With her bright eyes, pastel-colored headscarves and distinct singing voice, Ran Widya (known as simply Rainych online) is easily one of the most recognizable YouTube artists. A well-known figure when it comes to anime and J-Pop covers, she broke out into the mainstream when several of her videos went viral. Tokyo Weekender checks in with the Indonesian singing sensation to hear about her online music career and how she feels about receiving praise from artists such as The Weeknd and Doja Cat.

Humble Beginnings

Born and raised in Indonesia, Rainych’s exposure to Japan came through pop culture. As a child, she was an avid reader and spent many of her days reading books and manga at the library. It was from joining utaite (a Japanese term for artists who cover previously released songs and post them online) communities that she was first exposed to Japanese music. She combined this with her love of singing, which eventually led to her sharing her voice through covers on YouTube.

Quickly, YouTube became an escape for her whenever she faced hardship in her personal life.

“Singing makes me happy, but [prior to my channel] I’ve never really shown it online,” she says. “Learning and doing new things was kind of a nice distraction for me. I get to be productive while helping [myself] overcome hard times by doing something I love. Isn’t it great?”

Rainych’s YouTube channel has amassed more than 183 million views in seven years, The singer has acquired a loyal and global fanbase over time. Many of Rainych’s covers are of popular anime openings such as Yui’s “Life” from Bleach and Eve’s “Kaikai Kitan” from Jujutsu Kaisen, much to the delight of Japanese pop culture fans everywhere. The viral success of these videos has even seen Rainych step into the gaming scene through her collaborations with Triple-A gaming studios such as Riot Games and miHoYo.

When Senpai Noticed Rainych

The most notable track of her internet career so far, however, is her Japanese cover of Doja Cat’s “Say So,” which catapulted her further into the global limelight, amassing over 26 million views. This caught the attention of Doja Cat herself, who, in a live-streamed Instagram, reacted to Rainych’s video in real-time. A subsequent YouTube video has immortalized this stream, garnering another 20 million views. Watching back Doja Cat’s reaction, you can see her moved to tears. The Weeknd too is another world-renown artist who gave her props for her Japanese cover of “Blinding Lights” by sharing the video on his own YouTube channel and Twitter feed.

“I truly did not expect it at all,” Rainych says about the recognition she received from her music idols. “But these things happened and I’m very grateful for it. I still have butterflies whenever I see the video and post again.”

Overcoming Language Barriers

Hard work and talent are certainly some of the ingredients in Rainych’s secret sauce to success, but there is something to be said about her musical content which manages to pull at multiple heartstrings at once.

J-Pop and anime were once niche interests, but in recent years, more and more people around the world have been enjoying Japanese pop culture. Rainych’s ability to rearrange and cover these songs in multiple languages with the help of her friend Datenkou, is also a nod to how her music transcends any language barriers. To date, fans have noted that they have seen Rainych sing in Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Bahasa Indonesia and Arabic.

Despite the clear Japanese influences, Rainych is still proud of her Indonesian identity and maintains that people from her country are inherently creative.

“My first few musician friends are Indonesians who are all really talented and creative,” she says. “I’ve met other amazing individuals along the way who have contributed to my career and overall experience. I think it does not matter where you are from as long as you’re willing to learn and connect with people from various walks of life.”

While most regard social media as a double-edged sword, Rainych chooses to focus on the positives that the YouTube platform has brought to her.

“Personally, I encounter positive impacts more than negative ones,” she says. “The amount of love and support is overwhelming. Some days I may see unpleasant comments under my post but I would always remember to be more grateful for the many others who have loved and motivated me instead.”

For this reason, Rainych is very encouraging of anyone who would like to follow in her footsteps in building a music-based YouTube channel. “As long as you want to do it because you like it, at the end of the day, you’ll still be happy.”

Follow Rainych online on YouTube, Twitter and Instagram.