I'd love to come to India, but only if I can get a visa," laughs Raghav Mathur, referencing the suspension of Indian visas for Canadian passport-holders amid the escalating tensions between the two countries, the repercussions of which have caused emotional and financial setbacks for Indian musicians based in Canada. While several Canada-based Indian musicians have defended their stance in the wake of discussion around the Khalistan movement, Mathur opines art and politics should be kept at arm's length from one another.
"Social and moral issues as conveyed through art don't always have to highlight politics. But, I would always fight against censorship. We should have enough sophistication, given the amount of information that we have access to, to be able to make up our minds and have differing opinions on what we believe [is the truth]. It is important to have that discussion openly, and art plays a big role in that."
Mathur has seen the music landscape change ever since he made his debut with Storyteller in 2004. From being among the frontrunners to establish a musical bridge between Indian and western music, to becoming the artiste that the young breed hopes to collaborate with, Mathur admits it's been a long journey. His latest work sees him collaborate with Divine for Chingari, a track based on love and passion.
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"Divine reached out to me. I think, it was his way of paying homage to my earlier music, which had influenced him. If we're being realistic, hip-hop has been the most influential art form of our generation. Pop and R&B were influenced by hip-hop as well. For me, [the '90s] was nostalgic, and also an incredibly influential phase. It's impossible to [disregard] the influence it has had on every genre of music. When I hear country music in Canada, it sounds like hip-hop records mixed with a country twang. That was true for me then, so I have to admit that I take pride in [having brought that to India] with Storyteller," he says, crediting Divine for having become a defining voice in the hip-hop movement of this era.
Mathur's easy success with tracks like Let's Work It Out, Angel Eyes and Can't Get Enough may be testimony to his ability to understand the tastes of listeners. However, the singer says he has, on the contrary, never created music based on another individual's preferences. "I do not try to get the approval of a contemporary audience. If you begin to do that, you will lose your authenticity. The idea is to experiment with the ingredients of who you are as an artiste. I am very Indian. But I'm also very Canadian, and a bit British too. I like to have all of those elements in my story."