He dug into his roots, hunted out folk songs and decided making desi music was his destiny. And, singer Raghu Dixit says he is still surprised at his success
He woke up each morning to M.S.’ Suprabatham and grew up in a veshti-wearing traditional household. Today, Raghu Dixit of The Raghu Dixit Project has made vibrant lungis a fashion statement and makes music that is deeply rooted yet global.
“Even today, I can’t believe we were accepted the way we were,” says Raghu, in town for the Mahashivrathri celebrations at Isha Yoga Center. He says it was a college mate’s challenge that got him to strum a guitar!
Though Raghu was born and brought up in Karnataka, it was through music that he rediscovered his roots and the philosophical verses of saint poets such as Shishunala Sharif. “Till then I was singing English songs with an accent. Once I went desi, I released I was more confident as a performer. I sang with conviction because I did not have to sound like someone else. I understood the milieu the composition was set in. I owned the language. I felt great pride singing in my mother tongue,” he says.
It helps, says Raghu, that he is performing at a time when new sounds are appreciated, even encouraged. “I am delighted that we are around when the music scene is a state of transition. Of course, the Internet, especially YouTube, has helped us in a big way. It has helped reach our music to people who have never heard the language before.”
The performer was exposed to Western music only in his late teens. “Till then, my only exposure to English programmes was watching Star Trek on television in a neighbour’s house on Sunday mornings. Then, I discovered Phil Collins, George Michael and Simon and Garfunkel; the classical notes of Bach, Mozart. It was all so new. I created my own tunes and remembered them the next day. So, I figured out that they were memorable, after all!”
Raghu relied on newspaper headlines for his lyrics. “I did not know how to write. Today, I’m happy I got a chance to do what I like.”
Through his music and research, Raghu has hit the rural trail to pick up folk songs people outside have never heard. He’s now working on the lyrics of legendary poet Da Ra. Bendre.
A second album, after the super successful Raghu Dixit (‘Hey Bhagvan’, ‘Mysore Se Aayi’, ‘Gudugudiya’…) is due to release in May end, but Raghu says it is too early to talk about it.
He’s dabbled with films too (Kannada and Hindi). Remember the song ‘Mahadeswara’ from Pyscho? Do films provide a new platform for his kind of music? “No, films are a different playground, but yes, my music there does carry bits of folk. Now, I’m working on some techno-electronica music for a Hindi film. I love the experience.”
While on Raghu, mention must be made of the band’s trademark lungis. “Ah, that! We were working on creating a unique look for ourselves. Others had taken the kurta-pyjama and kurta-jeans look. We went totally desi, anklets, beads and all. Young Ashwini Sashidar of Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology, Bangalore designs our lungis. It’s a happy and colourful look…” Like their music.
So, what about the friend who lost his bet? Does he know what kind of journey he set Raghu on? “He does, he does,” laughs Raghu. “He’s a priest in Mangalore and we still laugh about the bet!”