Raghu Dixit on the power of music to bring together people and cultures.
For Indian folk-rock musician Raghu Dixit, “relevance is overrated”. An independent musician with his band, the Raghu Dixit Project and a composer for films, including Kannada and Hindi, for over a decade, he is known for his peppy numbers like Mysore se aayi, Mumbai, Antaragni and Khidki, which are contemporary yet rooted in Indian culture, with an appeal that transcends age, genre and even language.
Dixit, who is gearing up to perform at the two-day music and food festival Mahindra Open Drive in Goa on November 8-9, speaks on his connect with music, the various possibilities that folk music holds, and his future plans.
What’s keeping you busy these days?
My third album has had me snowed under for over a year now. It didn’t help that I’ve had about seven films to score for. And of course, there is also the touring madness. We played at some incredible festivals in Kazakhstan and Taiwan this year. In all, it has been a couple of years of a lot of music, work and jamming. Hopefully, it’ll be all worthwhile with what’s coming out later this year!
After so many years, is there anything that still amazes you about music and why?
Its diffusive nature amazes me the most. I mean, I have performed at some very remote destinations across the world, to audiences whose language and culture is so far away from mine. And yet, when those songs come on, it’s almost like all these perceived boundaries come crashing down. We all vibe and resonate with no trouble of language or culture. Just a couple of days ago, we saw this again at a festival in Taiwan. It’s just incredibly overwhelming, this power of music to bring together people.
There has been a growing focus on folk music in a number of films. Has that helped the genre?
There has been a slew of independent documentaries and films I have come across over the last couple of years that focused on folk music. I think what would help catalyse this reach is an embrace by new media platforms such as OTT brands, digital news and music stations. There is an increasing sense of keenness especially among the youth to learn about and experiment with the folk soundscape. The film commissioned by Johnny Greenwood recently documenting his collaboration with the Manganiyars was well received. But yes to answer your question – more the merrier!
What do you think needs to change about folk musicians, if at all?
I wish there was some kind of organised platform that could help develop folk music and prepare it for better versatility. What happens is that folk artistes, although marvelously talented, tend to find it difficult to cross over beyond their repertoire. This, I think, is mainly because of a lack of organised learning. If that is cracked, our folk musicians will set the world stage on fire.
There are several independent artistes. What do you think of the various types of music available, as an audience and a composer?
It’s a world like it has never been. Music and talent, in general, have far more possibilities and reach today than in all these years. I find this very interesting and full of hope. However, I wish one could see a lot more variation in the soundscape. I would have liked to see a lot more artistic experimentation in the scene today, a lot more collaboration, and the kind that is cutting-edge.
Can you tell us more about how you have managed to reinvent and keep yourself relevant to audiences over the years?
Frankly, I do not reinvent. For that matter, it isn’t a conscious attempt to do anything at all. The only underlying thread in my work perhaps is the fact that I deeply enjoy what I do and love each of my projects. It’s heartening to see that audiences over the years have seen it similarly. Relevance is overrated. I’d like to be relevant to myself first.
What are some of your upcoming projects?
Well, for starters, there is our third album. Like a just born child, it has kept us up many nights! This apart, there is a bunch of films that I have composed for that will see release over the next six months. It’s a pleasure to be playing at Mahindra Open Drive. Goa has always been an inspiration. A source of joie de vivre. I can’t wait to get there! Then, there is some very interesting international collaboration with artistes from across the world — from Mali to Mozambique to Hungary and Afghanistan. There is also a very exciting art project I am developing at the moment but more on that later.