Two time Grammy winner Ricky Kej speaks to us on the occasion of his third nomination

The musician is currently working on multiple film scores in the Malayalam film industry and Hollywood

author_img Raima Ganguly, Romal Laisram Published :  23rd December 2022 12:00 AM   |   Published :   |  23rd December 2022 12:00 AM

Ricky Kej

Bangalore based musician Ricky Kej has already won the Grammy twice- a feat many can only dream of, and has again been nominated for a third for his album Divine Tides. “After my 2015 Grammy for Winds of Samsara, I was really looking forward to a follow up album. Years went by since I was busy touring the world followed by the pandemic imposed restrictions. It was only in 2020 that I finally sat down to make some new music and eventually collaborated with The Police’s founder and drummer Stewart Copeland,” shares Ricky. The album brings together his music with his thoughts about the rapidly changing natural environment, and carries an essence of co-existence. Ricky shares with us his musical roots, his learnings and his current playlist. The musician is currently working on multiple film scores in the Malayalam film industry and Hollywood.


When did you realise music is your true passion?


I think I have always been a musician, from the moment I first understood music. I owe it to my father since he had a huge collection of LPs, track cartridges and cassettes that not only ranged through Western Pop Artists but a lot of seemingly obscure music from different parts of the world such as Africa, Korea, Japan, South East Asia, Russia, South America and Europe. I had a knack to understand the instruments used in each of these pieces and spend long hours listening to them in the process. That is how somewhere I developed a passion for music. I started off as a self-taught musician who took up formal lessons much later in his life.


How has the journey been from being a part of a progressive rock band based out of Bangalore to being nominated at The Grammys for a third time?


I was just 19 when I began my career as a musician with a Bangalore based band called Angel Dust. I was with them for a little under two years and happened to be the second youngest member of the ensemble. I never travelled outside Bangalore until I became a part of the band and hence the entire experience made me more responsible and disciplined. Immediately after this stint I started doing commercials from television and radio and have completed almost 3500 commercials so far. Soon after quitting Angel Dust I was also signed by an USA based label, and my music was being distributed by the legendary Universal Music. This was followed by multiple other labels which eventually won me my first Grammy in 2015. It’s been quite a journey.


How does it feel to represent your roots globally at the Grammy and what are some of your learnings?


Unlike any other music award given out by a particular country, The Grammys acknowledge musicians from all across the world which makes it the Olympics of music in a way. One thing that I realised is Indians are still confused when it comes to representation on an international level as they feel it is crucial for them to sing in English in order to do so. I think the actual ones who have broken cultural barriers are Classical musicians like Ravi Shankar, Ustad Alla Rakha, Ustad Akbar Ali Khan and Anoushka Shankar to name a few. It is important to note that even when popular artists are performing abroad the audiences they attract are mainly constituted by the Indian diaspora while classical musicians performing abroad actually break cultural barriers by bringing the music of our roots to a global stage for a global audience.


What artists and instruments are a constant on your playlist?


Ravi Shankar’s music pieces are a constant on my playlist as I keep going back to especially when I am travelling. I also am extremely fond of Hans Zimmer and some alternative rock bands from the 90s such as Green Day. I also have some heavy metal on my playlist by ensembles like Metallica, Pantera, Sepultura, Slayer and Anthrax. When it comes to instruments I particularly like the ones that have a strong personality such as the Sitar, flute, Veena and Tabla in addition to the Dan Bau, a monochord from Vietnam, Native American and Chinese flutes.