Over three weeks ago, when Bengaluru-based music composer and producer Ricky Kej learnt that he has been nominated for the Best New Age Album Category at the 57th Grammy Awards 2014, for his album Winds of Samsara, he couldn’t believe that his childhood dream had finally come true. After all this time has passed, the artiste confesses that it’s still a surreal feeling but admits that he is elated to be nominated in the same category as his hero, the Japanese composer, Kitaro. “It’ll be embarrassing when I meet him because I’ll ask him for an autograph and I’m sure he doesn’t know who I am,” laughs Kej. In an interview with sunday mid-day, the 33-year-old musician reveals how his album spins together harmony, progressive composition and technical prowess and why he collaborated with South African flutist Wouter Kellerman for the same.
Q. Congratulations on your achievement. Did you ever imagine that you would be nominated for the Grammy?
A. Not at all, it was a huge moment of disbelief. Every musician dreams of being nominated for a Grammy award, so when it actually happens, it’s just wonderful. When we released the album in July this year, it debuted on number one on the Billboard charts. It stayed in the top 10 for 12 weeks, so we did expect critical acclaim and awards, but we never expected that we would receive a Grammy nomination.
Q. How did the collaboration with South African flautist Wouter Kellerman happen?
A. Wouter is a high-profile flute player from South Africa, who played at the 80th birthday celebrations of the late Nelson Mandela. I met him three years ago in Los Angeles and we decided to work together. At that time, he was working on a song about Mandela. Coincidentally, I was composing a melody that was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s ideologies. We had a long conversation, where we discussed Gandhi’s stay in South Africa and Mandela being inspired by his ideologies. We decided that once Wouter is done with his piece, he will send me his melody and I will add some Indian elements to it and vice versa. What started off as a two-song collaboration just started building up and after two years of travelling across five continents and recording with at least 120 musicians, our album was ready.
Q. What themes have you explored in this album?
A. The main theme is peace and harmony because both Wouter and I feel strongly about it. When an orchestra is playing, they play different instruments. While all of them sound drastically different when played solo, it all comes together musically when they play together. The same can be likened to the world. I don’t agree when people say the world should be one. There has to be diversity, non-violent fights and arguments so that the world progresses. According to me, that’s the concept of harmony and that’s what is required in the world — everybody should work with each other. I hope we see that soon.