Ricky unplugged

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | SEAN COLIN YOUNG
Published Dec 1, 2019, 12:01 am IST
Updated Dec 1, 2019, 12:09 am IST
The hills are (barely) alive with no sound of music, and climate change is to blame.
Good thing award-winning composer Ricky Kej, is passionate about preserving our precious planet and using art to inspire change. He also spoke to us about all things music, and how a Grammy win has helped him connect to his roots.
 Good thing award-winning composer Ricky Kej, is passionate about preserving our precious planet and using art to inspire change. He also spoke to us about all things music, and how a Grammy win has helped him connect to his roots.

Do you happen to know anyone who is all these things — a Grammy Award winner, a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador, and someone who has been combining his musical talent with his love for the environment to change the world? Well, one person definitely fits the bill and he is none other than living legend, Indian composer, music producer, and environmentalist, Ricky Kej.

Kej recently dropped by the capital to be a panelist at the CMS Vatavaran environment and wildlife film festival, where he emphasised upon the role art plays in bringing about change. He explained, “If you see something on film with visuals and beautiful narrations and if you listen to a song about something, then it is reaching your conscience.” The Grammy Award winner feels that people are aware of the ecological crises but, alas, “nobody is driven to (take) action.” Here are some excerpts from the interview.

 

On the importance of cultural wealth
Indian culture is paramount because that is how I have been brought up. Ancient cultures play a very important role in my music, whether it is the Mandinka culture, the Zulu culture, or the ancient Mandarin culture. All of them spoke about the need to coexist with all entities on this planet, whether they are living or non-living, and that is what I try to bring about in my music.

On artists writing about societal and environmental issues
Internationally, there are many artists doing this. The only country where this is not happening is India, simply because 99 per cent of the music is created by the movie industry. Almost every song that is made in India is an item song and that is a huge concern for me because in every other country, all their problems and historical movements have been accented through music. And, every musician is not creating music based on their heart or what they feel strongly about but, every musician is waiting for someone to pay money and commission them to make music.

 

On being authentic as a musician
I believe that the best fusion artists are those who do not consider themselves to be fusion artists. I try not to limit myself to genre boundaries — the song and the melody is paramount as compared to whatever instrument is needed to fulfill my vision. Once you record a traditional instrument, it is very important to give respect to it, the musician, and the tradition the musician comes from.

On being a Grammy winner
At least for me, it seemed like a completely unattainable dream. I felt that during this lifetime, living in India, it is going to be impossible to ever win that. But in retrospect, I made some right career moves where I decided that I am not going to be a part of the movie industry. Even though my music is primarily Indian, I wanted it to be known to people around the world.

 

When I sat at the ceremony, that is when the nerves started to kick in. I saw these absolute legends, who I have been admiring all my life, sitting in the audience around me. But when I went up on stage and collected the award, it was a surreal and wonderful experience.

On his lifestyle
I lead a very frugal life — I don’t have five-six people following me around. I am a very do-it-yourself kind of person. I used to be a person who was very much
into luxuries but I guess the Grammy in a way grounded me because once I won the Award, it changed my life. I decided that I needed to dedicate my life to something. Even though I was making music on the environment and all the other stuff, I wasn’t leading the lifestyle.

 

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