I am moved to tears by the beauty of this music: Stewart Copeland says about his album with Ricky Kej
GRAMMY-AWARD WINNING musician Ricky Kej has idolised drummer Stewart Copeland all his life. And while Ricky has had many noteworthy projects under his belt, he says working with Stewart on his latest album, Divine Tides, has been one of the most fulfilling personal and musical experiences for him. Stewart has won the Grammy award five times and apart from his work with the British band The Police and singer Sting, he has also composed over 50 Hollywood film scores. Divine Tides is an amalgam of the musical cultures of both these artistes. With nine songs, and eight music videos filmed in scenic landscapes across the globe, the album reflects on themes of change, nature and the current world. Stewart Copeland talks about the album:
Stewart is known for iconic songs such as Roxxane and Every Breath You Take. He says he was impressed with the music Ricky sent him for the collaboration. “My first thought was, how can I not screw this up! But he insisted that I screw this up. So I mic’d up my crotales, spin gong, and my Chinese bells—all these peculiar instruments that I had never been called to actually record before,” the 68-year-old tells us.
While it may seem that way, the musician says his background is not just limited to Western rock. “I grew up with a lot of Arabic music. The effect that it had at an early age was to increase the elasticity of the brain. I am more tolerant of a wider range of sounds than someone who grew up in Laguna Beach, California. And those different melodic twists, those different intervals, that don’t get used in Western music, to me are like mother’s milk,” he says. So working with Ricky on Divine Tides came naturally to the artiste and he credits the experience as being very inspiring. He explains that the elements Ricky put together are all steeped in tradition, but the way they have been pieced together is very unique. The emotional impact of these mixes of culture is very profound. “I myself am moved to tears by the beauty of this music,” he adds poetically.
Ricky Kej tells us more:
How did the collaboration happen?
Ricky: I had been working on a follow-up to my album, Winds of Samsara, for a while now and had catalogued some of my favourite ideas. Recordings were delayed because of my touring schedule but when the pan-demic hit, it presented an opportunity for me to spend time in my studio and kick-start this project.
In 2016, I was privileged to collaborate on a song with Stewart for a benefit album I produced. This time, I mustered the courage to ask him to collaborate with me on a complete album and I was absolutely thrilled when he agreed.
What do you admire most about Stewart?
Ricky: There is a lot of poetry and intricacy in Stewart’s drumming, which in my opinion, made The Police the legendary band it is. Despite reaching the pinnacle of success, he is constantly evolving and learning by exploring new sounds, traditional music instruments, and rhythms. At this point in his career, he has achieved all that any musician could achieve, yet he came out of his comfort zone to play a style of music that he is not accustomed to.
What were some of your learnings from this collaboration?
Ricky: Stewart has always been my musical hero. There were many occasions where I was sure of something I created, but Stewart would encourage me to do something differently. I would implicitly trust him and his vast experience and wisdom, and go with whatever he suggested. Then a few days later when I would listen to the piece of music objectively, I would realise beyond doubt that I made the right decision to trust his judgement. All of this was a huge learning experience for me.
Tell us about some of the themes in the album, Divine Tides.
Ricky: Nature is the greatest artist and there is beauty everywhere you look. Nature is also my muse. All of the songs in Divine Tides are a reflection of this. The songs are a mix of cultures and traditions, particularly the East and the West. The songs, even though mainly instrumental, are loaded with voices, but in non-lyrical styles. Percussion and rhythm play a very important role, in a meditative and inspiring style.
What challenges did you face while shooting the music videos?
Ricky: We are blessed to have some very talented and successful filmmakers as friends whom we collaborated with. Videos from this album were shot in Leh, Tamil Nadu, the North-East of India, the icy forests of Spain, and LA. As you can imagine, it was a challenge to shoot during the pandemic, but it was also a blessing in disguise as we could showcase Mother Earth in all of her glory since most of the world’s population was indoors.
Divine Tides releases on online streaming platforms on July 21