'There is a huge sense of validation'

'There is a huge sense of validation'

Grammy moments

'There is a huge sense of validation'

There are moments, and then there are moments such as those in the company of musical genius Hans Zimmer. One that is surreal like the one Ricky Kej had after his Grammy win. “I was backstage after receiving the Grammy and Hans Zimmer looked at me. He came towards me, congratulated me and said, ‘I liked your acceptance speech. That was unreal’,” exudes Kej, fresh with the Grammy for the ‘Best New Age Album’ — ‘Winds of Samsaara’.        

The album is a collaboration with award-winning South African flutist Wouter Kellerman and brings out the Indo-Africa connect fluidly and as harmoniously as it could get. That said, nothing would prepare one for a Grammy, not even Kej. “It was a completely exhilarating feeling, winning the award. More than that, there is a huge sense of validation — of the choices that I have made in music. I could have done film music all along, like 20 films a year. But I chose my career in international music. It is the music that I do from my heart and I enjoy doing it. I don’t like to be told what music to make,” says the Bengaluru-based composer-producer. Perhaps that’s why film music doesn’t appeal to him.

On that august evening, about being in the company of artistes, composers and producers, revered and worshipped, he admits, “I was extremely nervous. You are in the midst of people you have been admiring all your life and that gives you a huge high. More than that, it was a very humbling experience.”

“Ours was the first award to be announced, the anxiety among the audience was palpable. After we won, going up the stage, collecting the award and making the acceptance speech, was overwhelming,” he recollects.

‘Winds of Samsaara’ echoes the musical, cultural and political connect of India and South Africa. The musician has much to say about the genesis and progression of the album. “The work on the album began three years ago. We started off with a mutual admiration for the fathers of our respective nations. I am a huge fan of Mahatma Gandhi and Wouter of Nelson Mandela. That built the Indo-African connect. We travelled all over the world, and the album celebrates world peace and positivity. The ideals are so relevant to these times,” he adds.

Honours are not new to Kej. Proficient in keyboard, he has bagged accolades for his creations, in composition and production. Add to that, he has done music for five feature films, 12 albums released by Universal Music, and many commercials. A student of both Western and Indian classical music, he runs two state-of-the-art studios in Bengaluru, the Raveolution Studios — where it all started, where ‘Winds of Samsara’ germinated as an idea and the album took birth.

The win has set the bar high for the producer-composer but the boundaries are blurring.
“Music has always been an extension of me and whatever comes from your heart touches others too. There will be more music, more of those that come from within,” he says.