Syracuse is home to a nearly endless pool of creative talent. From musicians to writers, some gain recognition for their abilities while far too many go unnoticed. Even as I make it my mission to actively seek out these artists, I’m often surprised by the sheer abundance of hidden treasure I find under the hustle-and-bustle of campus life.
Ruchir is a DJ, producer, designer, artist and sophomore in SU’s Bandier Program, “a study of the business of music, media, marketing and entrepreneurship” that prepares students for the music industry, according to the program’s website. I had known of Ruchir when he first released “Sleepless,” but it wasn’t until recently that I learned he is an SU student. Since dropping his hit, “Sleepless,” in 2017, his musical career has been steadily rising, gaining thousands, if not more, of new listeners on Soundcloud, Spotify, Youtube and other streaming platforms.
Ruchir shared with me his work, life, inspirations, being a student-musician and the uniqueness of his cultural makeup. Born in India, raised in Hong Kong, and later moving to Dubai around the age of 14, Ruchir said, “I'm not your typical Indian kid and I'm not just your average kid from Dubai.” It shows in his music. Drawing inspiration from the fluidity of his cultural heritage, Ruchir said, “I’ve grown up having those lines blurred, and I hope to blur some more lines with my music.”
When he moved to Dubai, a whole new place for him, he couldn’t DJ anymore. His mom suffered a stroke and within that same week, he experienced the loss of his uncle. “It was like, I was barely even in Dubai because I was in India dealing with my family situation,” he said.
“I could remember sitting in the hospital room next to my mom and she was crying. I couldn't do anything,” but Ruchir kept making music during that difficult time. “To me, the only thing I could do was to make music, right? It was how I knew to express myself. It was supernatural,” he said.
Ruchir believes that being an artist is, in part, “all about turning a bad circumstance into something positive, and seeing what you can get from that.”
Throughout his life, his mom has been one of his biggest inspirations. She started painting when Ruchir was around seven or eight years old and he developed a taste for creative work as well, playing the guitar and drawing and painting. “Just seeing my mom commit the time to become such a good painter really inspires me,” he said. “Seeing someone who’s raised two kids, is a homemaker and finds time to learn how to paint and be really good at it — That's just been the biggest inspiration to me growing up with my mother being extremely close with her.”
Ruchir finds influence for his sound from many places; growing up in different cultural landscapes and listening to drastically difference music has made it impossible for him “to make just one kind of music or to stick to the conventions of genres.”
“In my music, there [are] semblances of sounds that are inspired [by] India, like Bollywood music. Then there [are] sounds that are inspired by Hong Kong, which is where I got my first introduction to EDM. Asia is a hub for electronic music now, so that was life changing for me and really got my tastes for a DJ down. And In Dubai, a lot of British kids live there so I really got into the grind there and was inspired by pop music. So, all my moves and all the places I've been to have a direct correspondence to my music.”
“Without making it sound corny, I want to make my music global in the regard that I want it to transcend cultural conventions,” said Ruchir. Combining inspirations from pop, hip-hop and dance music, Ruchir has carved his own place in the music scene with his “crossover sound,” synthesizing a musical category entirely of his own design.
Ruchir’s "crossover sound" is, however, more than just a new musical “genre” — it serves as the preeminent articulation of his entire musical philosophy. Rather than identifying with pop, hip-hop or dance music, which all entail some expectation of how they "should" sound, Ruchir claims right to his own distinct category of music. With this, he’s been able to liberate himself from the limitations of conventional musical expectations. Instead of '“furthering” or “evolving” an existing genre, Ruchir prefers to carve out various pieces of different genres, reassembling them, creating something distinct from, and in many ways greater than, the very inspirations he began with. One could also interpret his “crossover sound” as an outright rejection of “genre” altogether, by which Ruchir attempts to challenge the contemporary labels that society seems adamantly determined to preserve.
In practice, Ruchir’s philosophy manifests itself in the ever-constant improvement, refinement and evolution of his music. He said that he can never stop learning or drawing inspiration from wherever life takes him. A challenging endeavor indeed, Ruchir has tasked himself with establishing a “core sound” where no conventions can apply to him while also trying to develop, for himself, “a semblance of what a Ruchir song sounds like.”
When asked how being a student has affected his musical career, Ruchir said that it’s a double-edged sword. Being part of the Bandier Program presents him with a network of people all involved in different things. “But I'm kind of caught up in my own world, my own thing,” he said. “That doesn't take away from what the program offers you, but it has definitely affected my time commitment.”
Ruchir said that he’s been in meetings with record labels or had his manager call him and tell him that he’s just not putting in the time that's conducive to being a full-time artist. “How do you expect to be treated like one?” they said. Moments like these led him to realize that he has to buckle down and commit the time to his career.
On the other hand, he said that being a Bandier student has exposed him to a lot of new music and perspectives on music. “I think it's easy to get caught up in an echo chamber if you're just talking to your friends, but the Bandier Program has definitely opened up my mind musically,” said Ruchir.
Many others find themselves in a similar position, trying to navigate the complex industry. To Ruchir, being a student offers the luxury and access to learn everything, though learning effective time management is part of it too. “I think that a lot of people are obsessed with the label of being something before they put in the work to do that,” he said. “We’re kids, so people wanna put ‘rapper’ in their Instagram bio, or label owner or artist/producer, but people don't want to take the time to really get good at what they're doing.”
“If you're really serious about wanting to be a musician, you're going to have to make sacrifices on the life you live. You're not going to have time to go to parties every week. You're not going to have time to join clubs and stuff, but really commit the time to sharpen your craft.”
Despite his success, Ruchir said he lives a “relatively mundane life” here in Syracuse. He finishes class and spends what little time he has left practicing and producing. “It's all about making those time commitments to yourself and fulfilling that time,” he said.
The first time he realized that he was really becoming an artist was when he walked into the office of a major label one day and the executive whom he looks up to shook his hand and said, “Hey Ruchir, I'm a great fan of your music.”
“I see myself as a kid, I mean, I'm just a student right?” he said. “That was really surreal to me, because I've done this all myself. I started out of my bedroom and I learned everything. The past 6 years, it’s all gotten me here.”
Ruchir is excited to soon drop his first EP, a nine-song-long project, on May. 31 in the same month he leaves school. “I've put the last three years of my life, blood, sweat and tears into it,” he recommends listening to it “end-to-end.” He’s also launching his first line of merchandise and hopes to start a clothing company with it too.
Apart from these exciting undertakings, Ruchir is looking forward to working with inspiring talents from all over the world and “being really in the trenches to see what it's like to witness the real world.”
A talented musician and student, Ruchir lives a fascinating life in Syracuse. Thinking about the potentially rich lives behind the sea of distinct faces on campus often helps me put my own life into perspective and makes me appreciate the campus and community that we all call home. Check out Ruchir’s latest track “Young N Poppin” below and look out for more features of local talents in future Mixtapes!
Austin Coldon is a junior studying philosophy at Syracuse University. He will curate a biweekly Mixtape: a Soundcloud playlist that grapples with the music of our times.