Entertainment Music 16 Mar 2018 Songs for a Dying Pl ...

Songs for a Dying Planet

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | DARSHANA RAMDEV
Published Mar 16, 2018, 2:30 am IST
Updated Mar 16, 2018, 2:30 am IST
In 2015, musician and composer Ricky Kej returned home with a Grammy Award, doing the country proud.
"He simply encouraged me to dedicate my life and my art to my cause, which is to spread awareness about the environment," Ricky said.
 "He simply encouraged me to dedicate my life and my art to my cause, which is to spread awareness about the environment," Ricky said.

In 2015, musician and composer Ricky Kej returned home with a Grammy Award, doing the country proud. Ricky found himself awash with congratulations and felicitation, happy moments, to be sure. Among these, however, surfaced a photography of Ricky with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It was, as it happens, an event that would change the course of his life, as a musician, and as a human being. "He simply encouraged me to dedicate my life and my art to my cause, which is to spread awareness about the environment," Ricky said, on the eve of the CMS Vatavaran Travelling Festival, Bengaluru, his latest initiative. A carefully curated set of films, all focussed on creating awareness, will be screened at the Suchitra Cinema and Cultural Academy and Suchitra Film Society over the next three days.

Ricky's next album, Samsara, was deeply rooted in environmental consciousness and was released at the main stage of the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference by PM Modi. "I've also worked with the Forest Department, to create campaigns that highlight the biodiversity of our state," says Ricky, who admits to spending his childhood constantly on the lookout for snakes and lizards and rats and all the other creatures his friends shied away from! "I realised early on that I loved hanging around with animals more than I did humans," he laughs. At a more global level, he has worked with creating awareness on climate change, in campaigns for the United Nations.

 

The theme is water conservation - much has been said about the dire situation in Cape Town and social media is rife with countdowns to "Day Zero." To Ricky, however, conservation extends far beyond tall talk. This is his second major festival in the last six months, the Samsara Round Glass Festival took place, to great success, at venues across the city last October.

Where does Ricky the musician meet Ricky the conservationist? As far as he's concerned, they were never divided. "Music is drawn from nature," he says, allowing himself a moment of philosophical respite as he steps out of his studio, where he spends most of his days. This is a question Ricky has pondered at length - "I would ask myself, why is music so different from every other art form? And then I understood. It comes from the earth. It began by observing the sound of the wind, of running water and the chatter of the birds. The first musical instruments were fashioned from our immediate surroundings - a piece of hollow wood filled with pellets, for instance, to help keep time." Art itself he describes as a form of expression, “That’s how I communicate what I believe in, the things that move me,” he says. “I do think that art should be a reflection of one’s own philosophy.”

 

The CMS Vatavaran festival, an initiative aimed at creating awareness, takes place in Delhi each year. In 2018, Ricky, who was invited to be the guest of honour, found himself moved by the whole affair. "I really liked the kind of awareness they were creating, so I requested them to do a film festival here, too." Suchitra Society in Banashankari, was the obvious venue choice, "It has state of the art theatres and does a lot for independent filmmakers and parallel cinema. Those are the kinds of films you will see at the festival too." Film screenings, talks and workshops will be part of the three-day event.

 

There's Nuclear Hallucinations, directed by Fathima Nizaruddin, Croatia's The Real Cost of Coal, by Vibor Juhas, Operation Sumatran Rhino, by Chris Annadorai (Singapore), Hija de la Laguna (Daughter of the Lake), a Spanish film made in Peru by Erneste Cabellos and lots more on the list of screenings. Tribute will also be paid to S. Manikandan, Karnataka's IFS officer who lived and died in the forests, by K.H. Vinaya Kumar, IFS and Envis Coordinator, EMPRI. Ricky himself will discuss Music and Films for Environmental Consciousness," in an interactive session on Sunday.

 

On his part, the same Ricky Kej who returned from Los Angeles in 2015, saying a musician must be able to dabble in both the commerce and art of music, is scarcely recognisable today.  “I’m not going back there again. No more commercial music, no films, no pop. I know that every note I compose will be a reflection of my philosophy, which is environmental consciousness and living in harmony with nature.” 

Paul McCartney's Mother Nature's Son sums it up beautifully: Sit beside a mountain stream, see her waters rise Listen to the pretty sound of music as she flies.

 

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