Grammy winner Ricky Kej’s Rhythm of the Earth concert series is music for a sustainable future

Ricky Kej’s Rhythm of the Earth concerts highlight nature’s beauty and advocate for environmental and social change

Published - June 21, 2024 10:01 am IST

Ricky Kej

Ricky Kej | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Close your eyes and picture this: sunlight dappling through leaves, their gentle rustle a counterpoint to the gurgling melody of a nearby stream, and in the distance, a waterfall crashes, vibrating through the ground you stand on. These are the ancient sounds of nature, a feeling words can often fail to describe. Music, much like nature, possesses this same evocative power — the ability to stir emotions and inspire action. It is this intrinsic connection that Grammy-winning musician Ricky Kej celebrates and harnesses through his Rhythm of the Earth concert series, a collaboration with The Leela Palaces Hotels and Resorts.

Set against the backdrop of The Leela’s properties, the series promises a unique blend of music, visuals, and a message of environmental responsibility. The concerts will unfold across four cities — Bengaluru, Chennai, Udaipur, and Jaipur — beginning on June 22. At the heart of this initiative is Ricky, who has been a fervent advocate for sustainability and social responsibility. His journey from a commercial composer to a globally acclaimed environmentalist and musician is as compelling as the causes he champions.

Reflecting on his early career, he recalls the pressures of creating music for commercials and television. “Creating music for commercials and television was about technical accuracy and deadlines. It was high-pressure work, but it was steady,” he says over the phone from Bengaluru. “Back then, it was all about money and meeting client expectations.” Over 14 years, he composed more than 3,500 pieces, driven by the demands of clients and the pursuit of perfection.

For the love of music

Today, his motivations have shifted dramatically. His music is now a medium for expressing his deep-seated beliefs and passions, particularly concerning nature and sustainability. “The music I create now is what I believe in and want to communicate to the world. I make music when I’m motivated, and when I’m not feeling it, I don’t force it,” he explains. This authentic approach has enabled him to connect with audiences more profoundly, using music as a vehicle for change.

Ricky’s schedule remains hectic, with an impressive 77 concerts in 17 countries last year alone. Yet, he is able to find his muse. “These quiet moments of inspiration happen in unexpected places. Nature walks and exploratory trips are great, but I also find peace on airplanes, especially long flights,” he shares. “Another surprising source of inspiration is post-concert nights. The adrenaline is still high on these occasions, and sleep is nearly impossible. I travel with a portable studio — a small keyboard, computer, and headphones. So, those restless nights in hotel rooms become songwriting sessions.”

This unorthodox approach to creativity perfectly aligns with the ethos of Rhythm of the Earth. The concert series, promises an immersive audio-visual experience that highlights environmental and social themes. “The Rhythm of the Earth concert series is not just about entertaining the audience. It’s about leaving them with a lasting message,” emphasises Ricky. The events feature sustainability-focused menus and décor that reflect social responsibility, embodying The Leela’s commitment to environmental causes.

The visual component of Ricky’s concerts is meticulously crafted to complement his music. “We have a dedicated team who travels the world filming incredible footage.” For instance, a song dedicated to the Ganges is accompanied by visuals depicting the river’s journey from the Gangotri glacier to the Bay of Bengal. “These evocative visuals play in the background while we perform, creating a powerful multi-sensory experience.”

Ricky’s dedication to environmental causes extends beyond his music. He is a staunch advocate for children’s rights, a commitment reflected in his support for the Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation (KSCF) through the concert series. “Children’s rights are a cause I’ve cared about for a while. Since 2018, I’ve been a high-profile supporter of UNICEF.” His admiration for Kailash Satyarthi, whom he met in 2018, solidified his resolve. “Environmental issues can’t be solved in isolation. Poverty is a huge barrier. That’s where Kailash Satyarthi’s work comes in — tackling fundamental issues such as child slavery and child protection.”

Music and activism

Music, according to him, is a potent tool for activism. “Music is a universal language, a powerful tool that can evoke emotions and inspire action.”

“We face many challenges on our planet, from climate change and pollution to social issues including child rights, poverty, and malnutrition. The biggest threat is apathy. We wait for governments or leaders to take action. But real change starts with individual behaviour.”

That is where music comes in, says Ricky. “Sure, scientific data is important, but it doesn’t change mindsets. Artists can translate complex ideas into the emotional language of music, reaching people’s hearts and souls.”

According to him, there are two approaches to environmental activism — the David Attenborough approach, which focuses on showcasing the splendour of the natural world, and the Greta Thunberg approach, which emphasises the urgency of climate action due to human impact. While recognising the value of both methods, he gravitates towards the former. “I focus on the beauty of the natural world,” he explains, “showing people the wonders we stand to lose. The idea is to inspire a sense of awe and appreciation for nature, hopefully leading people to protect it. We protect what we love and can only love what we understand.”

As Rhythm of the Earth prepares to enchant audiences across four cities, Ricky’s vision remains clear. “This concert series is more than just music. It’s a powerful force for good, a reminder that real change starts with individual behaviour,” he says.

For more information about the concert series, visit theleela.com

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