Ayke Ezeani
by on December 3, 2018

Ayke: At what age did you start doing music?

Ricky: Ever since I remember, I have been a musician. My ears have always been more important than my eyes. While most of my classmates in school were fascinated by television and cartoons, I was hooked on to my music system. I would pull apart songs, try and figure out the instruments used, who played those instruments? I would learn about different cultures and people through music.

Ayke: Was family a big influence in your musical career?

Ricky: In India, it is during our 12th grade that we need to make a strong decision as to what we would like to do with the rest of our lives professionally. Whether a doctor, an engineer, accountant, Manager, business man, etc. I had made up my mind that I wanted to be a musician for the rest of my life. I wanted music to be my hobby, my passion, my profession, my bread and butter, my everything. I went to my father, a 3rd generation doctor, and told him the same.. and he thought I was absolutely crazy. "How can music be a profession!" I fought with my parents and after many days of fighting.. my father and I reached a compromise - I would have to finish off a degree in Dental Surgery, and once I finish off my degree, I could do whatever I wanted for the rest of my life. So I went to Dental college for 5 years, and at the end of 5 years I got myself a DDS degree. The day I got my degree I gave the certificate to my father, and I became a full-time musician. I did not practice Dentistry even for a single day. As they say, there was no looking back after that.


Ayke: How will you describe your genre?

Ricky: My compositions fuse Indian and global sounds and bring together global artists. The genre is world music and new age.When I collaborate musically with an another artist across the globe, we are not only collaborating on music but we are also collaborating on our traditions, cultures, languages, beliefs, issues, solutions and more. So many times, we do not understand a word of each other’s languages, so much so that we do not even understand sign language. This is because our reference points itself will be very different. But the moment we start playing the music and collaborating, we immediately get the sense of the emotion that the other artist is trying to convey and we play along in harmony, in sync. This is the power of music! It goes beyond borders!

Ayke: Is there any latest sound from you and on which platforms can your fans find it?

Ricky: Yes and one of them is a new single I launched called ‘One with Earth Song’ which is inspired by the ‘Zero Budget Natural Farming’ movement in Andhra Pradesh, India. This is a farming technique with zero chemicals and therefore no costs. The produce with this is much higher, greater quality and above all very safe for consumption. This technique has brought about a massive positive transformation in the area. The Government aims to convert 6 million farmers and 8 million hectares of land to 100 percent synthetic chemical free agriculture by 2024. I musically collaborated with the amazing tribal farmers to create this song which celebrates life and everything natural. This song was launched at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. I am using my art to spread this sustainable technique far and wide. Here is the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3-_Rq8t_eA0

All my songs are on platforms like my YouTube channel, Soundcloud, Apple music etc.


Ayke: What instrument do you like to play?

Ricky: Even though I play a variety of instruments, and now a days I use a lot of technology in my concerts and studio sessions, my main instrument is the Piano.

Ayke: Have you done any sound track for Bollywood?

Ricky: Very early on in my career, I decided not to become a Film Composer. Since music in India is deeply integrated with Bollywood, I had to base my career abroad, even though my music is primarily Indian. Going forward, I would never compose for commercial films, unless the film is in alignment with my thoughts and philosophies, and is created with a singular purpose to make this world a better place. Making art just for the purpose of sales does not make sense to me.

Ricky: I think Bollywood music is very well produced, very high quality, right up to any international standards. The issue is with content. Since Bollywood provides 99.9% of all musical content in India, every song that is made in India is either an Item song, or a love song. Even the so called independent musicians are making songs hoping to impress Bollywood, to get a chance to create for them. Gone are the days when people treated music as an art to express ourselves.


Ayke: I know growing up,  you had a musical group you liked so much, who were they?

Ricky: My influences are many and from various countries and cultures. Among musicians I have loved the styles of Pandit Ravi Shankar, UstadNusratFateh Ali Khan, Peter Gabriel and AR Rahman because they have never let genre boundaries define them. All that they did was make music that they strongly believed in, and collaborated with some of the best musicians and individuals across the globe.


Ayke: What rituals do you do to calm your nerves before a musical performance

Ricky: I wouldn’t call it a ritual, but as they say ‘practice makes a man perfect’ I rehearse with my band even on the day of the show, irrespective of how many times we have performed together before. As you know, every day is different and every show is different.

Just before the show, I hang with my entire band backstage.


