Inspiration could strike a musician anywhere — in the loo, while riding a bike (read Honda Activa, which “is not even a bike. It’s a scooter which beeps, cries and gurgles while carrying me everywhere”) or most conveniently, while holding a guitar, trying to come up with a tune. To Raghupathi Dwarakanath Dixit (Raghu Dixit for short), inspiration has come on all these occasions and then some more.
To explain it simply, (“or crudely”), “Nobody prepares to ‘pass gas’, it just happens. In the same way, my songs happen to me in the most unexpected ways”, laughs the microbiologist-turned-musician, known for blending folk beats with contemporary music in a way few have and amassing accolades in a way even fewer have. Thinking out loud, he cites his evasive muse as the reason for putting out only two albums (debuted with eponymous album, while Jag Changa was the second) in 10 years. So if inspiration finds you (or doesn’t), you must find yourself at Raghu’s new state-of-the-art studio-cum-artist residency at Indiranagar, Bengaluru, and make music amidst good home food without the constraint of time.
This space has been built over two years and a hefty loan from banks, as a result of which “whatever I earn through live performances are going into EMIs,” laughs the man from Mysore who gave his first performance at the age of 19.
But don’t be fooled — this 42-year-old has been up to a lot more than just this. A few weeks ago, Raghu launched the risky RDX Productions, his own record label and production company, where he is currently spending lakhs to buy his own music from the producer — a move which might just be a game changer in the industry which has the potential “to become a model other artists can follow”, if they don’t already.
As per the amendment of Corporate Law in 2010, Raghu explains, the composer and the lyricists ought to get royalties every time their song is played on any platform — from radio to TV. But how does one keep track of the number when the revenue model also includes online streaming, not to forget Saavn and other apps? “The Indian Performing Rights Society was suppose to keep track of this and collect royalties but is defunct now,” he says. While bigger names like Sony and T-Series have their own collection agencies. Raghu felt it’s time to take matters in his own hands, hence RDX Productions was born to counter the problem. With this move, Raghu not only owns the rights to his music but sells it in the market as well. All his upcoming projects, including Kannada language movies like Happy New Year, Pradesh Samachara, Garuda, Orchestra and the big Bollywood project Chef, starring Saif Ali Khan and directed by Raja Krishna Menon (of Airlift fame) will be released through his own record label.
So many movie projects in his kitty, yet Raghu is still more a musician rather than a composer. “Blame it on my marketing,” he jovially says, adding to the list his aura as a performer and singer which precedes his reputation as a composer. Not to forget those colourful lungis and chunky neckpieces. Last year alone, The Raghu Dixit Project, his band, performed at 130 concerts. All he remembers of 2016 is the extensive travelling and begging his manager for a day off. Now, after the New Year revelry wears off, it will be back to the grind for the musician as the band plans to meet on January 15 to “restructure, breakdown and rebuild sounds to come up with new songs”.
From his recent appearance on Big Boss Kannada where, “I was waiting to get out as soon as possible” to coming up with the Party Anthem “a Kannada song which reflects the mood and attitude of a new year”, 2017 has already started with a bang. The song, by the way, was retweeted by Bollywood bigwigs Amit Trivedi and Vishal Dadlani. It was the latter, who Raghu considers to be his “guardian angel” along with Shekhar Ravjiani who had launched Raghu’s first album. Now, “everybody is a friend. We draw inspiration from each other and share a great camaraderie when we meet”, he says. Indeed, this kind of friendship is heart-warming to see in an industry known for it’s competition.
All this — fame, friendship and fraternity — did not come easy to Raghu, as about ten years ago, every record label he approached told him “his kind of music will never sell”, as he revealed at a Signature Startup Masterclass in September 2016. But today, “I am proud to look behind and say I stuck to my roots in terms of sound and the band,” pointing out that his band remains one of the most original ones in the country which has garnered worldwide acclaim, especially in the UK, where they have performed for the Queen herself. Now, film makers love “his kind of music. Raja Krishna Menon loved my song Jag Changa and wants a piece of that style in his own movie,” says Raghu. And so do we all.