INTERVIEW: Introducing Jharna Bhagwani and her dark pop aesthetics

We chat with rising Indian-Indonesian TikTok star and makeup artist Jharna Bhagwani on her delightfully devilish experimental pop track ‘Tell Me’.

Last year in May, makeup artist Jharna Bhagwani took part in the #LathiChallenge, the viral TikTok trend made popular by Indonesian EDM group Weird Genius. The challenge saw people apply make-up transformations as seen in the group’s mega-hit ‘Lathi’ played in the background in which singer Sara Fajira employs a dark and eerie look through the music video.

The 19-year-old’s elaborate transitions and scary makeover proved a hit with her fans, adding to her already growing fanbase of over 10 million TikTok and three million Instagram followers.

Once the Indonesian Internet star’s take on the lip sync challenge went viral on both social media platforms, the video caught the attention of the trio behind the song themselves –  Weird Genius.

Her meeting with member Eka Gustiwana kicked off her long-time dream of starting a music career, and the two began brainstorming together for ideas.

The result, after two months of creation, resulted in her debut single titled ‘Tell Me’, a track that has been described as a “dark experimental pop” song.

Jharna says,

“I shared a few song references and lyrics I’ve written to Kak Eka in early June 2021. Due to the pandemic, we brainstormed and shared ideas online. Then in early August we started recording. So it took about two months for the whole process.

Art has become my channel for exploration and experiment. I enjoy playing different characters,” Jharna explains. “I create concepts, messages and how I want them to be perceived. People have seen my work in makeup videos. This time, I have the opportunity to express my alter-ego in a different form, a song and music video”.

‘Tell Me’ explores the toxicity of relationships, resulting from the lies of a controlling partner and the ensuing conflict of betrayal and loss of trust.

The music video combines Jharna’s visually stunning makeup art with her love of creating wonderfully unique characters, with her newest creation lifted straight off a dark fairy tale.

Such experimental designs are what Jharna excels at since childhood, who comes from a family of creatives, in which she has self-taught and honed her talents in drawing, makeup, writing, singing, and video production through the Internet.

Fresh off her music debut, she intends to write deeply personal lyrics to express herself, taking inspiration from the likes of Ariana Grande, Billie Eilish, Ic3peak (Russia) and Melanie Martinez.

With ‘Tell Me’, she hopes to send out a clear message to her fans – that nobody should ever be in a toxic relationship.

We caught up with the mesmerizing artist as she details the creative process behind her first single.

AsiaLive365: Hello Jharna! Thank you for taking the time for this interview! Hope all is well and good on your end?

Jharna Bhagwani: Hi guys, thank you so much. and such an honor for having me. I’m good and trying to be productive.

AL365: Tell us more about yourself. What sparked your interest in makeup and music?

JB: I’m 19 years old, and half-Indian and half-Indonesian. My fascination with art began when I was 12, and with full support from my parents, I pursued makeup and that got me to where I am now. My other passion is music, which probably everyone doesn’t know because I didn’t show that side as much.

AL365: Congratulations on the release of your debut single, ‘Tell Me’. It’s quite an impressive introduction to your music. Tell us more about your song, is there a story behind it?

JB: Thank you so much. Yes, this song is talking about being controlled by others who are more powerful than yourself but you feel abused by them. It can be happening in a love relationship, or with family or friends. I got this inspiration from some of my friends who have experienced this in their lives.

AL365: You collaborated with Eka Gustiwana of Weird Genius during the production process. How was the experience like being able to work with him?

JB: Well, I know him through Sara Fajira, the singer in Weird Genius’ ‘Lathi’. We did like 2 months of writing, recording and releasing this song. I enjoy working with him so much because he knows what I want and how I want to interpret the vibe. It is such an honor working with him.

AL365: You garnered a lot of Internet points thanks to your awesome take on the #LathiChallenge in TikTok! It went viral! Pretty spooky! And the transitions were flawless. Did you expect the video to blow up, going so far as getting attention from Weird Genius?

JB: Thank you, but no I wasn’t expecting it at all. It was a surreal moment for me personally, and it’s thanks to Weird Genius for creating an amazing song obviously.

AL365: I feel like ‘Tell Me’ is made even more extraordinary with the dark pop aesthetics seen in the music video. How did you come up with the idea of the MV?

JB: Every scene of the MV is actually inspired by this song’s lyrics. Puppets and puppeteers symbolize ‘control’.

AL365: How long did the entire creative process take in filming the video? Were there any difficulties?

JB: It went very fast, with such limitations from the pandemic and all. I just finished taping it in just one day. The concept was already in my head since I wrote the lyrics too.

AL365: How do you feel about costumes and makeup playing as an important element in expressing your art?

JB: Well, like I said earlier, makeup and also costumes are an important part of art. When I do makeup, I use my imagination and feelings to create, and since the object is usually human, the costumes came naturally as another important component to represent your vision.

AL365: Who would you say are your biggest inspirations, and do they play a highly influential role in forming your sound?

JB: I love to listen to some music from Russian electronic band IC3PEAK and also Poppy. I also get inspiration from Billie Eilish and Melanie Martinez too.

AL365: What’s next for your music, if you can share?

JB: Me and Eka already have several drafts and hopefully my next single will be out this year.

AL365: Hopefully, when things get back to normal, we’ll see live performances from you!

JB: Yeah man, I’m so stoked to perform on stage and greet my listeners.

AL365: Anything you’d like to say to your fans?

JB: Just stay strong and positive.

AL365: Thank you once again Jharna. Good luck in your blossoming music career!

JB: Thank you guys and please wait for my next song!





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