How musician Raghu Dixit made the lungi fashionable

  • Manali Shah, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Jun 18, 2016 11:28 IST
Raghu Dixit (Photo:Daisy Costello & Gaurav Vaz)

Folk musician Raghu Dixit swapped kurta and jeans (“Euphoria was already doing that”) for the more ethnic, more eccentric lungi. Over time, it’s come to reflect his music and his roots.

When we call Raghu Dixit for this interview, he barely seems interested. We explain that we don’t want to profile him, or even talk about music, but focus on his fashion sensibilities. Suddenly, we have his full attention. “Now I’m awake,” he laughs. The contemporary folk musician is just glad somebody’s talking about the bright-coloured lungis he wears on stage.

Raghu Dixit, and his band, The Raghu Dixit Project, are known for performing in vibrant, ethnic costumes. “It’s an evolution that happened over four to five years. I wanted something that would represent me, where I come from, and the kind of music I play,” Dixit says. He grew up in Mysore, Karnataka, in an orthodox Tamil-Brahmin family. Everything western — music, TV shows, and even jeans — were banned in the household.

Also read: Maati Baani’s The Music Yantra features 50 musicians from 20 countries

“Initially, I used to wear long kurtas and pyjamas. I would look like a Hindustani classical musician rather than a rock star. Then, I started wearing short kurtas and jeans, but Euphoria was already doing that. Nothing seemed to be working,” Dixit recalls. He hit upon the idea of sporting lungis just as he was about to sleep one night. He says, “At home, I wear a white wraparound that we call panche in Kannada. I had a light-bulb moment. I thought, ‘Why not wear this as my costume?’”

Dixit wears only cotton lungis, which he picks up from Sri Lanka

It was perfect. It represents Dixit, his heritage, and also his music — which is upbeat and happy. To keep the rustic feel intact, Dixit doesn’t wear silk — only cotton lungis and kurtas with colourful borders and motifs block-printed on them. Dixit admits, initially, people found it weird. “But soon, they started asking where they, too, could get a lungi like mine,” he laughs. We have the answer to that: Paradise Road, Colombo, Sri Lanka. Dixit goes once every couple of years and picks up around 20 lungis.

It’s not just clothes, though. Dixit’s guitar belts are colourful too. He also wears bells (ghungroos) on his feet — a direct result of him having learnt Bharatanatyam for 17 years. “It is a tradition for folk musicians to perform with bells on their feet. It’s a rhythmic element. Since I used to be a classical dancer, I’m comfortable wearing them,” he says.

For Dixit, then, wearing a costume on stage comes from his sensibilities as a dancer. “We study that there are three to four different styles of expression. First is the body language, second is the facial expression. The third is costume — it represents what character you’re playing, or the kind of dance you’re performing,” he says.

Dixit has toured various countries —United States, Japan, Russia — and has performed extensively, particularly in the UK. “Internationally, it’s common to represent where you come from. What foxes them is the happiness in the band. Most British bands are so morose and sad on stage,” he laughs, adding, “So, when you have this colourful band with happy vibes… That’s the culture shock.”

5 musicians who revolutionised on-stage dressing

1) Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga (Photo: Shutterstock)

The pop diva’s red carpet outfits (remember the meat dress?) and on-stage costumes alike have generated plenty of news. Elaborate headgear, bizarre make-up and sheer dresses usually characterise her look.

2) Angus Young

Rock band AC/DC’s guitarist Angus Young experimented with a number of stage costumes (Spiderman, Zorro, a gorilla, and a parody of Superman, named Super-Ang) before settling on his trademark school boy uniform.

3) David Bowie

Bowie was as much a fashion icon as a rock star. Be it avant-garde kimonos, the now iconic eyepatch, or multi-coloured skin-tight bodysuits, the singer-songwriter wore them all with flair.

4) Elton John

Quirky (often wild) costumes and Elton John went hand in hand. He’s dressed like a drag queen, Ronald McDonald, and Donald Duck. Need we say more?

5) Kiss

Gene Simmons of Kiss (Photo: Shutterstock)

The American rock band is synonymous with face paint. Each member had his own unique make-up design and costume.

Be there

What: The Raghu Dixit Project will perform on June 18, 7.30pm

Where: Dublin Square, Level 1, Phoenix Market City, Kurla

Tickets: Rs 350 on

Call: 6180 1100

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