:03
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