Surrey residents were privileged to have Ricky Kej recently join us for a handful of concert performances, including a performance in front of thousands at the 2018 Fusion Festival. Prior to his concerts, DRISHTI Magazine had the opportunity to sit down with the accomplished artist.
Ricky was born in North Carolina, United States and his family moved to India when he was eight years old. Ricky cites his grandfather as a major influence in his life. His grandfather was an elite cyclist and won a gold medal in the Commonwealth Games. Later he became a freedom fighter, pushing for India’s independence. And he was also an actor, and holds a record for most appearances in films. “I learned from him to be the best in whatever you do,” Ricky explains.
Ricky appreciated music from an early age. “My ears were always more important than my eyes,” he explains. “While my friends were busy watching television, I cared much more about listening to music.” He started performing in bands while in university, and it was around this time that he gave seroius thought to pursuing a career in music. “It was at that time when I decided that I wanted to make music for the rest of my life,” Ricky recalls. “But I just didn’t want to do any type of music, I wanted to do music that inspires, music that has social impact and makes a difference.”
For his music, Ricky cites four main inspirations. “Ravi Shankar is one of the few musicians from India who became famous all over the world, and he broke cultural barriers, people from all backgrounds listened to his music. AR Rahman is a very brilliant artist, and every single person in India has been inspired by him. Peter Gabriel was able to blend different sounds from all over the world and create music incorporating diverse genres together. And Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, for making Sufi music popular all over the world. And I believe he had the most beautiful voice ever.”
Among Ricky’s many accolades is a 2015 Grammy Award for Best New Age Album for the album Winds of Samsara, a collaboration with South African flautist Wouter Kellerman. “There was great competition for the Grammy Award, and I didn’t expect to win. When I won I was extremely happy,” Ricky notes. Winds of Samsara was his fourteenth studio album. To date he has released 15 studio albums, worked on over 3,500 commercials and had his work featured in 4 films.
Ricky is also noted for his efforts towards conservation. “I’ve also always been a nature lover, and environmentalist,” he advises. His album Shanti Samsara – World Music for Environmental Consciousness was launched on November 30, 2015 at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference. For his humanitarian efforts, he has been awarded an Excellence and Leadership Award by the United Nations and was named a Goodwill Ambassador by the Save the Children Organization. This year, he was named to the “Real Leaders 100 List” by the Real Leaders international group and an Earth Day Ambassador by Earth Day Network India. Ricky also holds a professorship post at the National Institute of advanced Studies at the Indian Institute of Science.
Hopefully our DRISHTI readers had an opportunity to catch Ricky Kej perform live – if not let’s keep our fingers crossed that he will be coming back around very soon!