10 international musicians you probably didn't know had Indian roots

What do Freddie Mercury, Nicki Minaj, and KSHMR have in common? While it’s almost impossible to not know these artists, it may surprise you to know that these three musicians, among many others, have their roots in India. 

Here are 10 internationally renowned musicians who have some Indian in them:

1. Freddie Mercury
One of the greatest vocalists of rock music, Freddie Mercury was born Farrokh Bulsara to Parsi parents Tanzania. Bulsar (Valsad), a city in Gujarat which is believed to be the hometown of his grandparents and also the town from which his parents derived their surname. The Queen vocalist spent his formative years in Bombay (now Mumbai) and attended an all-boys boarding school in Panchgani. It was here that the shy and introverted Mercury discovered his penchant for being on stage. At the age of 12, he joined a school band called The Hectics and his alter-ego Freddie was born.

2. Norah Jones
Daughter of sitar maestro, Pandit Ravi Shankar and concert producer Sue Jones, Norah Jones was raised by her mother in Grapevine, Texas. Born Geethali Norah Jones Shankar, Jones is also the half-sister of fellow musician Anoushka Shankar. She started singing in her church choir as a child and went on to major in jazz piano from the University of North Texas.

3. Charli XCX
Charlotte Emma Aitchison, better known by her stage name Charli XCX, was born to a Scottish father and an Indian mother in Cambridge, England. Despite coming from a non-musical background, her parents were supportive of her career choice and attended her concerts with her. Charli XCX, which was actually her MSN Messenger name at the time, dropped out of UCL’s Slade School of Fine Art in her second year to pursue music full time.

4. Nicki Minaj
Known as the queen of rap, Nicki Minaj, is actually one-quarter Indian! Minaj was born in Trinidad and Tobago, a place famous for its massive Indian population, to a half-Indian father and an Afro-Trinidadian mother. Minaj has often talked about her father’s amazing cooking skills and her love for Indian food.

5. Jay Sean
English singer-songwriter Jay Sean was born as Kamaljit Singh Jhooti to Punjabi Sikh immigrant parents in Hounslow, London. Staying true to his desi roots, Sean has made Hindi remakes of his biggest hits like “Ride It” and “Back to Love“. Riding on the success of his 2018 shows in Mumbai and Delhi, Sean is now looking forward to making more music for his Indian fans. “Look out for that very soon! I’m excited for what is about to come,” he said during an OnRecord interview when asked about his return to Bollywood.  

American DJ and record producer Niles Hollowell-Dhar chose KSHMR as his stage name to pay homage to his grandparents who hail from Kashmir. A lot of his songs are inspired by his descent and the melodies in his music further highlight the influence his Indian roots have on him. KSHMR also recently launched his own line of kurtas (ethnic South Asian apparel) as official merchandise.

7. Troyboi
It’s a lesser-known fact that Troy Henry aka Troyboi is half-Indian and his mother, Connie Henry, was born and raised in Kolkata! Some of his songs have used Indian musical instruments like the tabla and the sitar and he uses his music to celebrate his Indian roots. In a previous interview, Troyboi talked about wanting to learn more about the Indian music scene and the self-confessed Bollywood fan has also hopes to collaborate with Priyanka Chopra in the future.

8. Shirley Setia
Contrary to popular belief, singer-songwriter Shirley Setia is not actually Indian! The 24-year-old singer was born in Auckland, New Zealand to Indian parents who hail from Daman, India. She graduated from the University of Auckland and worked as a publicity and marketing intern at the Auckland Council before entering the music industry. Having collaborated with big names like Pritam and Marshmello, Setia has steadily been working her way up the Indian music scene.

9. Daya
Singer-songwriter Daya’s paternal grandfather is from New Delhi, India, which makes her one-quarter Indian. The “Don’t Let Me Down” singer chose Daya as her stage name as it’s the Sanskrit/Hindi translation of her birth name Grace.

10. Rozonda Thomas
Chilli, the American singer, actress and TV personality was born to a father of Indian descent. Member of one of the best-selling girl groups TLC, Thomas has a Bengali and African lineage and was raised by her mother in Atlanta, Georgia.

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