Raghu Dixit loves Horlicks, swears by Indian food, and is always game to pose with fans for photos. Looking at his infectious energy, it is no surprise why his songs lean more toward the happy, sunshine-y mood. “I am generally a happy person. I am sad only when I don’t get good food,” jests Dixit during the course of this conversation.
The positive state of mind, the musician agrees, is the inspiration behind his songs too. “I want to be an ambassador of happiness,” he categorically states before adding, “As a band, we always focus on the messages behind the songs and most times, it is about telling people to be happy the way they are; and in being alive. The idea is to make audiences feel good and leave them with a positive frame of mind.” That factor Dixit reasons might also be why he is extremely loved by the western audiences, the English in particular.
Of musical friendships
But first things first: His album Jag Changa had quite the impressive launch during the recent NH7 Weekender concert in the city. “It was my dream to launch the album the way we did,” exults Dixit about the extravagant show that had spectacular performances by dancers from Nrutarutya, hand shadow puppeteers, Dollu Kunitha performers and more. “It was an expensive affair but this was exactly what I wanted, and I don’t think we will be able to repeat such a show,” he says with obvious joy.
Incidentally, it has taken Dixit almost six years, since his eponymously-titled first album, to get Jag Changa out. “I recorded the album across the years,” Dixit reasons about the album that is, in essence, a musical retelling of the band’s travels around the world. “Every song in the album has been experience- driven, and has come out of the various, mostly accidental friendships I struck with musicians from around the world,” he says before recounting the serendipitous meetings, particularly the one with banjo player Abigail Washburn.
Reminisces Raghu, “I met Abigail Washburn during the Queen of England’s diamond jubilee celebrations where we were invited to perform. I remember we were all in this huge hall in the palace and besides me, the only other person in the room who was happily flitting about was Abigail. I remember thinking that finally here was someone who was as mad as me. Later, when we got talking she said that she had a strong connection with India and that’s when I learnt that she was Béla Fleck’s wife.” As it turned out, Dixit eventually managed to record Abigail playing the hammerclaw banjo for two of the songs in the album, namely: Jag Changa and Lokada Kalaji, during his band’s tour to Nashville, America, where she’s based.
Networking with the fans
With the album out now, Dixit chooses to reveal the marketing strategy he’s planned for the album. Quite simply, it involves getting his fans to form street teams to sell the copies to interested buyers. Elaborating more on the concept, Dixit says, “In Bangalore, for instance, we have 16 people who act like ‘hubs’ for the band. They have stocks of our CDs, and as and when orders come in, they deliver the copies to customers across the city.” The money collected from the sales, he informs, is transferred back to the band. The surprising fact to note then is the fact that the volunteers do the job for free.“People who like our music are willingly ready to be our brand ambassadors,” he states before reiterating that such ingenious measures are the need of the day for bands looking to sell their albums sans middlemen.
Yet, while involving fans so closely in his music projects might seem like a cool strategy, it is also true that Dixit’s worked hard on nurturing this fan base. Like he says, “The social networking media might have made the task of connecting with people easier but it also takes a lot of hard work to maintain it.” Explaining further he says, “Before the launch of Jag Changa, I personally sat and wrote to every fan on my Twitter, Facebook accounts asking them to listen to the songs on SoundCloud and to buy the CD only if they liked what they’d heard. It took me almost three days with bare minimum sleep to do that. So, it sure is a lot of hard work.” But then, its work that Dixit doesn’t really mind, even if it means posing for just one more photo with a fan while having lunch or waiting for an auto. “Besides my friends and family, it’s the fans who constantly keep us buoyed up, so this is the least I can do for them,” he warmly concludes.