Apart from being one of the few artists in India who fuse folk music with rock so deftly, Raghu Dixit is also a two-time performer at Glastonbury! He spoke to the Sherp, a little after his 2015 Glastonbury performance.
Everyone’s heard and read the story of the former microbiologist leaving a well-oiled job machinery to settle into independent music, but Raghu Dixit’s rise in India’s music scene is worth noting. That his music, often inspired from his home state Karnataka’s culture and literature has not been an hindrance to his nationwide fame is well known. But what has only recently been discovered courtesy his NH7 Weekender 2014 performance is his ability to tune dance and music together. For someone who understands the beautiful amalgamation that Western rock and India’s earthy sounds can produce, Raghu Dixit gained international recognition for his intrinsically individual quality.
So it comes as no surprise that The Raghu Dixit Project was invited onto the Glastonbury stage again, post his 2011 extremely well received Glastonbury performance. Here is what he had to say about his time at the popular UK festival’s 2015 edition.
This is your second experience playing at Glastonbury. Tell us something about your last performance?
Glastonbury was spectacular, as usual! It is hard to describe the festival to someone who hasn’t seen it, because just everything is beyond your wildest imagination. We played our first set at 11.30 in the morning on a Friday and there were over 2000 people there in the crowd, and the response we got was beyond belief. I wish it was Glastonbury every day!
As one of India’s foremost independent artists, you specialise in blending folk music in a myriad number of styles. How was it connecting with the British audience at Glastonbury?
The audience at Glastonbury, like I was saying is really amazing. These are people who have the choice to watch some of the best acts from around the world, on those 3 days. And if they are standing in front of your stage, then you are doing something right! We had a great time. We have posted some pictures and videos from the show there and you can see how beautiful it was!
The fields were alive with the sound of our music 🙂
Posted by The Raghu Dixit Project on r3b3cc4 b14k d4y, j00n 26, 2015
Is there an interesting anecdote from your last performance you’d like to share with us?
Well, Glastonbury is known for it’s mud and slush and non-stop rain, and in fact, the last time we were at Glasto, 4 years ago, our equipment and most of the band members got stuck in the mud trying to get to the stage that we had do one show without our instruments and the band, and with just me singing solo! but this year, the weather Gods smiled on us, when we played our first set in the morning, there was bright sunshine and everyone was loving standing there in the field, and when we played our second set inside a tent, it was pouring outside, so everyone ran in to our tent for our show!
The universe conspired!
What is it about performing at a music festival that appeals to you the most?
The fact that the people at the festival are there for the music. They are looking for new bands to see and new music to like and it is fantastic to play to such audiences.
I happened to read somewhere that growing up, you had little exposure to western music. Do you feel that, that alienation has helped you create a distinct sound?
I don’t think it was alienation, but yes, it did mean that I chose a different route for my music. I did not try to cover my favourite or trendy songs at the time, but instead learnt to write my own music.
What do you think about the music festival industry in India?
I think we are off to a great start and there are a lot of people with very interesting ideas starting festivals. The trick is to ensure that the festival you are curating is relevant and sustainable. That is one place Indian festivals still struggle with and I think we will find a balance soon for that as well.
You’re a trained Bharatnatyam dancer, and by virtue of your music, you also wear ghungroos when you’re playing. Plus, at the last NH7 Weekender, your band performed to Nritarutya dancing. Is there a spiritual inter-connectivity there?
I don’t know if it is spiritual. There is certainly a connection and it might even be nostalgia from my dance days carrying over. Our aim as a band has always been to make our shows an experience that the audience goes back feeling happy and talking about! And not just dance, we are trying out a variety of stage performance options to achieve this.
Folk music is gaining much ground internationally, with folk rock, folk electronica rising in prominence. Your music is fused with earthy Indian sounds. What has the reception to that been like?
Incredible! and if you scan the Internet after the first leg of our UK tour, I think we have got some great feedback from people, both regulars and first timers about our shows. This can only mean good things for the band.
The Raghu Dixit Project at Glastonbury 2011
Your Kannada music is seeped in literature, seeking inspiration from legendary poet Shishunala Sharif. What are your other strong influences?
Again, being a self taught musician means I am exploring and being inspired by the musicians that I collaborate with. So I have an idea of what the songs I am making should turn out like and then try and pick the best people I think I can work with to achieve that!
What is the funniest thing that may have happened to you at a festival?
In retrospect, many of these things are funny, but at the time, they ranged from scary to ridiculous! I think the one incident that really comes to mind first is when I was meant to do an acoustic show in Glastonbury the first time we went there in 2011, and we completely underestimated the size of the festival. So we put all our equipment and instruments in a trailer van and trudged along in the mud to the stage. Half way through, 3 of the band members lost their way walking through the festival to the stage, and the trailer with our instruments got stuck in the mud! When I reached the stage minutes before we were meant to start, I was without half the band and had no instruments!
So I had to borrow a guitar from someone busking around the corner and did the gig as a solo concert and just as I was finishing, I saw both my band members and our instruments land up at the venue!
Apart from yours, whose set are you most looking forward to at Glastonbury?
Most of the acts we were looking to watch at Glastonbury this year, including Pharell and Lionel Ritchie were on day 2 of the festival and we had to run off to another city for our gig there, so we did not really get to catch many of the acts we wanted to.
The Raghu Dixit Project at Glastonbury 2011
If you had to name three Indian artists, apart from yourself, who you wish to see on the International festival arena, who would they be and why?
I think 3 is too few considering the fantastic Indian indie music scene! And a lot of Indian acts are actually performing Internationally quite regularly now! So me picking acts for this is quite redundant.
(all images and videos from The Raghu Dixit Project Facebook and Youtube)