He is no metal head with dead locks and piercings. With ghungroo (metal bells) on his feet, junk jewellery, predominantly Indian, shining on his lithe body and clad in cotton kurtas and a dhoti, he isn’t your quintessential rockstar but he plays the guitar like he only can and sings his heart out.
Meet Bengaluru-based musician Raghu Dixit as he narrates his ascent to the top of the charts and much more about his band, The Raghu Dixit Project, in a chit chat with City Express.
The dancer-cum-microbiologistturned- musician’s love for the guitar dates back to his college days.
“I still laugh at how I ended up learning the guitar. One of my friends called me feminine as I wore bells and was a dancer. So, just to feel like a rockstar, I took up a guitar and simply fell in love with it,” he recalls.
Being a dancer, he had and has a flair for music but he admits it took some time for him to discover that side of his self. For him, that discovery also came in the form of writing.
“Writing music was sure a tough task. I wrote mainly in English and also did rool the “Rs” and stress on the “Ps”. But then, there was a sudden identity enlightenment, when I thought it’s high time I stopped being a wannabe and started writing in Hindi and my mother tongue Kannada,” Raghu shares.
The band is popular for its rediscovery of Kannada and Hindi songs.
“We wanted to appreciate the legacy we have and depend on it. I then realised, who I was and where I came from,” he says.
The Open house
The back bone of the project, Raghu Dixit calls his band an open house of contemporary Indian Folk music. Ask him why, he replies, “Sometimes, it becomes difficult to stick to your band for long. There is no point in holding on to it, when people are not involved in it,” he points out and adds, “My old band Antaragni tried to stick around for over eight years, but we were going nowhere.
The band started crumbling, there was lesser focus and I realised we could not hold on to it. And by about 2005, I decided to start something called an Open House, where people are not bound to do things. It’s just like meeting different and talented musicians, collaborating with them and creating great music.”
His music has been described in different ways. Some call it Indie Rock, a few call it folk and some others believe it is deeply rooted in Indian culture and reflects India. But, what does he say?
“Well, my music is a pure representation of what India is today. I take inspiration from different cultures across the country and create something different, yet refreshing. We also adapt a little of foreign flavour to make it globally appealing,” he reveals.
Further elaborating, he recollects, “As a kid, listening to western music was a big no-no at my home. I started listening to Floyd and Led Zeppelin and Phil Collins only in college. I did listen to a lot of genres, but my music is not inspired by them. I like to feel my songs my own way and I’m trying to explore more horizons.”
Raghu lists Avial, Papon, Joy Barua and a Delhi-based band from Faridkot among his contemporary favourites.
The Marketing factor
Raghu Dixit’s No Man Will Ever Love you hit the top spot on the most downloaded songs list on iTunes in 2011 and also topped the UK World music charts.
He was awarded the Songlines Best Newcomer Award and has played at the WOMAD, The Jools Holland Show and was also featured on the cover of the Rolling Stones in May, 2011.
“Jools Holland was like crazy. I was elated to get a place on the show and when singers like Robert Plant, Adele and so many great artists were also performing, I would have even just sat in the audience and watched them sing!” he laughs.
He was also featured on MTV Unplugged and The Deewarists on Channel V.
“It has been a great experience to do something like Deewarists. We collaborated with a North- Eastern singer, and some magic happened.
We had a song, ready and recorded in just a day,” he recalls.
But the singer confesses, “It was not cake walk. It took a lot of struggle to make my presence felt.”
According to Raghu, it took them more than three years to bring out their first album.
“It was Vishal and Shekar who heard us at one of our gigs and came forward and created our record label. Since then, we have been doing a lot of shows in India and abroad and it is just great to see people listening to your music and loving it,” he says.
The singer agrees that every band must market itself to be heard. They worked on their attire and tried to bring in the folk tradition, by wearing dhoti and bells.
“Our songs were deeply rooted in the Indian literary treasure with a bit of Carnatic music which made it easier for people to relate to. We also made our CD covers appealing and different,” he explains.
The artist will be performing at the Hard Rock Cafe on March 29 and at the Sri Indu College of Engineering on March 31.