Ayke: How did it feel doing a musical project for the Indian Leader and Prime Minister?

Ricky: After I won the Grammy Award, our Honourable prime minister of India Narendra Modi invited my wife and me for a private meeting to his office. With a population of 1.3 billion in India, I was incredibly honoured by this invitation. The meeting turned out to be an hour long philosophical discussion. Our Honourable Prime Minister Modi knew I was a strong conservationist and inspired me to dedicate my life and my music to the sole cause of Environmental Consciousness. This was the push I needed, and ever since then all of my music has been about the Environment and raising awareness on Climate Change.

Ricky: Soon after that, my epic album ‘Shanti Samsara’ – World Music for Environmental consciousness took shape and was launched by our Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Francois Hollande in the presence of World Leaders at the United Nations COP21 Climate Change Conference in Paris. It features over 500 musicians from over 40 countries including India, United States, Australia, Turkey, Algeria, Senegal, Sweden, Korea, China, Vietnam, Tibet, Azerbaijan, etc all coming together to celebrate the natural world, and raise awareness on climate change.

Ricky: I have since then, gone on to performing music from this album thrice at the United Nations General Assembly, NY among other prestigious venues all over the world and most recently at the United Nations Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. I have performed this music to thousands of people at historic venues in over 20 countries now including USA, Canada, India and South Africa. Performing at these historic venues to thought leaders, law makers, legislators, scientists, environmentalists and also the general public reflects a lot on my music and I am always grateful for these opportunities.


Ayke: What was the feeling like to be awarded in so many countries for your musical magic?

Ricky: I consider every award to be a recognition, and super important. But if awards are used just for vanity, it’s pointless, using awards for a greater good is what matters to me. Winning the Grammy Award acted as a major catalyst in accelerating the process of taking forward the causes that I strongly believe in.

Ayke: How did your South African Musical award winning come about,

Ricky: It was around 2012 when I met S.African flute player Wouter Kellerman. I was a huge fan of his music, he was a fan of my music. We wanted to work together. We finally met in Los Angeles, and while discussing ideas for a potential collaboration, I mentioned that I had just composed a piece of music based on the ideals of peace by Mahatma Gandhi, my father of the nation. It was a huge coincidence that Wouter was working on a piece of music inspired by Nelson Mandela, his father of the nation. Through our discussions we realised that there was a whole lot of cross-pollination here - Mahatma Gandhi spent his formative years in South Africa, so he has South African'ness in him. Nelson Mandela was heavily inspired by Mahatma Gandhi so he has Indian'ness in him. Wouter started to add south African’ness to my music, I started to add Indian’ness to his music. While doing this, both of us became the best of friends, travelled across the globe and in 2 and a half years we had an album ready 'Winds of Samsara' and that album went to the top of the US Billboard charts, and we eventually won the South African music award and the Grammy for it.

Ricky: We continue to collaborate on a lot of music…


Ayke: Tell me about that Grammy award winning experience

Ricky: I used to feel that getting the Grammy award was an unattainable dream and there are still days when I wake up and I can’t believe it. It was an absolutely surreal experience and something that I will always cherish.It was amazing just to sit among all the musicians I have admired all my life. It was even more amazing to be honoured by the biggest music award in the world while being amongst them and giving my acceptance speech to them. The greatest highlight was being congratulated by Hans Zimmer backstage.


Ayke: If you are not doing music, where do you spend your spare time?

Ricky: I am always making music…if not at my studio then in my head in whatever I am doing. Even when I am walking, I am thinking rhythm in my head!


Ayke: You have been an environmentalist, what has been the drive?

Ricky: It was through music that I fell in love with our natural world. I found a deep connection within music and nature, I also realized that I loved hanging around with animals and within nature than I did with humans.. and I would see personality in every single animal I saw.. including insects and reptiles!

Ricky: The environmentalist and musician in me are not two distinct people. It is the same identity. I strongly believe that all artists have an obligation to use their work to make this world a better place. The threat to our environment is progressively getting worse. Musicians play an important role in creating conversations about our world. It is important for musicians and artists today to be on the right side of history. Art can be used to celebrate bio-diversity, and also showcase ecological impacts. Music and art can go beyond speeches and pamphlets, and evoke messages at a deeper level. Musicians have this gift of art and communication.


Ayke: What can we do to help reduce global warming?

