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When Outline put a call in to Raghu Dixit, India’s most heralded traditional folk artist of later times, he was just getting to grips with Glastonbury; arrived, parked and contemplating how anyone could be expected to sleep in this surreal sea of tents, he reconciles it as a “loveable mess.”

“I have to be able to sleep for my voice”, he says, a far cry from the usual rock ‘n’ roll notion that you can sleep when you’re dead. Raghu isn’t a product of Brit rock credentials though; borne of a conservative Indian family, he came to music late and had to spend a large period of time placating his family, first as a scientist. “I gave my parents what they want; I got my job and I worked for some time until I decided it was time to quit and take up music full time. Tey were very happy that I had my education first, and then a good career.” On the subject of whether science and art ever conflicted for him, Raghu says, ‘haha, not really. I think both science and art need creativity at the core, even though from the outside science seems so inorganic and boring!”

Music isn’t a new addition to his forte though; anyone that can see his masterly control and insight into the depth of his sonic heritage can see he’s been flirting with music for a while now. “I was in a band before, but that disbanded in about 2006, so we continued to play, working and collaborating with others. Musicians would come in and out and that’s how we formed Te Raghu Dixit Project.” On first listen, with its eastern flavours and proud use of the Kannada language, a dialect being celebrated by

one of its native speakers, we could be forgiven for thinking his music is typical of the Indian contemporary music scene. In fact, Raghu is standing up for originality and is being held up as the man who ignited a trend for traditional music in India. “Oh, well I wouldn’t want to claim that; that’s such a big thing but for so long people in India, and bands thought it would be really cool to play note for note exactly what they play in the Western world. Tere were other bands before me that started the tradition of singing original songs, but for me, right from the moment I held my guitar, I wrote my own songs because I didn’t have a tape recorder or anything, to learn these Western songs.”

Britain’s relationship with money is a confusing one; those with it often deny its very existence, those without try a flashy-by-numbers approach to looking more affluent, but Raghu’s approach to the commercial side of the industry always seems a very direct and frank take on the music biz. “It’s very crucial for an artist to understand that there’s a certain amount of investment involved and the magitude of that depends on the magnitude of the ambition he carries… and I am a hugely ambitious

musician, haha. Every day that I travel through England here and hear the response to my music, my ambitions are only growing bigger. Frankly, we’ve been doing very well in India, but I have to save at least 60% of my concert fees there in order to fund my ambitions over here. It costs me a lot to bring my band over here and look after them, give them a place to stay.”

Te investment is paying off. Raghu recently won a Songlines award for Best New World Artist, and he describes it as a “great honour”, but with his logical mind never straying far, he realises the potential that has to project him to a wider audience. For now though, Raghu is living the fleeting Glastonbury dream, and only glimmers of the former conservative, family-led man flicker through; “It’s fun, it’s great. I’m living my dream over here. I don’t have a wife who’s too demanding; she has absolutely no need for me except to be her husband!

Later, I read that Raghu played his set on his own, his band walking straight past the stage believing it too small to actually be the right stage they were booked on. Raghu, the consummate professional was right about investment. He put his all into that slot, on his own, and the reviews he got back will pay dividends.

Raghu Dixit plays Latitude Festival and also comes back to the region to the Norwich Arts Centre on Wednesday 10th August. For tickets, go to

24 /April 2011 /

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