Few true independent artists in India: Grammy winner Ricky Kej (IANS Interview)

New Delhi, Sep 9 (IANS) Bengaluru-based musician Ricky Kej, who won the Grammy Award for his album “Winds of Samsara” in February, laments that there are few “true independent artists” in India. He says there is a need for musicians to write about “real topics”.

“There are a few true independent artists in India, but most of them do not make music from their heart. They are constantly making music hoping that a Bollywood producer listens to it and likes it. So they are actually making music which slyly caters to Bollywood,” Kej told IANS in a telephonic interview.

The musician was in the capital to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who personally congratulated him for the Grammy win.

Kej’s 2014 release “Winds of Samsara”, for which he won the Best New Age Album trophy at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards in February, spotlights the musical, cultural and political connections between India and South Africa — from late freedom fighters Mahatma Gandhi to Nelson Mandela. He collaborated with South African flutist Wouter Kellerman for the venture.

Drawing a parallel between India and the West’s music cultures, Kej asked why Indian musicians can’t write about hard-hitting subjects that “are bothering them personally”.

“It’s just not music from the heart nor is it music which defines the (composer’s) personality. If you look at the west, a singer like Adele writes an album when she breaks up with someone, and John Mayer writes an album when he falls in love with someone, whereas Coldplay and U2, when they feel strongly about a political issue, write about it.

“Why can’t that happen in India, where musicians can write about real topics and real things that are bothering them personally or about their own philosophy, or make music that they themselves listen to,” he added.

Asked about his opinion on the independent music scene in India, Kej said: “An independent musician like me in India… I have the same issues as a non-cricketer faces in sport.”

Kej has previously composed music for films like “Accident” and “Venkata in Sankata”; he says he is no longer open to such projects as he “found composing music for films generally frustrating”.

“I needed to have freedom to make the music that I wanted to do. I didn’t want the music to be married to a visual. I found the film industry rather stifling for me and I decided that I needed to do my own thing,” he said.

Although Kej is no longer interested in composing music for films from the scratch, he says he is “open to do a film” if the makers want to use his existing music as an OST (original sound track) .

“After the Grammy win, I had got many offers to do films, but the only way I am open to do a film is if any film wants to use my existing music,” Kej said.

“Like how it works in the west… if someone would like to use my music as an OST, I would be extremely happy to do that because my music will reach out to a wider audience,” he added.

(Ankit Sinha can be contacted at ankit.s@ians.in)

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