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The Raghu Dixit Project: Starry Beginnings

By Nikita Shah | March 10, 2008

Split Magazine: Raghu DixitView the photo Gallery ↓

Watch a video of Raghu’s performance →

Date: February 26, 2007 | Venue: Bandra Fort Amphitheater, Bombay

The overly long and chilly winter in Bombay has had a completely unexpected advantage — open air concerts now have a rather special charm. So the timing for the Raghu Dixit album launch gig seemed just perfect, coming as it was at what seemed like the fag end of the Bombay winter and was worth attending, especially for two reasons; I had caught Raghu Dixit at the Big Chill festival a year ago, and the performance had piqued my interest enough to have to see him again. Besides this being his album launch gig, the venue was the Bandra Fort Amphitheatre about which I had heard nothing but good things.

The gig was scheduled to start at “sharp 6:30″ and so we made a mad dash for the venue. The amphitheatre was exceedingly charming; the entrance pathway to the stage area lit up with fairy lights. The vibe was akin to Rang Bhavan, albeit with a very romantic edge, in that you had a canopy of palm trees and could watch the sea, which is always great.

It did not seem like the show was going to start any time soon. So, while the evening faded to dusk and the light dimmed continually into the night, we waited for the show to start, while listening to the Raghu Dixit album on loop. Not that that was a bad thing, because by the time the amphitheatre got packed and the show got underway (after several apologies) at 8:10pm, we were all well acquainted with Raghu Dixit‘s music.

The show started with a special video showing the who’s-who of Bollywood endorsing the music and unique sound of Raghu Dixit. This was followed by the first video from the album, shot for the first song “Hey Bhagwan”, directed by none other than Shiraz Bhattacharya, better known to us as the drummer of Pentagram.

After the entire hullabaloo, the band took to the stage with the same song. “Hey Bhagwan” is a reggae-infused folk song, with lyrics that immediately urge you to look at life very positively. They followed that up with the peppy, playful and extremely folksy ditty “Mysore Se Ayi”, with lovely violin interludes and blues licks thrown in for good measure. In between every song, Raghu would proceed to thank all the people who led to the successful culmination of his nine-year-long struggle, with charm and a good dose of self-deprecating humour. He then sang “Gudugudiya Sedi Nodo”, a rather beautiful Kannada song.

This brings me to the part of the gig that I did not like one bit. The guest of honour was Sanjay Dutt, who had just then arrived on the scene, after very generously agreeing to officially launch the album, with, as Vishal (of Pentagram fame, who along with his Bollywood composer partner Shekhar, has produced and released the album) said, “a three-minute notice”. This is a very nice thing to do for a budding artist and was sure to garner him a fair piece of press coverage. But being the three-ringed circus that our electronic press is, they completely took over the stage area and instead of focusing on the artist in question, trained all their (really scary-looking) cameras on Sanjay Dutt, who was standing unobtrusively (or so he wished) at the side of the stage. So for the next two songs or so, all we could see were the not-so-flattering backsides of the press photographers and cameramen, who got into fights with anyone who asked them to move.

So, getting on with the audio part of the show (ha), “Gudugudiya Sedi Nodo” is a song, with lyrics written by Saint Shishunala Sharif (the “Kabir of Karnataka”), that asks you (as Raghu explained to those of us who didn’t know Kannada) to smoke a hookah filled with love, and intelligence and faith, or at least that’s what I recollect.

All we could see were the not-so-flattering backsides of the press photographers and cameramen, who got into fights with anyone who asked them to move.

After this, with the view still seriously ugly, Raghu proceeded toward what seemed like the highlight of the evening, a heartfelt rendition of the painfully beautiful song “Ambar”, with lyrics written by his friend and first manager Niraj “Khaak” Singh. The song, stunning as it is on the album, was absolutely heartwrenching live, and I was very nearly moved to tears by its simple beauty. The effect is such that even so many days later, I still have the song on loop every evening.

After this song, thankfully Sanjay Dutt left, and with that most of the asinine press-walas were seen either packing up their tripods or following Vishal and Shekhar around, who had smartly stationed themselves around the back of the amphitheatre. We were lucky to once again be able to see the stage. What was noteworthy here was that at no point during the press fiasco did anyone in the band seem to lose their composure and they continued to do their stuff — and very well at that.

The band then capped off the show with what Raghu called a “mad” song — “Khidki”, a feisty and fun number, after which, yielding to requests from the audience, the band played “No Man Will Ever Love You, Like I do”, and also performed a new, unreleased song, “Har Saans Mein, Har Dhadkan Mein Ho Tum” — a really catchy number that Raghu predicted would be the hit single from their next album (I still remembered it after a whole year, being one of the few songs I did catch at the Big Chill). They ended their set with an encore of “Mysore Se Ayi”, this time with Vishal and Shekhar joining Raghu on stage, singing, jumping and dancing along.

The band was exceptional; with killer bass lines from Gaurav Vaz and able support from violinist Jithin. New addition Vijay on guitars did a superb job of infusing the bluesy vibe into every song and Siva on drums and percussion, who has been with the band from the beginning, was splendid as well. The band has trimmed quite a few members (compared to their Big Chill lineup) and now has a compact, tour-friendly lineup.

The sound at the venue was completely awesome and was done by Fali Damania — and to top off an already awesome evening, we were even treated to some great south Indian food.

It was a brilliant show and showcased a very unique artist with a big, extremely expressive voice and a great band. The best thing about Raghu Dixit is the universal appeal of his music, at home with both, the filmi-movie-types and your average rock fan, and pretty much anyone from any age group. I would highly recommend anyone who hasn’t seen this band yet to catch them live whenever you get the chance.

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Comments

2 Comments. Post Yours Here.
  1. March 10, 2008, 3:39 pm Vineet

    RDP pwns all. Good stuff, especially the photo feature!

  2. March 20, 2008, 2:08 pm Some reviews and CDs in Stores « The Raghu Dixit Project Blog

    [...] Review of our launch show on Split Magazine [...]

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