Planet Bollywood
Vishal and Shekhar Present: The Raghu Dixit Project
- Samir Dave           Let us know what you think about this feature article

“Raghu Dixit makes music that we love to listen to. It’s honest, beautiful and moves one in an almost primal way. You can feel each note, each word and each texture of his soul! The sound, the energy, the fury, the passion, the emotion, the simplicity, everything that music should be about is right here in this album.” – Vishal and Shekhar

Have you heard of a brilliant musician from India named Raghupathy Dixit? Ok, how about Raghu Dixit? No? Surely you’ve heard of the incredible new album “The Raghu Dixit Project”? No? Aha! You must know of the talented Bollywood music director duo Vishal and Shekhar (VS)? Yes! I knew you’d recognize them. Few know, that the music directors are attempting to promote talented artists that need that one big break. In an attempt to further music appreciation beyond the standard Bollywood fare, VS have formed their own record label (with famed music company Sa Re Ga Ma). The first release on their new label is by a talented self taught guitarist-composer-singer-writer-musician by the name of Raghu Dixit. In this day and age of the digital download and quick throwaway hit songs, Raghu’s debut album, “The Raghu Dixit Project” is one of those rare albums that is actually worth purchasing with your hard earned cash.

Raghu has been thrilling audiences with his concerts and theater productions (“Body Catcher”) for many years now. This debut album is a collection of his group’s most popular concert songs and is the pinnacle of years of hard work by this talented musician.

It’s hard to categorize Raghu’s music as it is at once both rustically Indian and modern at the same time, falling into that rare category known as “timeless”. He masterfully combines different genres with killer hooks and melodies leaving the listener breathlessly anticipating track after track.

While musical groups such as Euphoria have made their mark (and arguably have exhausted their creativity) with a similar sound of music (Raghu sounds a bit like Dr. Sen, lead singer of Euphoria), the Raghu Dixit Project takes the genre to another level. Don’t dismiss this talented artist as just another run of the mill musician. While other Indi-Pop and even Bollywood soundtracks are content to have a couple of hit songs, this album features eight fully realized songs that will imprint upon your psyche.

So, break out the dhoti, your tank, and a skull cap, and get ready to swoon ‘n’ rock to the primal beat of the Raghu Dixit Project!

I have to mention that the cd digipack is beautiful (with some nice artwork and photos) and includes an introduction to Raghu’s music by Vishal and Shekhar as well as detailed liner notes. Also included is a sampler cd with two songs by Raghu and the group asking that we give this cd to someone who we think will enjoy the music. A great idea, and a great way to introduce others to Raghu’s musical world!

The first track on the album titled, “Hey Bhagwan” is also the first song off the album to get heavy rotation on MTV India and is spearheading the breakout hit status of the album. The track starts with a strumming of Raghu’s acoustic guitar and once the laid back almost reggae style percussion kicks in, you know that you are in for a cool experience. The violin interludes add to the whimsical nature of the lyrics. Will God listen? Who knows, but never has it been so cool to try to get his attention. What’s truly refreshing is that for once, there no over reliance on synths, instead of music that sounds like it came from a factory, we get music that truly sounds alive. Listen to “Hey Bhagwan” a couple of times and you will find yourself singing along to the lyrics. Add this track to your playlist right now. (Go on, it’s ok….I’ll wait…..).

The second song on the album, “Mysore Si Aye” starts out with heavy percussion. There’s a very “Euphoric” feel to the tune (ala “Dhoom” or “Phir Dhoom”). Yet, just when you feel like you’ve heard this melody before, Raghu and the band change things around. From the staccato sound of the percussion to the violin solos to the vocals, this one will make you feel like you are in middle of rural India. What really sets this track apart from other similar sounding ones is the power in Raghu’s vocals. From his playful expression of the lyrics (including the oddly enjoyable trilling) to the rustic music that ends in a wicked violin solo, this is a tune that you should give a chance to, and it will grow on you.

