Ricky Kej’s journey from Dentistry to winning Grammy
Feature Articles

Ricky Kej’s journey from Dentistry to winning Grammy

December 24, 2018

When a musician speaks straight from the heart, it is nothing less than a magical feeling. For Bengaluru-based composer Ricky Kej, music is a powerful medium. He is a genius on the keyboard and his music is a living testimony of his personality. With five feature films, twelve albums and over two thousand commercials to his credit, Ricky has swayed millions of audience with his music. He has won multiple awards and the biggest was the 57th Grammy Award for his album ‘Winds of Samsara’ in the Best New Age album category.

Ricky Kej was in city recently as chief guest for the 16th Annual Day celebrations of De Paul International Residential School (DPIRS), Mysuru. Star of Mysore reporter Ramesh Kebbehundi caught up with the new age musician where he shared his thoughts on music, his early days and his career. Excerpts.—Ed

By Ramesh Kebbehundi

Star of Mysore (SOM): How did you celebrate your Grammy Award?

Ricky Kej: I felt elated after receiving this award. I won it for my album ‘Winds of Samsara’ which I had prepared in collaboration with South African Flautist Wouter Kellerman. Receiving the highest awards is everyone’s dream. I am very glad that I am the ninth Indian to receive Grammy Award. Such awards and recognitions always propel me to contribute more to the society.

I was also awarded the United Nations ‘Global Humanitarian Artiste Award’ and won ‘Producer of the Year Award’ at the South African Music Awards, ‘Album of the Year Award’ at the Zone Music Awards (New Orleans), ‘Global Indian Music Award’ and Mirchi Music Awards (India), ‘Centre for Conscious Creativity ‘FutureVision’ Award’ (Los Angeles). I was conferred with titles ‘Pride of Karnataka’ and ‘Youth Icon of India.’

SOM: How were your early days?

Ricky Kej: Born to half Punjabi-Marwari family, I was moved to Bengaluru at the age of eight from New Orleans, United States of America. I did my schooling in Bishop Cottons School, Bengaluru, studied Dental Sciences at Oxford Institute of Dental Sciences in Bengaluru. I pursued my dream, music and took off my musical career with Bengaluru’s rock band ‘Angel Dust’ which I had joined while in my college days.

SOM: You studied Dentistry, but became a musician, environmentalist…

Ricky Kej: As my father was a doctor by profession, he always forced me to study medicine which I was not interested in. Because of family pressure, I studied Dentistry. That’s why wherever I go, I always advocate parents to allow their children to pursue their studies, encourage them to chase dreams of their own instead of forcing their views upon them.

SOM: Music in school curriculum… What are your views?

READ ALSO  MCC spreading message on Hasiru Nagara, Swachh Mysuru

Ricky Kej: I strongly bat for introduction of music learning as one of the subjects at all schools. Music is as valid a profession as medicine or engineering. It is something that will always be in fashion. Unfortunately, music education in schools except for some private schools is mostly non-existent. In fact, most scientists and brilliant minds of the world were all musicians. I always encourage every child to learn music which soothes their mind, soul and keeps them happy.

SOM: What is your message to young bands?

Ricky Kej:  A lot of bands are opting to take the easier route and do film songs because it gives them that instant recognition. This may be good, but not in a long term. It is very important for young musicians to create original music that spreads a social message to carve his or her own niche in society. I have always seen musicians make strong statements about climate change and so on but their music never reflected it. I did not want to be one of those artistes.

Ricky Kej seen presenting trophy to a student at De Paul International Residential School in Mysuru recently as Principal Rev. Fr. Aneesh Mathew CM looks on.

SOM: You started your career as a keyboard player for Bangalore-based ‘Angel Dust’ band and ultimately emerged as an environmentalist…

Ricky Kej: As an environmentalist, I always give top priority to protection of forest, rivers and nature. People must be encouraged to take up zero natural farming to minimise the usage of chemical fertilisers. I have made a lot of albums on these aspects. The symbiotic association of man and forest is deeply ingrained in religious and socio-cultural mindset of our countrymen and it is getting disturbed in recent times due to increasing demand for natural resources and lack of understanding about nature.

