Raghu Dixit: Raghu Dixit
Even a cursory glance at popular Indian music reveals the familiar mould with which Raghu is cast: folk rhythms, rock vibes, and filmi melodies. Put them together, and we’ve got the formula that rears its head time and time again in the Euphorias and Strings of this world. But just when you begin to dismiss Raghu for a tiresome clone, you realise that he deserves much more than a cursory glance. While the frame may seem familiar, it is the nuance and diversity of his musical exploration that sets Raghu apart from his peers.
Firstly, this isn’t just some other Bollywood-born film score posing as a folk-rock album. Raghu reveals himself to be a more than able linguist, writing and singing in Hindi, Kannada and English. Very rarely does this mixture create any moments where the album treads on its own feet. I did feel that the chorus to “No Man Will Ever Love You, Like I Do” was a little awkward in its transition between Hindi and English, but overall, Raghu plays the changes with ease and sophistication — and frankly, I think it’s great that someone who is comfortable singing in all these languages has it in them to make such an album. It makes darn good business sense, and there’s no honesty lost in Raghu’s delivery. “Mysore Se Ayi”, which is probably his best known song, is ample testament to the prudence of this move. It also helps that it’s a great song.
It seems as though Raghu can do absolutely anything with his voice, but like the best vocalists, he stops just short of doing everything.
Then there’s the album’s varied textures. If you’ve read my reviews before, you’ll know that I have a soft spot for albums that have a sense of cohesiveness to them; this one has it in spades. But there’s enough going on to make each song strong on its own terms. Guitarists Bruce Lee Mani (of Thermal and a Quarter) and Anirban Chakravarty add their unique jazz-rock licks to quite a few of the tracks. “Sorutihudu Maneya Maligi”, my favourite track on the album, has the kind of clean, understated lines that Bruce does best. Anirban rocks quite hard on “Khidki”, probably the heaviest track on the album. There are a slew of great bass players like Keith Peters and Josy John holding down a tight low end, while Manoj George on violin and Prakash Sontakke on slide guitars add the kind of great folk and Carnatic playing that edge this album away from the mediocrity of lesser offerings.
Now we come to Raghu himself. He keeps a chunky folk rhythm going with his acoustic guitar, but it is his vocal facility that is truly astounding. It seems as though he can do absolutely anything with his voice, but like the best vocalists, he stops just short of doing everything. There’s restraint and minimalism in all the right places. There’s no disputing the fact that Raghu’s place within the ‘Project’ is decidedly central. This may not be a democracy, but it’s not a stifling authoritarian regime either. The songs give all the sessions players the kind of breathing room that a confident bandleader and producer like Raghu brings to the album.
All in all, this album will do the one thing that so many Indian rock albums fail to do: sell well. But it also does something that so many Indipop and film soundtracks fail to do: sell well for the right reasons. It’s got the textures, hooks and honesty that make it a sure shot.