At the recently held 64th Annual Grammy Awards, the Indian music composer and Grammy winner Ricky Kej added another laurel to his name as he and Rock-legend Stewart Copeland won a Grammy for their album Divine Tides in the Best New Age Album category. Lahari Music is the executive producer of the album and seeing an Indian getting recognised at the biggest music award’s stage was a moment of pride for me. Recently, I got an opportunity to interact with Ricky and Naveen Manoharan, Digital Head with Lahari Music, and after talking to them, my respect for them has only grown. Here are the excerpts:


This marks your second Grammy after your first in 2015. How does it feel different from the last win?

“It was a very special moment to win the Grammy award for the second time. This does feel very different from the first time because this time I got to win the Grammy with my childhood idol Stewart Copeland. I have grown up listening to his music and his music has shaped my musical career. I have had posters of him all over my wall during my childhood. This was a truly special moment to win the Grammy on the same stage as him and share it with him.”

You and Stewart have worked together before. How has this partnership evolved over this time and what do you think is about him that helps you bring out your best work?

“Stewart Copeland and I had an opportunity to collaborate just once before the current Grammy award winning album, Divine Tides. This was in 2016 and it was just on a single song but we never got to interact with each other because we interacted through artists’ managers. It was just me sending him the music and him recording the drums and sending it back to me. In 2020 I had started working on the Divine Tides project and I created a few tunes and melodies and really wanted to work with Stewart Copeland on this particular project, so I got in touch with him through some common friends. I was extremely thrilled when he agreed to join me on this musical journey as a partner.
It was a year long collaboration with hundreds of WhatsApp calls, emails, zoom calls, text messages and remote recording sessions. We had never actually met each other in person and that’s why it was an amazing experience to meet him for the first time literally seven days before winning the Grammy award. I had met him in Nashville where we spent some quality time and then in Los Angeles and Las Vegas where the Grammy was being held all in a span on seven days.
Stewart Copeland is a living legend. He has sold 75 million albums and won five Grammys in the past so it was a huge honour to work with him and I have learnt so much from him. He has not only helped me create my best musical work ever but he is going to have a very lasting impact on my entire musical career from now onwards.”
Stewart Copeland and Ricky Kej (Source: Instagram | @rickykej)

Even though you work globally, you have still always kept your roots in India by always being involved here as well. That is why your win feels like our win too. How do you think your Indian sensibility reflects in your music?

“Even though I travel around the world and create music for a global audience, my home has always been and will always be Bangalore, India. I will never leave India simply because I love my country and our people and I believe the best musicians from anywhere in the world are in India. This reflects very strongly in Divine Tides. The album has got over 50 fantastic musicians from India and I am so honoured to work with them. I have travelled and performed with some of these musicians while some of them are very close friends. I believe that even though my music is global in nature, it keeps me rooted with Indian music because that is who I am. Just like how if an Indian has to make a pasta, they would look at the best recipe books from all over the world and make an authentic dish. But then just before the pasta goes out on the dinner table, there is a sprinkle of chilly powder and turmeric because that is how we are as Indians. You cannot take the Indian-ness out of an Indian and similarly with me, I just cannot and will never take the Indian out of me.”

The Indian music scene has undergone a change in the last few years, do you see that affecting the perception of Indian music globally?

“I guess it comes down to how every musicians wants to have their music perceived and what the goals and objectives of the musician are. On one side you have Bollywood musicians who are doing fantastic work and are creating music for films and that will appeal to a large section of society. For them they have a fantastic audience of 1.3 billion people in India and almost 200 million Indian diaspora all across the world. It’s not necessary for them to crave for any western recognition because our Indian audience is large enough. On the other side you have classical musicians like myself who do fusion music. For us, we are constantly trying to break cultural barriers and getting more and more people to be exposed to Indian music and appreciate our culture. We have got a smaller and niche audience but a loyal one who absolutely loves our music. Our music has gotten appreciation all over the world, it’s a sound that the western audience appreciates and I guess that is why there is more western award recognition for the same. But at the same time, when Bollywood musicians travel abroad and play in a country like USA or anywhere else, they have got a massive audience even for their live concerts simply because of how strong the Indian diaspora is. So I do not believe they need to crave for western recognition. The Indian audience is large enough for them and they should feel proud for the massive love they have.”

Do you intend to indulge more in the Indian music scene in the near future?

“In the last two years, I have worked with many Indian artists and I have been very privileged to do so and very honoured. I have collaborated with artists like Shanker Mahadevan and Salim-Sulaiman, who I absolutely love who are even a pivotal part of the Divine Tides album, Benny Dayal, Jonita Gandhi, Neeti Mohan, Kailash Kher, Udit Narayan, Aditya Narayan, Khatija Rahman. It’s been really fruitful doing these collaborations and I hope to do many more. What I probably won’t be doing is joining the movie industry because with the kind of music I make, I prefer making music that comes from me and my heart and is an extensions of my philosophies and beliefs and rather not what a script demands. But of course I love Indian film music and I listen to it as well and I am a fan of many artists and composers.”

You have expressed a desire to collaborate with Pharell Williams before. Has any new names been added to this dream list and have you worked or intend to work on any of them?

“I would love to work with Pharell Williams, he is such an amazing and versatile artist. I would also like to work with Hans Zimmer, I have had the amazing opportunity to meet him three times in the past. AR Rahman is also somebody who I have always wanted to work with and I am privileged to call him a friend. I have met him on multiple occasions and never spoken on work but I hope a collaboration happens organically with him.”
Naveen Manoharan

How does it feel to bring a  Grammy home to India?

“It’s amazing that Ricky sir has brought the Grammy home. It is an honour to be associated with him and it’s an elated feeling as it’s a true made in India album! It is made by Indian artists who have conquered the world in the field of Music. It’s nothing less than a gold medal in the Olympics.”

How has your experience of collaborating with Ricky Kej been?

“Ricky sir is just like family for Lahari Music and we are always there for each other in family. Describing our experience in one word is, flawless!”

Ricky’s musical sensibilities are pretty unique and different from what we are used in Indian music. How was it finding that balance between both of you and coming up with an album like Divine Tides?

“Divine Tides is an idea from Ricky Sir and he continuously keeps churning out unique music from all over the country. He is a musical genius and we are pretty much only his instruments to put things in place.”

Are there more future collaborations on the card between Ricky Kej and Lahari Music? What do you think makes him so special as an artist?

“Yes undoubtedly there are future collaborations with Ricky Kej sir and Lahari Music but we will disclose it only when the time is more appropriate. Ricky sir’s quest to find soul touching music without any clutter from the noise around is what makes him a genius composer.”

As an Indian, it was a moment of pride to hear an Indian name being called out as a winner on the Grammy stage and I just feel thankful for having artists like these amongst us. It will be a moment even I, as an Indian, will cherish forever.