Raghu Dixit’s upcoming album, Shakkar, is a journey of hope, healing, and collaboration

Raghu Dixit’s new album, Shakkar, is a heartfelt creation born from overcoming personal struggles, featuring songs in four languages and collaborations with global artists

Published - June 14, 2024 12:12 pm IST

Raghu Dixit

Raghu Dixit | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Raghu Dixit’s recent music video, ‘Shakkarpari,’ is a sugary delight for the eyes. It perfectly captures the heart-warming message of his upcoming album, Shakkar. Released in four languages, the video transcends mere translation of sounds to visuals, transporting its viewers to a simpler time and place reminiscent of RK Narayan’s idyllic Malgudi.

Bathed in the warm glow of a South Indian afternoon, the video unfolds in a quaint Karnataka town. We meet a kind-hearted schoolgirl, her eyes brimming with empathy as she witnesses her classmate’s dejection after a punishment for tardiness. A late arrival caused by morning chores. A tear rolls down the boy’s cheek. Determined to melt away his sadness, the girl hatches a plan, sweet as the song’s title: to save money to get him a peanut-jaggery candy bar.

Raghu is not just the mastermind behind the music; he is also the video’s director and screenwriter. The kind-hearted schoolgirl in ‘Shakkarpari’ becomes a charming reflection of himself. This connection is particularly poignant when considering Raghu’s actions during the pandemic. He was battling his own mental issues. “I didn’t feel like continuing. Every night, I’d go to bed hoping I wouldn’t wake up,” he says. With a friend, he set up a mental health helpline for people to process the COVID-19 grief.

In the video, the peanut-jaggery candy bar costs a mere ₹65 – a seemingly insignificant amount to most. For the little girl, however, it represents a treasure of saved coins and a sacrifice made with love. Similarly, Raghu’s efforts during the pandemic, while not world-changing, undoubtedly brought light to those struggling with their mental health battles, himself included.

One of his primary motivations for making an album after a decade is to say this message: even the smallest gestures, fueled by genuine kindness, can have a profound impact.

From frustration to flow

In the midst of a creative rut, a glimmer of inspiration arrived in the form of John Paul, a Kolkata-based musician. John’s relentless pursuit, sending Raghu demo after demo via WhatsApp, initially annoyed him. “Dude, how much validation do you need?” he asked John. However, John did not seek validation; he just wanted to work with Raghu. And that took the latter by surprise. On a whim, he called John to his studio.

The spontaneous act sparked a period of intense creativity. “We ended up blocking out 15, maybe 20 days – we ate, slept, and breathed music in that studio,” recalls Raghu. “We came out with over 45 tunes!”

This outpouring of creativity, fueled by John’s infectious enthusiasm, proved to be a turning point. Raghu describes the experience as more than just a spark of inspiration: “Working with John did more than just spark creativity; it slowly lifted me out of that dark place. It showed me how much music I still had in me.” Brimming with a newfound optimism, the resulting songs formed Shakkar’s core.

While the initial spark for Shakkar ignited quickly, Raghu faced a two-year roadblock. His voice simply would not cooperate. “My pitch was off, and even autotune couldn’t fix it – it sounded unnatural.” It returned, however, as if by a miracle, on its own, during a recording session. And he recorded the core of the album within a week. However, the journey was not over. Since this would be his first album in 10 years, he wanted it to be special. He wanted to do something unique. One of Shakkar’s USPs is that its songs are available in four languages: Kannada, Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu. Bringing the album to life with four variations for each track added another three years to the process, making Shakkar a five-year labour of love.

Raghu Dixit

Raghu Dixit | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Creative symphony

Another USP of the album is the sheer number of collaborations involved in its creation. Shakkar started with John. Then, during the song-writing stage, his long-time friend and leading Hindi lyricist Neeraj Rajawat Singh came on board.

Raghu’s quest for lyricists was not just about finding talent; it was about finding kindred spirits. He sought collaborators who could not only translate his ideas but also share his vision. From the long-admired Kannada lyricist Kiran Kaverappa to the “generous” Tamil lyricist Madan Karky to the serendipitously connected Telugu writer Kittu Vissapragada (who he later found out was working from Ireland!), each collaboration brought a unique spark.

Raghu did not stop there. He “chased down some incredible musicians from around the world,” as he puts it – friends he was fortunate enough to collaborate with. The list is impressive: Bela Fleck, a Grammy winner, played banjo on the first song, ‘Shakkarpari.’ There’s also Rajhesh Vaidhya on one track, Purbayan Chatterjee on another, Casey Driessen on violin, Michael League on a Moroccan instrument called a Gimbri, and even a Brazilian ensemble on two songs! Each song features these amazing artists who generously contributed their talent to the album’s unique sound.

For Raghu, Shakkar is more than music; it’s a personal victory born from a period of despair. “This album is incredibly special to me for a few reasons,” he reflects, “First, it came from a place of feeling hopeless and wanting to give up. The fact that I persevered and created something beautiful makes it even more meaningful.”

“Ten years ago, my reasons for making music might have been more superficial – fame, fortune, and the spotlight. Now, my mission is to reach out to people struggling like I once did. People who might not feel comfortable talking to anyone who don’t have a support system. If my music can offer them a lifeline, a thread of hope to hold onto, that’s incredibly fulfilling.”

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