MEN WHO MATTER: Ricky Kej – Grammy dream come true

They’re ambitious, diligent, driven and have found the key to unlock innovation. RITZ Magazine meets these promising men of substance from Karnataka who have made a mark in their respective fields and are making waves not just nationally but also across the globe. They reveal what kept them going and how they carved out a niche for themselves…

BY NAMITA GUPTA

Ricky Kej made Indians proud when he won a Grammy Award at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards for his album Winds of Samsara. After he won the award, he was invited by Narendra Modi who advised him to dedicate his music to raise awareness on climate change and conservative issues.

TURNING POINT: Ever since I remember, I have been a musician. I would pull apart songs, try and figure out the instruments used, who played those instruments? I would learn about different cultures and people through music. It was through my music that I fell in love with our natural world. I found a deep connection within music and nature. I did a degree in Dental Surgery only because my parents forced me to complete it as I come from a family of third generation doctors and they did not believe that a career in music was a viable option. I had made a deal with my father that once I complete a Dental Degree, my life was my own. The minute I got my degree, I handed it over to my parents and became a full time musician. I did not practice Dentistry even for a day.

PURE PASSION: My greatest experience has been performing at the United Nations General Assembly. I performed on the main stage, the same place where every world leader has stood, every major treaty has been signed. There was so much history in that room and it was quite an overwhelming experience. Another fantastic experience was performing at the Legislature building – The Vidhan Soudha in Karnataka and also at India Gate in New Delhi for the World Environment Day celebrations. I have had the opportunity to work with my heroes Peter Gabriel, Stewart Copeland (The Police), Patti Austin, Tina Guo, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and many others. The Grammy win solidified my beliefs that I was heading in the right direction and provided me with a great sense of validation of my work.

CROSSING HURDLES: Very early on in my career, I decided not to become a Film Composer since music in India is deeply integrated with Bollywood. I had to base my career abroad, even though my music is primarily Indian. I would never compose for any language film, unless the film is in alignment with my thoughts and philosophies, and is created with a singular purpose to make this world a better place. In India 99% of all music content is created by the movie industries, whether Bollywood or the regional industries. Bollywood is so tightly integrated with the music industry, that when I tell people in India I’m a composer, the first question I am asked is “Which film?” So music in India is always commissioned to a musician, and based on the sensibilities of a script or a director. All over the world, history is chronicled through music. If one were to look at USA as an example, their mainstream music has chronicled history in the dust Bowl era, slavery, industrial revolution, world war, Vietnam war, the Hippie Era, 9/11, etc. We have so many issues in India, people feel strongly about these issues, but there is no mainstream music created on these topics.

ALL WORK AND NO PLAY: Ever since I made the decision to make music my hobby and profession, life has been a dream and I have fun every day whether I am in my studio composing music, whether I am playing my music live in concert or I’m amidst nature.

BENGALURU, A STARTUP CITY: I have lived in Bengaluru for most of my life and it has helped shape me into what I am today. The music scene is vibrant and varied. It has a healthy mix of modern and classical music.