When Raghu Dixit entered the circuit in 2008, the indie music scene was not new to folk-rock. Before him, in the ’90s, the likes of Indian Ocean and Shubha Mudgal had strong fan followings. Yet, it took him only one album to change the game. Here was a guy quirkily dressed in a lungi and ghunghroos, performing happy songs with catchy melodies. In the past few years, he has turned himself into a brand. As he releases his second album, titled Jag Changa, we talk to him about everything — from his music to being India’s ambassador for indie music and more.
What took you so long, almost six years, to release this album?
The last five years have been the most eventful years of my life. I’ve travelled extensively, met so many people and done close to 500 shows across the world. This album is a culmination of all that, and I was just not ready to release an album that I was not happy with. Each of the eight songs in this compilation is special and has been crafted with a lot of love.
You gig frequently and often gauge people’s reactions about what kind of songs work for them. Has that affected the kind of music you have put on this record?
I wish it were that easy. Even with our first album, each person I spoke to had a different opinion and favourite song. So, while the reactions to the songs do help, I don’t think I can decide based on that alone.
You’ve brought on board dancers and, more recently, a shadow puppeteer in your acts too. How challenging is it to keep improvising as an artiste?
The dancers and shadow puppeteers add a new dimension to our live shows. This was a dream show of sorts for me, and I still am amazed that it is all falling into place. The essence of being an artiste lies in constantly collaborating and improving.
You are also being hailed as India’s biggest cultural export among indie musicians. Is there ever any pressure to be a ‘representative’ of India, in terms of the music you perform or the overall act you present on stage?
Honestly, I don’t know about the pressure. I am truly Indian, and so is my band, so we don’t really have to try hard or do anything different to represent India. Today’s India is a melting pot of influences from around the world and, at the same time, is rooted in our tradition and culture. And that comes through in our music and in all of us. As much as it is a surprise for a lot of people, I sing the same songs when we play in the UK or in Mexico or in any other part of the world, and people there love it because it is a glimpse into a culture that they don’t have easy access to.
What are your upcoming recording/touring projects?
We’re heading to Scotland in January, as part of British Council’s Folk Nations programme, for Celtic Connections, a conference and festival. And we are planning an album tour around the world that will hopefully materialise soon.
How’s the composing work on your Bollywood film, Bewakoofian, going?
There are a couple of edits and embellishments I keep adding to the music as the film gets finalised. But right now, a lot of my focus is on the album and I’ll get back to new projects very soon.