He chose to take the road instead of the highway in the musical world, wrapped himself in a lungi, wore ghungroos on his feet and sang simple songs that have made sense to many. From playing at college festivals to international music venues, Raghu Dixit talks to Jonathan Vikram Pradhan about his journey as a musician.
Edited Excerpts from an interview
Your songs have managed to cut across cultural barriers. When do you compose these unique, transcendental blend of folk and modernity? Do you have any preferred timings and space for composing your songs?
I wish I had the luxury of time, place and ambience when I compose. I am working towards that with my new studio. For now, it’s me and my phone. Ideas strike me at different times and I just keep recording scratches on my phone and convert them into full songs when I can!
While composing music for your songs, do you also write the melodies for other instruments?
I have an idea of what I want from each instrument. However, I trust the musicians to deliver that for me. So while I do suggest and guide each musician to achieve what I have in mind, very rarely do I have a specific melody that I need them to play. Over the years, I have got a keen sense of which musician will work for which track and I just trust them to bring their game to the recording.
The song ‘Hey Bhagwan’, which you composed with your former band Antaragni, has become such a classic. What led to the disbanding of Antaragni in 2004?
Running a band is like running any other professional organisation where people move on to find different directions for themselves. As an artist, I had a specific direction I wanted to head in and that worked best with the new line up and arrangement with musicians that I had in mind.
How easy or difficult is it for you to switch your emotions while singing songs such as the serene ‘Amber se’ to, lets say, the boisterous ‘Masti ki Basti’?
While performing, it is quite easy. I get into the mood of each song, right from introducing the song to the audience to performing it. So, for each song, I set the tone for the audience. It’s incredible to go through a range of emotions during a single concert.
How does it feel to have performed in one of the world’s biggest musical festivals; the Glastonbury festival in the UK? Was there anything that you think could have been done differently then?
It was quite incredible. I think every touring musician should play at that particular festival. It is an experience like no other. I do wish we made more money and had a bigger band, but that will always be something we are trying to achieve.
Can you tell us how composing music for Bollywood is different from composing for the Raghu Dixit Project?
Bollywood or any film music, for that matter, is made to a brief and a situation. The creativity lies in creating the best piece of music you can to fit that brief and enhance that situation. When I compose for the Raghu Dixit Project, there are no restrictions, so it’s just about what I really like and what I’m inspired by. This is not to say that one is better or easier than the other. They both have their own challenges and I just love making music. It doesn’t matter what the music is used for eventually. I still put everything I can into making it.
Please share your experience about the recent ‘Light the Way’ concert, for the UN Global Goals, at the Purana Qila.
It was fantastic to see so many people come out and support the cause like they did. I see a lot of people taking an active interest in what is happening in our country. I believe it is important that we sensitise everyone about the goals that India is setting for itself and then let everyone track, follow and hold our leaders accountable for achieving these goals.
There are a growing number of regional language musicians making music these days. What, according to you, can they do to achieve the success that has come your way?
They should have faith in what they are doing and treat this like a proper career. They should invest in it and work accordingly. Play your heart out, You never know who is watching!