A chat with Raghu Dixit, India’s latest music export.
Raghu Dixit doesn’t believe in days off. Working non-stop keeps him sane, he says. We aren’t sure how many supporters he’ll get for that argument. No sooner had the indie folk-rock singer-composer returned from his UK tour recently, than he began work on his next recording project right away. From the airport straight to the studio. Maybe the UK tour itself was a holiday of sorts? “No, hardly”, he says. “It was long, arduous and exhausting.” The man – who’s known as much for his euphoric performances as for his happy stage costumes - secretly likes it to be that way.
The band at Glastonbury
Great UK tour pictures on Facebook. How was the whole experience?
We have been touring the UK since 2009 and it's good to see that we have a sizeable fan following that we have earned painstakingly over the years. We now have repeat audiences across the festivals, literally following us, and bringing along new friends saying 'listen to these guys'! This tour has been probably the most successful and also most demanding of all the tours. We have travelled nearly 10000 miles driving ourselves (Gaurav - manager+bassist did all the driving) across 2 legs of the tour and playing 17 concerts in all.
Playing two gigs a day at Glastonbury and to swell the crowd from 200 at the start of the gig to 5000 at the end of it on a lazy Friday morning at 11 AM definitely was a career highlight.
Raghu poses with fans
What was response from the non-hindi speaking audience like?
It was terrific! People showered love for our music everywhere we went. The fact that venues now have faith in us to sell tickets and fill up the venue is a great sign and we are not letting them down!
The most common comment we get from audiences across the UK has been that they find our music very happy, positive and uplifting. And to get such a lovely compliment when they don't understand a word of our language and yet connect with our songs and get the messages in them is a very joyful feeling for us as a band.
Is it flattering to be considered a music idol? Do you have any?
It's scary. I would like no one to consider me their music idol. It's overwhelming and there is constant pressure to live up the hype and expectations. It's difficult to let my guard down and sometimes just be silly or stupid. I love the love I receive and would like to give it back to those people who appreciate what I do. I really don't have a music idol. This country and its culture itself is an endless source of inspiration for me. I appreciate anyone who works hard at what they believe in and consider the result inconsequential and find happiness in their quest and little things that we often take for granted.
Belting it out
You seem to experiment with different elements on stage. I’ve see shadow puppetry, even the dance routines you do.
An idea is novel only till it’s announced to the world! It takes very little time for someone else to clone or even better it! Moreover, I get bored with myself very easily and have this constant desire to be excited and be involved in doing something new. People's attention span too has been getting smaller and smaller. To grab an audience and hold them together is a tough act these days. It’s become a necessity to constantly reinvent myself and find new directions of expression.
Raghu isn't too fond of travel
What is it like travelling with a band?
Best part is that you see some amazing places! Not in a touristy way but as an artist - venues and festivals that otherwise most of us end up just reading about or watching on YouTube! We feel we are truly blessed that we get to play at such amazing venues. But that feeling only gets augmented when the crowd enjoys what we perform and we make friends with total strangers and over the years they bring along more people and we increase our tribe of friends and fans!
The down side is lack of adequate rest. We hardly get to sleep. Finding good food to appeal to our need for spice and flavours is the biggest challenge. Eating stored sandwiches from services on highways is our worst nightmare. Even Indian food at Indian restaurants in the UK is depressing!
What’s next on the agenda?
I’m working on a couple of movie projects in Kannada. The soundtrack of 'Fly' will be out by September. Later this year ill start on my debut Tamil film and also a Hindi movie with a very inspiring film maker of our times. Both the films will be officially announced soon. It’s all a bit hush hush right now. I am also working on our third album which will takes its own time before any of it can be heard by the world.
Cover Image: Navin Devnani
All other images: The Raghu Dixit Project