Described as ‘one of India’s most inventive and charismatic artists’, Raghu Dixit has won a place in the hearts of many, thanks to his forceful voice and boundless enthusiasm. Alongside his five-piece band, the Karnataka native and representative has served as both a revivalist of the regions ancient poetry, and a proponent of its culture and heritage. Through his music, he highlights the continual relevance of the works he adopts and as he works more frequently on music for Bollywood film, he is certain to only gain in popularity. Ahead of the Raghu Dixit Project show at Band on the Wall, Raghu graciously told us of the magical workings of contemporary India, his background in Microbiology and plans for 2018.
Given the diverse history and regional variation of Indian music, do you all as band members come from similar or very different musical backgrounds? Furthermore, how influential have your upbringings been on your development as musicians?
‘Well, The Raghu Dixit Project itself has always been an open house for musicians. We have never had a fixed “band”. I love bringing as many different collaborators to work with me and help grow my sound and my music. So in that sense, all of us come from very, very diverse backgrounds and our upbringings have been very, very different. That is true of contemporary India. We have a really wide variety of people that make this country work somehow, magically.’
A decade ago, when you were attempting to launch your debut album, you encountered difficulties finding support from labels in Mumbai. Has the music industry in India changed perceivably since that time and have any developments you’ve recognised been beneficial to burgeoning musicians?
‘Yes and no. There is still no mass acceptance for indie music in the country. However, with the internet really becoming mainstream, there is no longer a real need for labels and any form of formal structural industry support required. A viral hit on Youtube, many many people sharing the content on social networks and messaging services, is what matters more at this point.’
Is it true that you have a masters in Microbiology? Given that many musicians draw influence from the natural sciences, does your understanding this area inform your creativity at all?
‘It is true that I have a Masters in Microbiology and not just that, I topped my university while I was getting my masters! But I don’t think that had anything to do at all with my music.’
The songs you perform are often imbued with deep meaning, but that never prevents them from being joyous and never prevents the band from arranging them in a contemporary fashion. Who are the songwriters and poets that bring you the greatest happiness and is the adaptability of their work the key to its lasting importance?
‘A lot of my music up until this point has been influenced by a single saint poet from Karnataka. However, now, I have started working on other poets from the state. I don’t view it as adaptability of their work as much as furthering of the culture of the place I am from. So the intention with which I am working on their poetry is not just because they are cool pieces of literature, but more importantly the messages they speak of are relevant to the society today, and also, me getting people to become interested in their work directly increases an interest in my land.’
Despite performing music written in various languages, you’re able to connect with audiences all around the world. Has your experience of playing around the world helped you to recognise universalities within music and if so, what do you believe those to be?
‘Absolutely. I am living testament to the fact that music is universal and knows no boundaries. And I think everywhere around the world, people realize how much we are all alike. Music is a great tool for that. When it comes down to it, everyone wants love, and happiness and everything else that we are chasing is a means to achieve that.’
What are your plans for 2018, do you have any side projects away from the band and is there anything you hope to see happen in popular music or the wider world this year?
‘I have taken on a lot of movie score projects in India this year and there are a lot of releases planned for 2018. My team has promised me that I might finally be able to take a long and if I may say so myself, well deserved break to just recharge this year!’