Tag Archives: Hey Bhagwan

The Raghu Dixit Project at Opus, Bangalore

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The Raghu Dixit Project stands out from other bands because of the absolute ease with which they connect with the crowd. Christmas Eve saw Opus Bangalore packed to the hilt with no space to take a step and the undeniable warmth of the Christmas spirit made its presence felt immediately. The densely packed tables placed close to the stage seemed awfully inappropriate for such an energetic show, but given the guest artists who graced the stage the past 7 days – Opus was definitely the place to be this Christmas. Raghu Dixit – almost a household name now, took to the stage at half past nine, with a considerably changed lined up – Wilfred D’moz on Drums / Percussion, a very youthful looking Parth Chandiramani on the Flute and Bryden Stephen Lewis on Guitars.

Raghupathy Dixit brought folk music to the front lines of the music scene of a city that saw all sorts of influences – from western classical music to college rock to jazz and blues, the dominion being sounds from the west. But what he manages to do is entwine eastern sounds and infuse carnatic notes with western instruments and sing in three languages (English, Hindi and Kannada) that instantly strikes a chord with the people of Karnataka. After playing ‘Hey Bhagwan’ from his debut album, with which he opened the gig, ‘Masti ki basti’ was the new song that he rolled out.  The performance of this song saw both Gaurav Vaz and Raghu jumping in unison – the rhythm rising to a lively jig that brought a smile to many faces there.

Raghu manages to bring the folk genre of Bhagavathee to the forefront with his songs. A genre peculiar to Karnataka, Bhagavathee (literally means ’emotion poetry’) is a form of expressionist poetry and light music. Most of the poetry sung in this genre pertains to subjects like love, nature, and philosophy.

‘Kodagana Koli Nungitta’ was the next song he sang. Originally a Kannada folk song, (details of which you can find here), he turned it around to make it seem like a composition of absolute brilliance. It started off sounding like Jazz, moved into the familiar sounds of a folk song  interjected with Carnatic sounds from the flute, and culminated with Rock n’ Roll! For those of you who need an introduction to what Raghu can do to old tunes, here’s an example.

If you haven’t been initiated into the Raghu Dixit Project fan group yet, you must listen to the songs from his first album that he played at this gig – ‘Gudgudiya sedi nodo’, ‘Mysore se aayi’, ‘I’m in Mumbai, waiting for a miracle’ and ‘No man will ever love you, like I do’, the last one being a soulful melody that can tug at the heart strings of any lovelorn bloke.

What surprised me most was how the flautist supplemented the band after the departure of the violinist. I was glad to be introduced to the newer songs that he played – ‘Jag Changa’, which he said would be the title track of their next album. It had a nice rhythm and vocal parts and every member of the band sang the harmony to this song flawlessly. Another track – ‘Lokada Kaalaji’ had awesome riff lines and was fun to sing along to.

‘Yaadon ki kyaari’ was about Raghu’s childhood back in Nasik, where he was born. A laidback song where the guitarist uses a ukulele and the flautist plays the melodica. ‘Just maath maathalli’, ‘Munjaane manjalli’, ‘Neene Beku’, and ‘Mahadeshwara’ were the other numbers that they played. Considering that their first self-titled album came a full four years back, Raghu reassured the crowd that the second one would come out towards the end of January next year.

Their website proclaims the band as often being called India’s biggest cultural and musical export, and with good reason too because travelling frequently to play at countries like the US, Mexico, England (they played for the Queen on her 60th year anniversary since her accession to the throne) is no easy task. This band can only see greater success in the future!

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Sharath Krishnaswami

Sharath is a freelance journalist. When he's not working, he's either painting on walls, trekking, or writing short stories.

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Antaragni: The Fire Within by The Raghu Dixit Project

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The Dixit brothers should count themselves lucky. Both of them have been blessed with incredibly powerful voices, musical sense and an ability to speak and thus sing in a few languages. While Vasu, the younger of the two, plays for Swarathma, Raghu Dixit leads the hugely popular The Raghu Dixit Project. Raghu started his musical career with the short-lived Antaragni(sidenote: Antaragni = awesome) but they soon disbanded and Raghu went on to recruit noted musicians like Vijay Joseph and Gaurav Vaz to form The Raghu Dixit Project. Melding folksy Indian music with catchy guitar hooks, TRDP released their album in 2008 to massive audience response as the eponymous album became the highest selling non-film music album of the year 2008-2009.

Raghu Dixit studied and lived in Mysore and it is this period of his life that seems to have influenced his music. Serving as songwriter for RDP, his music is deeply influenced by Karnataka arts and also the writings of the Muslim poet Shishunala Sharif. Few of the tracks on this album were written during Raghu’s Antargani days. Take for instance the popular ‘Mysore Se Ayi’. This track was tweaked and the tempo was increased to make it to so upbeat that you can’t help but clap and dance.

Gudugudiya Sedi Nodo is RDP’s rendition of a famous Shishunala Sharif poem. In the poem, the poet metaphorically asks everyone to ‘smoke the hookah of life’. Unfortunately teenagers commonly use this song to justify their bad smoking habits!

‘Sorutihudu Maniya Maligi’ is another Sharif do-over. This track is more somber compared to Gudugudiya and has a bluesy feel to it. As strong as Raghu’s voice is, the other musicians in the album must feel shortchanged with the production values of this CD. Raghu’s voice completely overshadows the subtlety in the instrumentation. Whether this was a foresight on the production team or a creative decision (the official TRDP website has absolutely no mention of the other band members) remains to be seen but it does take away the sheen from what is otherwise a great album.

Ambar‘ is a soaring seven minute love song about a man in search for love. It is the perfect soundtrack to the climax of a fairy-tale love story. TRDP’s versatility is very evident as they prove they can write the radio-friendly stuff with the song ‘Well I’m In Mumbai, Waiting for a Miracle‘. An acoustic strum gives way to snazzy violins and a catchy chorus as Raghu talks about his times as a struggling musician living in Mumbai. Clocking in at five minutes length, it probably is a tad too long for your average radio station but everyone loves a violin solo! The material on the album does indicate a spiritual side to the band especially the crowd favourite ‘Hey Bhagwan‘. Raghu Dixit relies heavily on his vocal range to carry the album and luckily for him he has the chops to pull it off.

As Raghu has mentioned in interviews, some of the songs on this track have been 12 years in the making. It is thus no surprise that the songs are deeply personal and are about everything from his upbringing to his efforts as an upcoming musician. Throw in some Sharif influenced folk rhythms and great groove and you have a winner. Their live shows are extremely fun as well, barring the unruly crowd that shout themselves hoarse demanding him to sing his movie OSTs. A pity really because when TRDP are in flow, replete with colourful lungis and ghungroos they are a treat to watch. And they’ve managed to capture that energy onto this superb CD. Folk on!

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Sohan Maheshwar

Jack of all tirades, total shirk-off. Follow Sohan on twitter! @soganmageshwar

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