Rimi Reaches for a New Market with “The Unveiling” and “Crossing Over”
It’s always a challenge for foreign based artists to break into another market, especially one that’s already so saturated with homegrown artists. But Indian-American artist Rimi, who has already experienced success back home on Indian music charts and headlined multiple conferences and festivals around the world, is willing to bet on herself. Unafraid to blend Hindi and English lyrics, along with a soundscape that is can be considered both nostalgic and an amalgam of two cultures, Rimi comes to us with re-releases of her first two albums: The Unveiling and Crossing Over.
The opening track on Rimi’s The Unveiling is “Surmayee”. The song starts off slowly and softly with some gentle plucking, eventually being layered with Rimi’s delightful vocals (just a pleasure to listen to in spite of the language barrier). Further along, male vocals punctuate the track with a handful of lines, the sole interruption to the tranquil ambience. “Surmayee” emerges as an incredibly soothing song, one that can really get you humming along despite not really understanding the lyrics.
Another track of note on the album is “Kel Du?” which is remarkably reminiscent of some pre-turn-of-the-century pop divas (think Britney Spears). A seductive line signals the beginning of the track: “Baby, there’s something I’ve been wanting to say, not sure if it’s the right time, but there’s something I want you to know”. The rest of the song follows the provocative tone established by this English intro, with both Rimi and her male backup belting out lines on top of some silky smooth 90’s R&B beat. Nostalgia abounds.
The final track on The Unveiling is “Habibi Remix” (remember when everything getting remixed was the “in” thing?). Unfortunately, the song sounds fairly unimaginative and fails to impress on any level. While the other songs in this album may have inspired a bit of nostalgia or borrowed elements from the North American music scene and applied them well, it is the mixing in “Habibi Remix” which falls flat and passes as amateur at best. The distortion on Rimi’s vocals does her no favours, and the beat, although flavoured with a hint of quirky Bollywood, lacks novelty. The result is a run-of-the-mill “filler track” which just might get rotation at a local bar (at best).
Rimi’s second album Crossing Over starts off with “Nesha Nesha”, where some brilliant strings and percussion really shine from beginning to end, adding just the right amount of spice to the provocative track. Although it’s still not in English, this is a song which could definitely make it on to the mainstream if just for the sultry, seductive ambience which the song creates. This atmosphere created by “Nesha Nesha” is best found in a high end lounge, someplace Rimi might be frequenting soon enough should she start putting out similar tunes.
Another interesting listen on Crossing Over is “Jaami Jaami” (repetition is clearly a thing in Rimi’s titles) which has some considerable Western influence in its sound. The magnificent combination of brass and bongo really harkens the spirit of the soulful blues, infusing Rimi’s music with more dimensions and “reach”. It adds much needed credence to her goal of entering the North American market.
Crossing Over ends on “Shonay”, an upbeat song which uses the old “booting up” audio sound popular with so many hip hop artists back in the day to start things off (in my opinion: not a good move). There was nothing else impressive or notable about the track: lackadaisical vocals from Rimi, a dull and repetitive instrumental, and an overall lacklustre finish. There seems to be a pattern forming across Rimi’s final songs on albums.
Although there was a ton of nostalgia which could be felt listening to Rimi’s first album The Unveiling, it actually has very little in terms of a distinctive sound to offer the airwaves today. Rimi’s second album is different however, taking two steps forward. Crossing Over is true to its name: multiple tracks on the album try to break barriers between music genres to create truly interesting and engaging music. Rimi proves that even though she has some more work to do with regard to maintaining a consistently enjoyable sound that doesn’t falter and fall too often into “mediocre” territory, there is enough talent in the albums to justify an attempt at crossing over into the American market. It’ll be a difficult road for sure, but she has the potential to succeed given time.