An internationally renowned Indian music composer and environmentalist, Ricky Kej is a two-time Grammy winner. He tells Travel+Leisure India & South Asia how he creates music in collaboration with artists around the world to highlight the plight of climate change victims. By Chirag Mohanty Samal
Excerpts from the interview with Ricky Kej:
T+L India: You recently won Grammy for the second time. Tell us about Divine Tides, how did it come about?
Ricky Kej: I had been working on a follow-up to my Grammy® winning album Winds of Samsara and had catalogued some of my favourite ideas. When the pandemic hit, I reached out to Stewart Copeland, the founder and drummer of one of the biggest selling bands in history, The Police. He agreed to make this album with me. Stewart has one of the most amazing home studios and that helped us record seamlessly during the pandemic. Stewart and I recorded our portions individually and it all came together superbly. All of the songs have strong Indian roots and celebrate the resilience of our species.
T+L India: You won your first Grammy in 2015, what has changed between the first win and now?
Ricky Kej: I consider every award to be a recognition and a platform to make a tangible difference in the world through my music, and address global issues like climate change. Winning the first Grammy enabled me to take this further and winning the second one solidifies my belief.
T+L India: How often do you travel to the US to work and collaborate with other musicians?
Ricky Kej: I travel to the US quite frequently to perform at concerts, and work with organisations such as the United Nations. In 2022, I performed at a concert in Houston, attended the Grammy Awards in Las Vegas, and performed for world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly. I am gearing up to travel to California soon for my next performance.
T+L India: Which is your favourite Indian destination?
Ricky Kej: I performed for over 10,000 soldiers of Indian Army in Leh last year on the occasion of the 20th Kargil Diwas. Performing at an altitude of 3,657 metres took my breath away.
T+L India: What is your happiest travel memory?
Ricky Kej: While watching COP21 Climate Change Conference in Paris, a world leader who caught my attention was Anote Tong, the three-term ex-President of the Pacific Island Nation of Kiribati. He appealed to all the 190 countries present to “pass a resolution that will ensure his people of Kiribati stay above the water.” Kiribati is an island country in the South Pacific. The entire country will be uninhabitable in the next 30 years and within 80 years, the tallest points in the country will be completely underwater.
I visited Kiribati and spent two weeks there. I fell in love with the culture and beauty of the island. There is no industrialisation there, yet it’s going underwater just because they are low-lying islands.
T+L India: What’s on your travel bucket list?
Ricky Kej: I don’t really have a bucket list but I am grateful to experience and take inspiration from diverse cultures around the world.