SOM: You said that you are spreading the Indian philosophy of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. How is that?

Ricky Kej: Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam inculcates an understanding that the whole world is one family. It is a philosophy that tries to foster an understanding that the whole of humanity is one family. It is a social philosophy emanating from a spiritual understanding that the whole of humanity is made of one life energy that comes from Mother Earth. Indian culture has traditionally revered trees as holy symbols. It was considered a sin to cut trees.

SOM: Tell us about your Mysuru connection.

Ricky Kej: I often used to visit the city along with my friends in my younger days. Last Dasara (2018) I even performed at Mysore Palace. Mysuru is always a fascinating city for me which boasts of having innumerable number of heritage structures. The city and its surroundings are blessed with nature’s bounty including Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary near Srirangapatna, Chamundi Hill and other areas that are full of green growth.

READ ALSO  Only two genres in music: Good songs & Bad songs

SOM: Your ‘Winds of Samsara’ album was inspired by the bonding between Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. Is it?

Ricky Kej: Yes, they are the towering personalities of humanity. Both of them inspired me a lot and have awakened my social and environmental consciousness.

SOM:  What are your future plans?

Ricky Kej: I have dedicated my life to environment, celebrating our biodiversity and highlighting our ecological issues through music. Rest of my life will be dedicated to sensitise children across the globe to conserve environment. I have realised that there needs to be a holistic approach to everything and it has to start with children.

SOM: What are the social impacts of your works?  

Ricky Kej: I am happy that my ‘Earth Songs’ will now be introduced on a larger scale through textbooks from the next academic year across the country. This will be a part of 2019 CBSE and ICSE curriculum from classes 1 – 8. The Government of Karnataka too has pledged to introduce the Kannada version of ‘Earth Songs’ in over 70,000 schools. My next step is to take these songs across the world. I had recently performed these songs at UN Headquarters in Geneva. I want to take these songs to schools in France, Spain and USA.

SOM: Tell us about your association with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Ricky Kej: There were two instances which convinced me to do more for environment. First, I was working on commercial music projects before 2011. Later I stopped doing commercial work and concentrated on composing and producing songs that had a social impact.

I was influenced a lot by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he insisted me to spread awareness on environment in a large scale after I won the Grammy as my works created a large impact in the society. In fact, my album ‘Shanthi Samsaram’ was launched by PM Modi and French President Francois Hollande (now former) in the presence of world leaders at the United Nations COP 21 Climate Change Conference held in Paris.

I collaborated with over 500 musicians in over 40 countries, all coming together for Environmental Consciousness to prepare this album. I performed this music album twice at the United Nations General Assembly.

SOM: Will environment and development go hand-in-hand? 

Ricky Kej:  Yes, of course, environment and development are not contradictory. They go together. Environment should not be considered a great obstacle to development but natural assets should be saved to preserve social and cultural environment. Environment in a broader sense includes social, political and cultural surroundings.

ABOUT

Mysuru’s favorite and largest circulated English evening daily has kept the citizens of Mysuru informed and entertained since 1978. Over the past 45 years, Star of Mysore has been the newspaper that Mysureans reach for every evening to know about the happenings in Mysuru city. The newspaper has feature rich articles and dedicated pages targeted at readers across the demographic spectrum of Mysuru city. With a readership of over 2,50,000 Star of Mysore has been the best connection between it’s readers and their leaders; between advertisers and customers; between Mysuru and Mysureans.

CONTACT

Academy News Papers Private Limited, Publishers, Star of Mysore & Mysuru Mithra, 15-C, Industrial ‘A’ Layout, Bannimantap, Mysuru-570015. Phone no. – 0821 249 6520

To advertise on Star of Mysore, email us at

Online Edition: [email protected]
Print Editon: [email protected]
For News/Press Release: [email protected]