1. What is your name and your profession(s)? Raashi Kulkarni
2. What is your ethnic background and what is your citizenship (US native or naturalized etc.)? Indian American
3. Are either/both of your parents musicians or somehow involved in the music industry? My parents have always been music lovers and enjoy to sing. Although they aren’t involved in the industry, they are very musical.
4. Please tell us a little bit about your experience, either growing up as an AAPI in America, or as a person of Asian descent who immigrated to America, whichever applies. As a first generation Indian American woman, I have often reckoned with the duality of my own identity. Born and raised in Maryland, I grew up with both American and Indian values. I was on the soccer team, and also an Indian folk dance team. I performed at piano recitals, and also performed Bollywood dances for family and friends. My sisters and I sang Broadway and Bollywood songs in the car, and spoke both English and Hindi at home. We lived in Maryland, but traveled to India once a year to visit family. I studied both Western and Indian classical music. My “Indianness” was never something that took away from my “Americanness” or vice versa - it was quite the opposite. My parents had raised my sisters and me to be proud of the fact that we were both Indian and American.
5. How connected do you feel to your heritage/culture(s)? I feel incredibly connected to my heritage. My parents instilled their values in my sisters and me.
6. 6a.) How did you get into music? Did you major in music in college? Where did you attend college/university (and grad school(s), if applicable) and in what subjects did you get your degree(s)? 6b.) When and how did you decide you were going to pursue music professionally? What were your parents’ reactions to you deciding to pursue music? Do they support your music career now? Music was always a staple in my family’s household. After gravitating towards the harmonium and keyboard in my home at a young age, my mom asked if I would be interested in taking piano lessons. It quickly became my outlet for expression. I went to The George Washington University, where I had a piano scholarship and studied both Economics and Music. After three years in the corporate world, gaining skills in time management, public speaking, and leadership, I left to pursue music full time. I got accepted into University of Southern California’s Screen Scoring graduate program and moved to Los Angeles in 2015. I am grateful that my parents have been supportive of my career and have empowered me to follow my dreams.
7. What are a few of your (music) projects of which you are the proudest? What were your roles on those projects? Beyond those projects, please feel free to name some of your other credits as well as any brands/companies you officially endorse. In late 2018, Warner Brothers hired me to compose the DC Universe’s first Bollywood-inspired musical number, featured on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. I understood the complexity of this endeavor and was able to leverage both sides of my identity to bring this project to fruition. Bridging my two worlds to create a composition for national television was a special milestone for me. (The episode is currently available to watch on Netflix!) My two independent music albums debuted at #1 and #2 on the iTunes World Music Charts in 2018 and 2020, respectively. I’ve been a scoring assistant on numerous projects including Tom Hanks’s latest film, Greyhound.
8. Describe to me your dream project. I would love to continue collaborating with artists who value the importance of authentic storytelling.
9. What are some obstacles you have encountered (if any) being an AAPI in the music world? What are some obstacles you have encountered (if any) as an AAPI in general (non-music)? Conversely, has being an AAPI ever helped you in the music industry? I have been prejudged on my skills as a musician based on my appearance alone. I have also been told to “go back to my country” even though I was born in the United States. Minorities and underrepresented voices face these issues everyday. I believe the entertainment industry has made well-intentioned strides towards inclusivity and hope that change continues to take hold.
10. 10a.) Who are some AAPI musicians/composers/producers who have previously inspired and currently inspire you (if any)? Why? 10b.) What are your hopes for the AAPI music community and your hopes for AAPIs in general? There are too many to name! Currently: Anoushka Shankar, Anderson .Paak, and Yo-Yo Ma to name a few. I hope that the AAPI music community thrives and that we are able to continue sharing our stories on mainstream platforms.
11. If you could give advice now to your younger teenage self, what would you tell her/him/they? Keep moving forward.
12. Do you have any upcoming projects for which you are excited and about which you are allowed to share? Is there anything non-music-related on the horizon about which you would like to share? I am currently working on a film that I am incredibly excited about. I will share more soon. :)
13. Name one or two non-music-related things/subjects about which you are also passionate.
I am passionate about music education continuing in our schools. I wouldn’t be who I am today without the musical experiences I had throughout my school years. I am also passionate about mental health awareness and advocacy. It is a subject that needs to be destigmatized.
14. Any final thoughts? (non-self-promotional). Alternatively, do you have any questions for me and/or the greater AAPI music community? Thanks for highlighting AAPI musicians, Summer. You’re a gem. <3.
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