Ricky: All of us need to stop looking to World Governments to take the first step. We can make a tangible difference right away by consciously making better choices in our lives. We can choose to use less plastic, we can choose to get our electricity needs from greener power sources, we can work towards reducing our own carbon footprint etc. We have to lead by example and a massive behavioural shift is definitely the first step towards slowing down global warming. There are various tools available to us like the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. We can read about them and work on ways to make changes in our lives to achieve these goals.


Ayke: Going through your records, what will you say is a fulfilling achievement for you in all you have done?

Ricky: I am of course very grateful for all the honours and opportunities that have come my way. But I am quite a seeker and hence am not looking at the ‘list of achievements’ or stopping to think I am satisfied. There is still a lot more work I feel I need to do through my music and advocacy when it comes to elevating environmental consciousness across the world and I am completely focused on it.

Ricky: My life choices led me to winning the Grammy award and this inturn gave me a huge platform to reach out and communicate my messages about climate change and conservation to the concerned publics – governments, thought leaders, law makers, legislators, scientists, environmentalists, artists etc.

Ricky: Through my concerts at prestigious venues like the United Nations - New York, United Nations – Geneva, Parliament houses of nations, Major educational institutions etc, I am able to bring focus to the pressing issues in a more creative and engaging way. And when I see legislations being formulated, policies being made and discussions being opened based on what they saw and heard in my concerts, that definitely gives me hope more than anything!


Ayke: What is Ricky focusing on right now and what does the future hold?

Ricky: I am now spending a lot of my time focusing on children, because if we are speaking about creating a more Environmentally Conscious society, then we need to start with the children. I have created a musical education program for children called the ‘My Earth Songs’inspired by The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. UNICEF recently launched these songs at their global celebration for ‘World Children’s Day’.

Ricky: Music is a very powerful language, and that’s just the route to send a message meant to remain rooted in the consciousness of the listener. Songs we learn as children remain with us forever and the morals contained in them direct our choices and our lives. With this in mind, I created ‘My Earth Songs’. I have dedicated my life and music to creating Environmental Consciousness and awareness on Climate Change, and this is an effort to ensure a new generation of environmentally connected human beings.

Ricky: 'My Earth Songs' is a set of songs for Children about the planet. It highlights the needs of the planet, and the action we, the people of the planet, need to take to correct the imbalances and ensure a clean, green planet for the generations to come. It aims at enlightening the young through music, igniting in them that spark - to be responsible and spread consciousness among their peers and everyone they interact with. It’s time to revive the spirit of compassion. This young movement will spur a revolution to restore our planet, and help it breathe easy again!

Ricky: Everyone needs to play their part to help reach these goals. As musicians, we use our art to raise the importance of these goals and spread awareness about them. Our audience will sing our songs, and keep humming them many times a day. One goal will catch their attention, followed by another, and another, becoming a topic for conversation that will build into a cause for action

Ricky: The songs have very simple language/ lyrics. It is written for children aged between 5 to 11 years. The tunes are very catchy, and can be memorized through a single listen. Each SDG has at least one song and is real fun and positive to sing along. The aim is for it to replace some of the current mindless nursery rhymes. Moreover, these songs are ‘Free for All’, so there will be no monetisation. Anybody world over can use this for the right cause without any permission.

Ricky: ‘My Earth Songs’ is endorsed by UNICEF, a United Nations program that provides humanitarian and developmental assistance to children and mothers in developing countries and I was recently named an ambassador for them.

Ricky: MacMillan publishers in India have printed the English versions of these songs in over 1 million textbooks, starting the 2019 academic year.

Ricky: We have translated these songs in several Indian languages and will be translating in many other languages too.

Ricky: I have mentored a band called ‘My Earth Band’, they perform these songs  at schools and venues with thousands of children. The energy and response we receive is electrifying and extremely promising.

Ayke: Finally, Secrets! secrets! secrets! (laughs) your fans said I should ask you if there is a woman in your life?

Ricky: Yes, I am married. My wife’s name is Varsha and we’ve been married since 2014. She is also my manager and handles various aspects of my career.


Ayke: Ricky thanks so so much for availing yourself to RadioVybe


Posted in: Entertainment
Toval Ezeani
Indeed you are a music mastero. Your environmental consciousness campaign is amazing. Big up.
This is an amazing interview. This gives a nice perspective about Ricky Kej.
Ayke Ezeani
Yeah, I interviewed him. Since you know a lot of entertainers, please provide me with names and contact details so that i can do the same interview