22nd July 2014
Raghu Dixit returns to Leicester
The renown singer and composer Raghu Dixit returns to Leicester on Friday 25th July for another of his much celebrated performances at The Donkey. Ahead of that show we look back at his previous appearances in Leicester, using the articles below, previously published in Arts in Leicester magazine.
One of the internationally celebrated bands to play at Summer Sundae was the great Raghu Dixit.
This article re-publishes material previously available on Arts in Leicester magazine, including our backstage interview with the great artist himself.
Indian band Raghu Dixit Project, from Mysore, put on an outstanding set of highly unusual music which packed out the marquee with an audience that greeted the band with considerable enthusiasm.
Saturday 13th August 2011.
Raghu Dixit in Leicester
One of India’s most acclaimed musical exports visited the Summer Sundae Festival in Leicester, today. Artsin was there to meet with this international star and see him playing with his band play. Trevor Locke and Harjinder Ohbi (now deceased) reported.
We were very excited when we heard that Indian band The Raghu Dixit Project had been billed to play in Leicester today. Artsin has reported on this auspicious band before; we saw them on the Jools Holland TV programme and later at the Glastonbury Festival. The band’s return to Leicester provided us with the opportunity to see them play at the Summer Sundae Festival and to go backstage with the great singer Raghu Dixit for an interview.
Trevor: Raghu Dixit, welcome to Leicester. You have been here before!
Yes last year, one of the best memories of our tour was playing at this small but very homely venue, The Donkey. Gaz Birtles, who hosted us for that show, was incredibly kind and took care of us. The room was full and we had a very happy gig that day. This was our first time in Leicester.
Trevor: Do people in Leicester know Raghu Dixit?
I don’t think they know us as much as I would like them to know. Maybe today’s gig will make them to know us better. This is our first time at the Summer Sunday festival; we are playing at seven o’clock so may be I will get some time to get around a get a feel for it. Maybe check out some of the artists on the lineup. We are here only for this evening because we have another gig in London tomorrow. It’s been a long tour and after tomorrow we go back home.
Trevor: You have had an album out recently.
Yes, last year we brought out our album and this year we have been galvanising support for it , especially after our appearance on Later With Jools Holland. A lot of people came to our gigs wanting to see us live. Being on TV was one of the best moments, it made me feel blessed to be a musician and choosing this career. . When they asked us to come all the way from India for just one song I thought they were joking. I came and when I saw Robert Plant, Neville Staplesand Arcade Fire there in the studio, I was amazed … there were a lot of eyes on us because of that.
Trevor: The last time I saw you on the television, you were at Glastonbury. How was that for you?
Oh yes, that was incredible. It was one of the worst slums I have ever played in, Raghu jokes and laughs. I thought it would be muddy but when the music kicked in it was a very beautiful experience for all of us. It was interesting to see what people will do for fun and to be there for three days and live through it. It was really rainy and muddy and slushy. On my first gig I had to go alone on stage and sing for 45 minutes because a band had got stuck in the mud somewhere and couldn’t get to the stage. So, some stories we have this year.
Trevor: Do you like British rock festivals?
Oh yes, he says smiling broadly. People are really, really welcoming. Even though nobody can understand a word I am singing but they really love the music and connect with it. I sing in Hindi and Kannada, Hindi which is our national language and Kannada which is my mother tongue in my home state of Karnataka. I also add a few words of English here and there but not much really.
Trevor: Do you have festivals like this in India?
Oh yes, we have some really big rock festivals back home. There is a new rock festival which started up last year which now gets British bands to come and play at, NH7, and its one of the biggest festivals in India.
Trevor: So you’re on stage at seven o’clock.
Yes and after that we set off for London for a stop over and then we go to play at the Standon Calling Festival in Hertfordshire.
Trevor: Do you like England?
Absolutely, that’s why I keep coming back. It’s a beautiful country. Sad to know that there are some anti-social elements spoiling the peace around here. But you guys know how to party.
July 2011, Interview
In July 2011, Harjinder Ohbi in Leicester, interviewed Raghu Dixit in India.
The Raghu Dixit project concert at the Donkey pub last year was a huge success. “Can people please donate towards our travel home to india”, Raghu joked as he sang through the night with a sore throat after a performance at an afternoon concert in Birmingham and the Jazz Cafe in London, the night before.
His appearance at the Jools Holland late night show and more recently the Glastonbury Festival has brought the band to the attention of the both the British public and our local city audiences, who expect to receive them at the grand old Summer Sundae Festival in August.
Raghu is a character on and off stage. His group clad themselves in colourful South Indian sarongs on stage, and are barefoot as they dance to the beats. He is never far from humour but at a price, “I was taking the mickey out of a female family member, my father caught me and I was sent for South Indian classical Bharatnatyam dance training the next day.”
He said speaking to us from India, “Music to me is like an orgasm. I also enjoy challenges in life. My first one was to pick up the guitar at college because a friend would carry one pretending to be a big star and ended up as a priest!”
“I realised that i could play and write through memory but the major challenge was a concert that was to take place on the day my father passed away. My mother insisted I go. It was the hardest moment that has changed my life for the better” said Raghu in our late night phone conversation.
In those early days, he told me, music was not of interest because of the lack of a radio etc. at home. ” We never listened to western music till I was at college and it played a major part in my musical development”, Raghu told me.
The last CD Raghu brought out was called the Raghu Dixit Project . “I no longer write at the moment but concentrate on Indian folk music, bringing it alive with all genres of musical styles from jazz to blues and rock to aspects of Indian music along the way.
