“I enjoy being able to blend my perspectives of sound through Pakistani (desi) music and American music because I think it helps me create something transcendent.”
REHMA is the future. The 23-year-old Pakistani-American artist is creating waves with a dreamy fusion of American pop and Bollywood disco. “HYPNOTIC,” the latest single off her forthcoming project “Anomaly,” is a vibrant melting pot of inspiration pulling from neo-pop, progressive R&B, and electronic styles. The magnetic track was created within a community of femme creatives, with production by Alé Araya & Rhea Raj, direction by Elise Schatz, and styling by REHMA’s older sisters, Rumsha and Rohaina. REHMA is currently visiting Pakistan for the first time and spoke candidly with me via email. We chatted about her “moody booty” sound, her creative inspirations and goals, and how Pakistani culture has shaped her music. Read below for our full conversation:
Early Rising: Can you tell me more about the story behind HYPNOTIC? How did this track come to be?
REHMA: Hypnotic is a testament to the magic between women. I had a long period where I wasn’t able to work on music because I felt a disconnect with the industry. I recognized that this industry can be a very male-centered space, so my mission was to be around as many brilliant femme creatives as I could find. My first version of this song was with Rhea Raj, another South Asian-American artist. She and I resonated on the dulling experience of being brown girls and trying to convince people of being worthy to take up space. Our hook manifested as a reinforcement of our abilities and power. I knew after writing this, we had to take it to another woman for production. I sat with one of the best producers I know—Alé Araya. She’s a major part of my next project, “Anomaly”. She was able to sprinkle her genius on it and create this unique amount of negative space in the song but still make it bouncy and cinematic. She & I sat through about 7 sessions for that song specifically. We wanted to create a very singular experience. This is really my introduction to working with women in the industry, so this is only the beginning to the project.
ER: How would you describe the new direction your sound is headed in?
REHMA: One time, my friend Rahul listened to my demos and called my sound “moody booty” music. I thought it was a very accurate description because I enjoy a sound that’s dancey & upbeat but still originates from a very real and emotional space. As human beings, we obviously go through a lot of pain, so we need our outlets to express and release it. I enjoy creating a sound that can release those emotions yet still uplift me.
ER: Musically, who have been your biggest influences?
REHMA: I think my influences growing up were pop-forward artists like Rihanna, Ariana Grande, and SZA. However, this upcoming project happened when I was listening to a lot of old music from Rosalia, Kelela, and Amaarae.
ER: How has your trip to Pakistan been so far? What have you taken away from this experience?
REHMA: Pakistan has been very, very emotional for me. I have never been to Pakistan but every single person from my bloodline before me is from here. There is this insane feeling of familiarity and newness at once. It really reminds me of all the reasons I choose to represent my identity so strongly back home in the States. Everyone in Pakistan has this fierce perseverance, fueled by love. It’s very inspiring, and I’m excited to keep coming back.
ER: Do you think your Pakistani identity has influenced your sound and creative direction?
REHMA: Definitely! Growing up listening to Pakistani music, I was exposed to so much spiritual storytelling and vocal agility that can command a room. Artists like Abida Parveen, Atif Aslam, and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan have had a significant influence on my music. I enjoy being able to blend my perspectives of sound through Pakistani (desi) music and American music because I think it helps me create something transcendent.
ER: What is your favorite part of Pakistani culture?
REHMA: The way it’s so diverse. There are so many different villages, tribes, and languages in Pakistan. There is such a range of people, environment, and food. I’m excited for more people to be exposed to the richness of Pakistan. My number one, however, is my mother’s food, particularly her Karachi-style Biryani.
ER: Outside of music, what are your favorite hobbies/interests?
REHMA: My interests are everywhere! I enjoy studying sociology. I love food—I would like to create one of those mukbang channels one day if I go on tour. I also love helping other people with their artistic projects. Beaches, parks, and museums. I don’t love running, but I do that so I don’t spiral and lose my shit.
ER: Who or what inspires you the most?
REHMA: I think everything inspires me. I am constantly writing in my notes app in the middle of conversations, functions, etc. It’s the only way I know how to process my emotions. However, solitude inspires me the most. I enjoy being alone for a while before I create because most of my passion began that way. I wouldn’t have it any other way because I truly find inspiration from doing nothing, which is weird because most people would say the opposite. There’s a balance to it all, of course.
ER: Where do you see yourself in a few years?
REHMA: I see myself performing a lot, sonically experimenting, and pushing boundaries. I don’t ever want to stop doing that because I love finding the next, fresh perspective for myself. It’s like a personal adventure.
Listen to “HYPNOTIC,” available now on all streaming platforms: