At the young age of 23, Joy Crookes has all the makings of a global music sensation. She placed fourth on BBC Music's Sound of 2020. Her debut album 'Skin' topped the charts in the UK, putting her in the same list as British superstar singer Adele.
She was also nominated for Brit Awards and won the Stylist's Remarkable Women Awards 2022 as well as the UK Music Video Award and more. Her songs explore a myriad of genres, but are primarily rooted in R&B and Soul.
What is less known about Joy Elizabeth Akhter Crookes is that she is of Irish-Bangali origin, born to an immigrant single teen mom in the UK, who had just moved there leaving behind her home in Bangladesh. She was raised in Elephant and Castle in Southwark and had a predominantly Bangladeshi upbringing.
"I was raised just as any regular Bangladeshi immigrant mother would bring up her child. I ate rice and daal at home, listened to Bangla music and read Bangla poetry from infancy, and that explains my connection to Bangladesh.", said Joy about her childhood.
The Business Standard caught up with her one Friday to learn more about her connection to Bangladesh and her musical journey.
"My mother's hometown is Cumilla, but she grew up in Dhaka and has relatives from Rajshahi as well," said Joy. "My mother did not erase herself to make me, if that makes sense."
When asked whether she still had connections to Bangladesh, Joy said, "I visited Bangladesh four times and my family is still in touch with my relatives. It's been three years since I last visited Bangladesh."
Joy has been an autodidact since her teens. She began her journey on YouTube with an impromptu cover of the song "Hit The Road Jack" in 2013.
Regarding her inspirations she said "From Desi musicians, I love Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, because his music is full of soul, in other words majestic. And my favourite Bangla song is 'Ei Raat Tomar Amar' by Hemant Kumar. South London is very multicultural, so I was lucky enough to listen to so many different types of music growing up. I think subconsciously it influenced me in a way that my music has diverse influences and I have heard different sorts of sounds there, so I don't feel I am stuck in one sound."
Race and politics play an important part in Joy's music."It is something I am passionate about. Some people are interested in politics, some are not, but I find it fascinating. My father is Irish and I learned that Irish people have a lot of protest songs. Storytelling is also part of their culture. So it all collectively influenced my songwriting," she said.
"It's been 50 years since the liberation war of Bangladesh. But I believe that the blood of the freedom fighters still runs through our veins. Many people are not aware of the war, even in the UK, there are second-generation Bangladeshis who know very little about our history. But I have always been interested in history and politics and how it makes us who we are today," she added.
"My mother and grandmother have been a source of inspiration for me. For me, they are the women I imagine helped Bangladesh become independent and strong. My grandmother used to teach women how to ride bicycles before the war and I think it influenced me into being someone who wants to feel empowered and wants to have empowering messages in my music," explained Joy.
She further said that the songwriting side of her is influenced by Bangla Kobita/Golpo/Literature.
Joy is currently working on her next yet-to-be-titled album and prepping for her Europe tour.