You know a song is really good when you still enjoy it even though you can’t understand a word of what the lead vocalist is singing. Track three, “Gudgudiya Sedi Nodo” finds Raghu singing in the Kannada dialect. It begins with percussion similar to what you would find in the Rai style of music using the Turkish daburka, which is followed by a killer guitar hook that repeats throughout the song. Raghu channels a bit of the bass of Daler Mehndi with this track. So, let’s get this straight. You’ve got a Punjabi sounding voice singing in a South Indian dialect with Turkish percussion and some killer guitar hooks (including slide guitar). Now, if that were not enough, the lyrics for this song were taken from a poem by the 19th century saint-poet Shishunala Sharif. What more can you ask for!?!? This one is a perfect example of how Raghu combines different genres into a format that is universally enjoyable. Pure musical bliss South Indian style!

Track four, “Ambar” has a lilting and cascading melody that sets a very intimate mood. The fragility of the hopes for love and how divine it might/could be are laid bare within the intense tapestry of the lyrics. The music is kept really simple with soft guitar play supporting the vocals. This is the track where Raghu’s vocals really get a chance to shine! The vocals are framed within a wonderfully mellow melody, that simply gets better upon each listen. You will be entranced by the beautiful lyrics and vocals within this song. Stare out the window at the blue sky and swoon to this tune!

The fifth song,“Khidki” begins with acoustic guitar and a quiet percussive beat allowing the listener to focus on Raghu’s vocal talent. Just when you get used to mellow flow of the melody, the group kicks it up a notch with the inclusion of electric guitars and drums that rock the house.This is hard rock done right….with melody and not just noise. Put the volume up for this one and enjoy!

The next track is arguably the best on the album, “No Man Will Ever Love You, Like I Do”. Starting off with Raghu playing acoustic guitar and providing the powerful vocals. Then, at about a minute into the song the percussion kicks in along with strong support from the sweetness of the mandolin (an instrument that used to be a staple of Indian music in previous generations, but is rarely heard now). Violins, guitars, mandolin, beautiful drum programming, perfect lyrics and inspirational vocals will sweep you along this masterpiece of a song (How long will it be before a Bollywood music director copies this track?). I dare any woman to not fall in love with this romantic song immediately. Play this one loud for your special lady and make her fall deeply in love with you all over again.

Well…I’m in Mumbai and I’m waiting for a miracle..” sings Raghu with the insanely catchy seventh track that should become the theme song for that amazing city. The record label should release this song as the second video off the album, as it’s one of those classic rockers that just gets into your brain. Playful and quirky lyrics combine with rocking drums, guitars and violin (to add class) that will get you on your feet and make you scream, “I’m waiting for my miracle!”

The albums ends on a meloncholic and thought provoking note with, “Sorithudu Maniya Maligi”. It’s another track in Kannada, and another one that you needn’t fully understand to enjoy. Luckily Raghu provides the lyrics in English within the liner notes of the cd which again are taken from a poem by the saint-poet Shishunala Sharif and are beautifully rendered in vocal form by Raghu. The song is a deeply metaphysical endpoint to a breathtaking album.

It’s very rare when you have an album wherein each and every song is a memorable gem, but Raghu Dixit achieves just that with this debut cd. The album runs the gamut of human emotion, from love, to insecurity, to belief, and more. I have to mention that Raghu is ably supported by the members of his group, in particular Bruce Lee Mani (Guitar) and Manoj George (Violin) who add a beautiful sonic vibe to the songs.

It’s a shame that artists such as Raghu Dixit are quite often overlooked by a music scene that is seems to be mostly interested in churning out the next dance-bhangra-pop hit, rather than giving a chance to music that will most definitely cross over genres to become a timeless classic. It’s up to you the listener to support artists like Raghu so that we can enjoy his music for years to come. Instead of the usual Bollywood soundtrack make sure you grab yourself a copy of this album, your heart, soul, and mind will thank you for it.


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