By Rowena Singh
Hanging up his stethoscope and embracing music has transformed Suva doctor, Rayneil Singh into an award-winning performer.
When the FIPRA (Fiji Performing Rights Association) awards were held for the first time in a couple of years (due to Covid) in October, his name rang out six times. Dr Singh, aka Ra V, won the 2022 award for the Best Hindi Song with ‘Mera Maal’, the award for the 2020 Best New Artist, the 2021 Artist of the Year, and the award for 2020 Best Hindi Song for ‘Tukur Tukur’. His soulful track, ‘Sleeping on the Right Side’ was recognised as the 2021 Best English Song and the Best Composition.
Singh says he wrote ‘Mera Maal’ with a friend—emergency doctor Javin Kumar or ‘Jah-vin’— when he was in medical school almost a decade ago.
“I had just bought my guitar. We were messing around and we just wanted to make a song as a joke. We just put some lyrics together and we just sang it and after that we just forgot about it.”
Since then, Ra V has been learning how to produce music. Dr Kumar/Jah-vin convinced him to record their old song, which now also features female vocalist Harsha Harshmittal. It was released during the pandemic and quickly became a local hit.
“Music is like my soul,” says Singh. “The job that I do gets taxing – both physically and mentally. Whenever I would feel stressed, I would play my guitar. I slowly found the software as to how to make music. I used to get a lot of song ideas and I used to just bury them. There came a time when I thought no, I’m wasting too many ideas and I should actually do something with them. That’s when I learnt how to produce music and how to record it and how to release it online. That’s how everything started out.”
He says balancing his job and music can be difficult.
“First of all, they are completely opposite ends of the spectrum,” says Singh. “One is medicine, which is about science and facts, being objective, and the other side is music which is art and emotions. Zoning in and out of these two passions of mine becomes difficult. What keeps me going is that I enjoy both and I love doing both.”
Sometimes these words intersect.
“There have been a few songs that I have written because of my doctor life, especially during Covid,” he says. “I have written a song which is called ‘Fight Together’ which I dedicated to all the frontliners that were working hard during that time.
“I was actually staying in a hotel when I was mobilised to Rakiraki Hospital,” says Singh. “The thing with me is that if I have to go somewhere for a long period of time I will take a skeleton version of my recording studio. So that if I get some inspiration for a song, or lyrics or a beat, I’ll just put it down while I’m in the room. I saw how our frontliners were struggling – staying away from family, working long hours, so I felt obligated to make a song. I wrote that song in that room and I recorded it in that room, and then I released it there.”
Singh sings and creates songs in all three national languages of Fiji – iTaukei, Hindi and English.
“I don’t have a specific genre,” says Singh. “I do what I feel like – I’ve done rap songs, I’ve done reggae songs, I’ve done pop songs, soul, R&B songs and a bit of hip hop. Just like there’s no genre I’m specific to, there’s no language I’m specific to.”
He released his first iTaukei song, ‘Yoloqu’ during a posting to Koro island. Three days after he arrived there, devastating category 5 Cyclone Winston hit.
“I hadn’t even introduced myself properly to the people there and the cyclone came. It was a disaster. But I stayed there, I helped the people rebuild and I did my service to them.
“Koro Island is already a musical place,” says Singh. “So many iTaukei bands come out of there. You can find melodies just flying in the air. You just have to catch one and make a song out of it. Most of the songs that I have written, I have written in the islands.”
Yoloqu was created in a “two-hour grog session” in Koro, with the help of lyricist and Koro police chief, Ratu Isireli Pareti. The song was included on an album released by Ratu Isireli’s band.
Singh says 75% of the songs he writes are in English, and his Hindi vocabulary is limited.
“But I try to make the most of what I know,” says Singh. “If you listen to my Hindi songs, you’ll find the vocabulary is simple but I try to make it colourful in some way.”
He has collaborated with popular Fijian musician KKU on the song ‘K.V.Y Love’, which he got the idea for while on a bus from Lautoka.
“KKU was actually really happy to get into the song with me. Over a couple of weeks I wrote the English and Hindi verses and he recorded and sent me the iTaukei verses. Then I wrote other small beats in the song, produced it and finally released it on Fiji Day last year.”
Ra V plans to release three or four songs a year.
“I have so many songs that I have yet to release…so I’ll keep them coming.” He says he would like to produce a full album if he can make the time.
“I don’t get time to perform live as my work is so demanding, so that’s my future plan to do more acoustic shows and live shows.”
This article first appeared in Fiji Traveller, January 2023.