Post his third Grammy, Ricky Kej performed for the first time in Chennai recently
The first concert in Chennai by Ricky Kej, since his third Grammy win, was everything we’d hoped it would be
When we heard that Ricky Kej was coming to town for a concert, Rhythm of The Earth, we were ecstatic to say the least. This would be, after all, his first visit to the city post his third Grammy win that was just a few weeks ago. Ricky Kej and Stewart Copeland’s Divine Tides won the Best Immersive Audio Album at the 65th Edition of the famous American music awards and India celebrated as the composer brought home a hat-trick. This concert tour took off right after and while the line-up included several famous Ricky ditties, we weren’t going to be treated to anything from the Grammy-winning album.
Fast forward to Sunday evening and the city’s who’s who were in attendance at The Grand Ballroom, The Leela Palace Chennai for an evening that matched the hype that was being created. The concert began a tad late, but we were expecting that, considering this event was put together in quite a hurry. That said, kudos to the team at The Leela Palace Chennai for putting together an amazing audio-visual experience that was simply flawless.
We’ve been following Ricky since he gave us film hits in his avatar as a music director that began way back in 2007. Songs like Baa Maleye Baa from his 2008 Kannada release Accident are now considered classics and even more recent compositions like this theme for Wild Karnataka (2019) continue to mesmerise fans. We hadn’t yet experienced his magic live in concert and the line-up therefore was going to be a complete surprise.
The concert finally began and Oscar Mundia, UNHCR Chief of Mission for India and Maldives, introduced Ricky to the audience and explained why an artiste like him is important in a world ripped apart by political violence and apathy towards nature. Drawing focus to Ricky’s work with refugees, the diplomat also spoke about how music can heal and help us collaborate our energies towards a better future for everyone.
With that, the concert began with a fiery up-tempo composition — New Beginnings — that cemented what our experience was going to be for the rest of the evening: spectacular! With Siddharth Basrur on vocals and guitars; Varijashree Venugopal on vocals and flute; and Giridhar Udupa on vocals and percussion, this was an electrifying start. It was followed by One Song, an anthem that called for unity in several ways and only proved that Siddharth, Varijashree and Giridhar had us sorted.
Next up, was Ganga, a tribute to the mighty river; that while grandiose was also saddening. Varijashree’s vocals and talents as a flautist were brought into focus and we were left wanting more. We were hoping the next would be Cauvery by Pallavi MD, but instead we were taken on an equally emotional journey with Kudrat — dedicated to the Indian Forest Service and the absolutely adorable Indian Elephant (Elephas Maximus Indicus) that still fights for its forest homeland, across the country. Heart-wrenching visuals met and equally emotionally charged voice in Varijashree’s unforgettable performance.
The concert took a different direction in the next song, a political statement made by Afghani singer and refugee Abi K Safa. The song called Farda was a request for peace and freedom in his homeland. This was followed by our favourite piece of the evening, Jai Kisan, dedicated to the farmers of this country in the spirit of Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan. The powerful track featuring tribal farmers and a lone tribal singer singing in the paringa paraja dialect of the Paringa people in Odisha left most of us with goose bumps and a reminder of who our real heroes are. Recorded and shot at Araku Valley in Andhra Pradesh, the video of this song will also leave you spellbound.
It’s tough to follow a piece like that and therefore the incredibly vivid Dub Konnakol, an old Ricky Kej classic, featuring Giridhar Udupa’s inimitable konnakol talents, was the perfect next performance. Mind-blown, the audience leapt into a standing ovation even before the performance ended.
Ricky then led us all into a section featuring two modern takes on classics from Western India — his version of Kesariya Balam; and what should be the country’s next party anthem — his version of Duma Dum Mast Kalandar. Both pieces featured the incomparable vocals of Sudhir and had the audience dance, sing and generally vibe along, enthusiastically.
The concert was now getting to a close and the penultimate song, Shine Your Light, was a call to action. Asking us to stand up and act for a better world, the anthem is definitely the song that you will be left humming long after you hear it, wherever it might be. With such a crescendo, it was quite a downer when we were told the concert was coming to an end. It came to a close with an instrumental version of The National Anthem dedicated to the wildlife of India, and to be honest, now looking back, there couldn’t have been a better finalé.
The concert tours across India over the next few months and we encourage you to watch it and indulge in the unique brand of Ricky’s magic, if and when you can.