“As I travel along I take on board people who I enjoy listening to and play with. It is an open and fluid platform for me and that’s the beauty of music. I am currently working on our next CD but there is a double sided EP, due out on July the 25th, called Hey Baghwan and and still waiting for a miracle from the original CD”, he joked.
“As regards the audience, it doesn’t matter what colour, creed or religion you are from and when you see them dancing, now that’s a wow factor for me and everything falls into place. Then I believe I have achieved something!” Raghu said.
Now that the world is at his feet, humour and the delight of his colourful music can be seen and heard at the Summer Sundae Festival. So, put on your sarongs and enjoy the party and that is exactly what you will expect from Raghu Dixit.
Raghu Dixit live at Summer Sundae 2011
The Musician Stage marquee was looking remarkably full again at 7 p.m. for the appearance of the Raghu Dixit Project. On stage was the drummer in front of a conventional drum kit, a violist with an electric instrument, a guitarist, a bassist and the great singer himself with his guitar.
Probably one of the most internationally renown artists at the Festival this year, Raghu Dixit found himself playing on one of the smaller, but no less influential, stages. In a way, I would rather have got up close to this band in the intimate ambience of a small area, rather than having to watch them from on a distance on the main stage.
From the moment he took to the mic, Raghu gelled with his audience. Another reason why it worked so well, because Raghu is a person-centred artist. He really got the audience behind him and with him, as he joked with them and drew them into the set.
By the end of the first song, the marquee had filled to capacity. The music of Raghu Dixit has a characteristically Indian sound. His songs sound Indian, rather than some watered-down, overly Westernised sound. That is because they are rooted in the music of India; they are authentic as real South Indian cuisine. Some western oriented bands play stuff that is the musical equivalent of a Chicken Korma. Not Raghu. His work is the real thing but it appeals to our Western ears because of its vitality, its presence and the great power of the singer himself.
He sings in Hindi and his mother tongue Kannada, which is spoken in his native state of South India. The absence of English translation only adds to the authenticity of the performance and Raghu began each song with a few words of explanation as to its subject matter.
In fact for one song, Raghu got the audience singing in Hindi! That’s a first. That would not have worked on the main stage. “I’ll sing the chorus and you join in”, he urged those in the marquee. “Even if you don’t understand the words, all I ask is that you sing it loud”, he said. “It took me eleven years to learn your language”, Raghu told the crowd after the song. “You’ve learned my language in 11 minutes”, he joked and the crowd laughed heartily with him. In fact, I think the crowd got it about right. It sounded as thought they had made a good attempt as echoing back what they heard from the stage.
The infectious rhythms of the songs soon had the audience bouncing up and down. You often heard the compelling beats of Bangra, a musical style we in Leicester are familiar with.
The mixed, all ages audience was clearly loving this wonderful music and pressed towards the front to get a better view. It was great to see young music fans mixed in with those from an older generation and people from all ethnic backgrounds.
Seeing this large group of people enjoying this exciting music made me feel that this is what music in Leicester is all about, a celebration of our city’s cultural diversity. People tonight greeted these artists from India with genuine warmth and enthusiasm.
It’s good that Leicester’s music lovers are so open to sounds from all over the world. Earlier on, in the Musician Stage, we had heard By The Rivers playing Reggae sounds.
By the end of the set, a gig had turned into a party. The space was full of happy smiling faces and people who had been dancing to the wonderful rhythms that they had heard.
Raghu ended his set with a song about a girl he knew from Mysore. “This is a song with some special dance moves”, he told his audience. People might have been expecting some intricate ballet on the stage but it was another instance of Raghu’s lovable sense of humour. The musicians bounced up and down on the stage and of course pretty much most of the audience joined in with this. A forest of arms went up in the air as the beats caught hold of everyone.
The whole set was decorated with moments of pure magic. The warm sense of humour given out by Raghu between the songs, his rapport with the audience, the feedback he got from the crowd and the delicious sounds we heard.
For me and for many others this was a highlight in a weekend of highlights.
Thursday 16th September, The Donkey
Harjinder Ohbi reported:
It was a new one for The Donkey pub and The Raghu Dixit Pproject, a South Indian band pulled that in a full house and even Gaz Birtles, resident sound engineer stated it was “awesome”!
Local reggae cum Indian rock outfit Out of Karma opened the night with a slow ‘long road’ before moving onto the more funkier ‘shoot down’. Singer Jo has vocals that would be the envy of many a reggae singer. Such was the support for one of the finest artistes, two encores followed with ‘dont waste my time’ and the ‘Indian song’ featuring a line in Indian vocals from ‘yeh sama’, a years old bollywood hit. Drummer Malcolm and Phil Garret, sax and keys deserve praise.
“My voice is not on top form tonight” said Raghu Dixit fresh from an afternoon gig in Birmingham and at London’s Jazz Cafe, the night before, but despite echoes of slight hoarseness he delivered. Opening with Hey Bhagvan!, barefoot and clad in colourful sarongs, the band jumped up and down as did many in the audience during their second song , ‘Mysore Se Ayi‘, a best seller and a love song devoted to his wife before waving seemlessly through many of their hits also featuring songs from a sufi Saint from the album ‘Raghu Dixit’.
My favourite of the night had to be ‘I’m in Mumbai and waiting for a miracle‘ with guitarist Vijay Joseph and Violinist Karthik Iyer echoeing blues grass american folk rock and despite Raghu’s hoarsey voice on ‘har sans me‘ the last song of the night was a welcome sign of things to come, perhaps on our shores, next year as he got the whole pub to sing to the chorus!
Published originally on Arts in Leicestershire magazine website.
Harjinder Ohbi passed away in July 2013.