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Home > Lifestyle News > Culture News > Article > I got to win a Grammy with my childhood idol Stewart Copeland Ricky Kej

I got to win a Grammy with my childhood idol Stewart Copeland: Ricky Kej

Updated on: 21 June,2022 02:20 PM IST  |  Mumbai
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The Bengaluru-based music composer recently won his second Grammy for the ‘Best New Age Album’ with Stewart Copeland. In a chat with Mid-day Online, Kej talks about the pandemic’s impact on the album, working with an all-time great, and making music for the environment

I got to win a Grammy with my childhood idol Stewart Copeland: Ricky Kej

Ricky Kej worked on his award-winning album 'Divine Tides' with Stewart Copeland during the Covid-19 pandemic. Photo Courtesy: Special Arrangement

The Covid-19 pandemic made the world slow down and take a step back. It was no different for Grammy-award winning musician Ricky Kej who was busy touring and had a jam-packed schedule not only for 2020 but also continuing into 2021. In fact, Kej found the time during the virus-led closures to work on a new album called ‘Divine Tides’ – a follow-up to ‘Winds of Samsara’, his 2014 award-winning album. Not just that, he collaborated with legendary drummer Stewart Copeland –founding member of the English rock band The Police – for it. 

The result? Winning his second Grammy award for the ‘Best New Age Album’ at the 2022 Grammy Awards. “If there was no pandemic, this album wouldn’t have happened,” shares the Bengaluru-based musician in a Zoom interview with Mid-day Online. “Stewart would have been way too busy to join me on this album and I myself wouldn’t have recorded the album because I would have been constantly touring,” he adds.

Winning the Grammy and meeting his idol 
The album and winning the coveted award seem like they were meant to be because not only did Kej get to do something he has been trying to do for seven years but also work with Copeland, an all-time great drummer who also happens to be Kej’s childhood idol. 

He explains, “The first time I won the Grammy, I was 33 years old, that was seven years ago and it felt quite amazing. This time, it was even more special because I got to win a Grammy with my childhood idol Stewart Copeland, somebody whom I have admired and idolised my whole life.” It is not only that but the fact that he could share the stage with him that made it even more special for the Bengaluru-based musician, who met him for the first time only seven days before the award ceremony. 

“We were actually supposed to meet at the Grammys in Las Vegas but then he had his concert in Nashville. So, both of us actually decided to meet there,” shares Kej. So, the Bengaluru artist flew seven days earlier and attended the concert which he says was amazing. “I finally got to meet him at the after-party at his hotel, and actually hug him and spend some time together in person. It was a very emotional experience for me. After that, we met in Los Angeles where he lives and then in Vegas,” he adds.  

Ricky Kej (right) recently won his second Grammy award for the ‘Best New Age Album’ with Stewart Copeland at the 2022 Grammy Awards. Photo Courtesy: Special Arrangement

Making ‘Divine Tides’
The album was a culmination of the work they had done over a year. The moment Kej decided he wanted to make the album, the double Grammy winner decided he wanted to collaborate with “somebody who is not only a fantastic musician but also a great composer” and that’s when he reached out to Copeland, who to Kej’s surprise, agreed to work with him. 

Enjoying the excitement to create the album and seeing how he could do it in the best possible way, Kej altered his sleep cycle so that he would be able to work with Copeland seamlessly. He would send him a couple of ideas for the album’s music in the early stages and then Copeland would react and send some stuff back thus opening the gates for a lot of exchange of ideas. He explains, “I would sleep in the daytime and be awake at night. There would be a good feedback process and we would react to each other’s music in real time, rather than waiting a whole day to read a message or an email. That was easy enough for me because anyway my sleep times are haywire.” 

The fact that Stewart grew up in the Middle East helped even more, says Kej, because he was aware of eastern influences of music. “He has also travelled around the world and collected all these amazing percussion instruments. So, this was that opportunity for him to pull out those instruments for this album to play and record on them professionally.” After many Zoom calls, phone calls, WhatsApp and text messages, the result is here for us to see in the album, the name for which was given by Copeland and the result of which made both absolutely happy. 

Using the medium to drive the message 
Kej has never been happier with the output because he has always believed in creating music for the environment, sustainability and social impact — subjects that have been close to his heart and central to his work for a long time. “The album is about co-existence, in the true sense of the word, where it is not just defined by our Indian traditions and culture but by any ancient culture around the world, where it is about living in peace and harmony with all the entities on the planet – not only the living elements but also the elements of nature too,” shares Kej. 

While his long list of achievements is known to all, the fact that Kej uses his music to advocate for the environment and has received global recognition not on one but two occasions says a lot about his efforts as an environmentalist. He explains, “I feel that everybody is just waiting for governments to bring about change, passing the blame by saying, ‘this is your fault’. Everybody needs to look inwards and see what they can do in their own tiny capacities by making incremental changes within their own lives. And, that is not happening often enough.”

This made him take matters into his own hands. Kej says, “I have taken what I would like to call ‘the David Attenborough approach’ and inspired people through a positive approach.” With his music, Kej attempts to use this approach to help drive home the message clearly not only to people in positions of power but also each and every person in the world.  

That is also the reason why, even though touring beckons, Kej is going to focus on promoting his latest album–an aspect he feels often gets overlooked when musicians finish a project, as they think about what they are going to do next. “Stewart and I have worked so hard on the album so we owe it to the album to promote it in a focused manner because it is not a mainstream album. So, it's not like we can have a one-size-fits-all approach to actually promoting it. We need to find an audience that actually likes the album and that takes a lot of struggle,” he concludes. 

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