Madonna, Cher, Beyoncé, Adele, and Lorde. What comes to mind when you think of these names? They’re all women? Check. They’ve provided the soundtracks of their generations with their iconic musical hits? Indeed. But perhaps the simplest comparison is that each of these artists have reached international success all the while being known by just one name. Now we can add yet another artist to that distinct category and her name is Ridi.
The European singer of Indian descent is just getting started but is already on track to have one of the most influential careers. The 17-year-old high school senior has already released her debut single Top Guy along with its music video and is set to release her next single later this year. During our conversation, Ridi opened up about her musical influences, her passions, why she stands so strongly for anti-bullying, and what she hopes to achieve once her music is released into the zeitgeist.
Perhaps the question people might want to know the most is who is Ridi? “I’m a high school senior turned musician. It’s a mixed life for me at the moment. I attend school during the day and at night, I get out my piano and start singing and producing music. I’m someone who stands very strongly for anti-bullying and for the awkward people like me who may find it difficult to speak their feelings and emotions. At the moment I’m doing what I love and figuring myself out.”
Having lived in different countries as a child, Ridi gained exposure to the different genres of music that developed her musical training. She fell in love with the art of being able to express her feelings and emotions through song as it provided a comfort she hadn’t experienced before. “Music became my friend and my outlet to express my feelings and thoughts. I started writing a few songs here and there and that eventually led to what became my first single, Top Guy, which I also produced, that ultimately led me to where I am now.” Although she’s been compared to artists like Fiona Apple and Billie Eilish, she shared that some of her other musical influences are artists like Indila and Sam Smith. Songs that are heartfelt and that take you on an emotional journey are the types of artists that inspire her the most.
The emotions drawn from Ridi that is ultimately reflected in her music is that of cyberbullying and online harassment which permeates the discourse of her generation. When I asked her how she plans to navigate such a public career as a new artist and how she believes she can move past the inevitable opinions of others, she said, “I think because I went through my own experience of harassment from people who were the closest to me at the time, that has helped me in a way, because now I can embark on this musical journey and be prepared for what comes my way next. But even if I do receive backlash or criticism, it’s worth it if I’m able to help others understand and figure themselves out in the same way I’m doing with myself, through my own journey.”
Viewers can take a closer look inside Ridi’s experience through her music video for Top Guy. The video was shot in Paris and depicts the singer on trial and facing judgment from a group of her peers. The judge, jury, and bystanders are in the form of animals, giving into the animalistic characteristics of not thinking before making a judgment on someone, and their white eyes illustrate ignoring and not seeing someone’s perspective while in distress and not understanding their story. The end of the video displays a newspaper article with the header reading, “Will the Court Give Justice to Ridi – School Tried to Silence Ridi After Harassment Allegations.” When speaking on what inspired the subject matter for the video she says, “I went through a difficult time at one point where I was kicked out of my school where I’d spent 6 years of my life and I didn’t have anyone to talk to. The video represents a time in my life where I felt like everyone was judging me, and I know so many of my peers who also feel judged and misunderstood.”
An advocate against bullying, Ridi is using her platform beyond music to proselytize and spread awareness against cyberbullying and online harassment. Her nonprofit, Stop the B, that she co-founded with her sister Vasundhara, aims to promote awareness around the issues of bullying as well as to encourage others to become bystanders. By learning more about the various forms of verbal, emotional, and social violence that can occur, others can become engaged in combating the problem too. The organization also encourages the survivors of bullying to share their stories in order to rid
themselves of the negative stigma attached to talking about being victimized. When it comes to her goals for the organization, Ridi expresses that although the topic of bullying can be seen as cliché, she hopes that Stop the B “will allow students in school to become less closed off about it. We’re all a little awkward and we all have our flaws. But at the end of the day, it’s not about fitting in, it’s about being comfortable with yourself, and you don’t need anyone’s approval to do that.”
Ridi’s passionate efforts have not gone unnoticed as both she and her sister received a prestigious invitation to speak at the UNESCO World Anti-Bullying Forum in Sweden, making them the youngest speakers ever to participate in this esteemed event. Ridi explains what she hopes to leave with the audience. “Our goal is to speak about bullying from the young person’s perspective. The academics and scientists who speak there have so much experience with bullying and they know a lot about the topic, but we’re presenting our perspective and talking about positive reinforcements. For example, we believe it would beneficial if you used a point system where, if you’re a bystander to someone being bullied and you intervene or you’re a part of an organization that fights against bullying, you can earn points towards your college record which is a highlight for any high school student who wants to have an impressive resume for college applications. We would like to encourage this to be more of an everyday thing where people are motivated to become active bystanders to help make the topic of bullying less cliché.”
When she’s not making music or working to end bullying, Ridi is your average teenager. She loves to ski and enjoys spending time with her pug. She loves studying chemistry and plans to major in STEM once she begins college. Just like music, science has also served as an escape for her, and she plans to pursue both ventures as they’re both her passions. “I want to pursue science and do it well along with music because girls can do everything. So why not? Girl Power!”
Multifaceted, Ridi is not to be placed in a box, which is reflected on her upcoming EP. She notes that on this project, she explores the different facets of her emotions and feelings. There’s something for everyone. Some songs express the feeling of loneliness even when there are others around you while others have more of an angry tone where one rebels against societal pressures of fitting into certain constructs. And of course, there’s the lead single Top Guy which is a reflection of her own personal experience. When I asked her what she hopes listeners will take away from the EP, she says, “I wrote these songs at different times of my emotional phase. So, I hope listeners will get to know me better after listening to it.”
As we close out our interview, I asked Ridi what impact she hopes to have with her music on a global scale. In a reflective and calm voice, she said, “The one thing I would love is for people to feel more comfortable with themselves. I know that I’m a very awkward person in certain social situations. I either clam up or stutter when I get nervous. But I hope that people will know that it’s okay to be awkward. I hope the dorks can win! I hope that people can see that those perfect constructs that society tries to place on us are not real and that they can be as awkward as they want, as loud as they want, be as disgusting as they want, and it’s all okay.”
Ridi’s journey of self-actualization is only just beginning. She credits music for giving her the freedom to understand and express her feelings. Having survived what others may see as insurmountable obstacles, Ridi has switched the narrative, taken control of her story, and redefined the conversation to that of strength, resilience, and self-acceptance. Not only has her music gained her the respect of producers and other industry heavyweights, but she’s creating space for those unseen not just through her advocacy work but with her distinct musical style just like the mononyms before her. Sharing the Gen-Z perspective, Ridi is the voice for social change.
Follow Ridi @realridi