Fans are an investment which require no money at all: Raghu Dixit

Apoorva Dutt

Oct 17, 2013 18:05:02 IST

Raghu Dixit is India’s first truly crossover rock musician. Raghu’s catchy Kannada tunes, set to contemporary beats have won fans all over the world. The musician has performed for the Queen of England, at the Glastonbury Music Festival in England and at every single Bacardi NH7 Weekender festival since its inception.

Now, Raghu is launching his second album which has been five years in the making, has done the music for a Yash Raj film starring Sonam Kapoor and Ayushman Khurana, and will be performing at the Bacardi NH7 Weekender in Pune this weekend. Despite this hectic schedule, Raghu, took time out from his schedule today to talk to Firstpost.

Fans are an investment which require no money at all: Raghu Dixit

Raghu Dixit.

How it all began:

Raghu was a microbiology student in Mysore, and he started his journey as a musician with a band he cobbled together for college festivals. “We called it Eclipse – which was appropriate because the band itself ‘eclipsed’ eight days later,” he said.

His turn at the big time came when he won a radio competition, leading to him being chosen as the opening act for a Bryan Adams’ concert in Bangalore. Raghu remembers how 25,000 fans were chanting ‘Bryan…Bryan’ when his band (now dubbed Antaragni) traipsed on stage.

Raghu won over the audience in a landmark move – serving the audience a heady cocktail of different genres. “We did a bizarre Carnatic version of Hotel California,” he says. “When the alap started, they were like what the f--k! But as soon as they heard the opening chords of the song, they went back to mad cheering. It was hysterical.”

On working in Bollywood, and his new film:

Raghu has done a Bollywood movie before – he did four songs for Mujhse Fraaandship Karoge back in 2011. Now, he is working for his second Yash Raj Film, called Bewakoofiyan, starring Sonam Kapoor and Ayushman Khurana and directed by Nupur Asthana.

He isn’t troubled by the limitations of working on a flim score either. “You can either look at the project as setting limitations, or being a challenge,” he said” “I definitely see it as a challenge. You’re given a brief. The music is for a setting, a script, a certain attitude – and finally it is also for a star cast that will perform to your music. It’s a fantastic thing for a musician to experience.”

The only problem Raghu has with the Bollywood life: “It takes a long, long time to wrap up a movie,” he says with emphasis. “There are many parameters, which inevitably delay the film.”

But Raghu does look on the bright side. “I got to work from home in Bangalore, so that was a big plus,” he says with a laugh.

On performing at the Bacardi NH7 Weekender:

Raghu has performed at every Bacardi NH7 Weekender Festival since its inception, and says that he feels like the festival’s resident ‘home boy.’ “I was signed on to Only Much Louder (OML) from before NH7,” he remembers. “So I’ve seen it grow from an idea, to something that experienced some teething problems, to the amazing festival it has begun now.

“It’s not just about the music. There are all these young people, having a great time, and minds are being opened to music, people…the festival makes me wish I was 22!”

On his new album:

Why did Raghu take five years to release his new album? “Touring, promoting the first album, all of it was keeping us busy,” says the musician. “But actually everything we did in these five years has culminated in this album. The collaborations, the growth as musicians – it’s all led here.”

Pre-orders for the new album, called Jag Chanda, begin tomorrow at Weekender. “Every song on the album is a collaboration,” says Raghu. “Most of them are brand new musicians I’ve never worked with before. I worked with a sarog player from London, a band called Bellowhead, I went to Nashville and recorded with musicians there, worked with Ankur Tewari…I’ve even sung in Tamil!”

Raghu won’t say, however, what fans should expect the new album to sound like. “I think people should listen to it and make their own inferences…I think they will enjoy what we’ve made,” he says.

On fans and performing across the world:

Practically nothing is more important to Raghu than forging a connection with his fans.

“There was a fan of mine who rescued me when I was in a jam last year. I was stuck with no place to go, and he housed and fed the band — all five of us – for 45 days. We’ve become good friends now, and he is helpful to the point of cutting my calls and calling back to save me money!”

Raghu also gives out concert passes to loyal fans, and will call out names of people in the audience, and thank them for their support. He is on Twitter and Facebook “sometimes for hours at a time”, patiently inviting fans to his concerts and responding to their gushing with humility and enthusiasm. “They’re an investment which requires no money at all.”

Raghu has played across the world, everywhere in the United States, the UK, Korea, Japan, Russia and Hong Kong. In June 2011, the Raghu Raghu Project appeared at the Glastonbury Festival. In 2010, he appeared on BBC TV's Jools Holland show which led to one of his songs becoming an instant download hit, and from the year 2010 onwards, he has made several appearances at festivals in the UK and in Europe. In the early months of 2011, he gave a concert as part of London South Bank's 'Alchemy' Festival.

In April 2012, he performed for Queen Elizabeth II of England and her husband the Duke of Edinburgh Prince Philip at a Diamond Jubilee Pageant marking 60 years since her accession to the throne in 1952.

But there’s no hierarchy as far as Raghu is concerned. “I would love to perform in a living room, and I would love to perform in a stadium,” says the musician. “People love us because we’re so happy. We’ve been amazingly accepted. Almost every musician is so serious and complaining, and then we come on stage in our colourful lungis and making stupid jokes. Fans love us because we have a positive message.”

What’s next for Raghu Dixit:

Raghu will be participating in MTV Unplugged which will air in December. “It was a youthful dream come true,” he says. “You’ve seen bands like Nirvana, Bryan Adams do it. We broke down three of our songs, and even played some stuff off the new album.”

Besides this, Raghu will be part of Celtic Connections (through British Council's Folk Nations), one of the world’s biggest music festivals in Scotland this January. “We’ll be playing at the Hydro, this amazing venue in Glasgow, at the fruit market, and one day we’ll be busking in the streets,” says the musician with a laugh. “It will be the complete experience."

Pre-orders for Raghu Dixit's new album are available from http://raghudixit.com/

Updated Date: Oct 17, 2013 19:40:12 IST