Desi Talk - page 17

February 13, 2015
– that’s all you need to know
By Bhargavi Kulkarni
Bangalore-based musi-
cians and an Indian-
American activist and
author fromNewYork,
put India on the music
map by winning laurels at the
recently concluded Grammy
Awards. Musician Ricky Kej’s col-
laborated album“Winds of
Samsara” won the Best New Age
Album award, while Neela
Vaswani won the award in the
Best Children’s Album category for
her narration of the book “I Am
Malala: How One Girl Stood Up
For Education And Changed The
World,” by Malala Yousafzai.
Kej teamed up with South
African musicianWouter
Kellerman for the album, which
symbolizes peace and harmony.
The website of the album
describes the project as a “truly
global effort,” which draws inspi-
ration from two cultures. The
music of the album blends in the
creative influences of the cultures
to generate a sound of calmness
and positivity.
Speaking from Los Angeles,
California after receiving the
award Feb. 8, Kej told the Press
Trust of India that getting the
award is an unattainable dream. “I
still can’t believe it,” he said. Kej
said he believed he got the award
for music that was “from the
heart.”While music composers
must create music for money, it is
important for composers to create
music where he can express him-
self, he said.
Other albums nominated in
the category were “Bhakti” by Paul
Avgerinos, “Ritual” by Peter Kater
and R. Carlos Nakai, “Symphony
Live In Istanbul” by Kitaro and” In
Love And Longing” by Silvia
Nakkach and David Darling.
The 33-year-old Kej was born
in North Carolina and moved to
India when he was eight. A dentist
by education, he is not a trained
musician. “Winds of Samsara,” his
14th studio album, debuted at
number one on the U.S.
Billboard’s New Age Albums Chart
in August 2014, a first for a person
of Indian origin. Kej has com-
posed the soundtrack for several
Kannada films including
“Accident”, “Venkata in Sankata”,
“Crazy Kutumba” and “Ondu
Rupayalli Eradu Preethi.” He has
worked on more than 3,000 place-
ments for radio and television jin-
gles, and has also composed
music for the 2011 CricketWorld
Cup opening ceremony, held in
Dhakka in 2011.He has also creat-
ed an official remix of the Oscar-
winning “Slumdog Millionaire”
song “Jai Ho,” which was featured
on a dance music album compila-
tion for the U.S markets.
While accepting her award at
the Staples Center in Los Angeles,
Vaswani said Malala is very busy
going to school and saving the
children of the world. The
Grammy is the latest award that
Malala has received after she sur-
vived a horrific attack in which
she was shot in the head by the
Taliban on her way to school for
standing up for her beliefs that all
children have the right to an edu-
cation. “I hope Malala is happy,”
saidVaswani. “I’m thrilled to be a
part of spreading her message fur-
Other nominations in the Best
Children’s Album category include
“Appetite For Construction” by
The Pop Ups, “Just Say Hi!” by
Brady Rymer And The Little Band
That Could, “The Perfect Quirk”
by Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, and
“Through TheWoods” by The
Okee Dokee Brothers.
Vaswani is the author of the
short story collection “Where the
Long Grass Bends,” and a memoir
“You Have Given Me a Country.”
She is the recipient of the
American Book Award, an O.
Henry Prize, the ForeWord Book
of the Year gold medal, the
Nautilus Book Award gold medal,
as well as an Audie award.
She is also the co-author of the
Middle Grade novel-in-letters,
“Same Sun Here.” Her fiction and
non-fiction works have been
widely anthologized and pub-
lished in various journals.
A visiting writer-in residence at
several colleges, Vaswani has a
Ph.D in Cultural Studies, and
teaches at Manhattanville
College’s MFA inWriting Program
and Spalding University’s brief
residency MFA inWriting
Program. An education activist,
Vaswani is the founder of the
Storylines Project with the New
York Public Library.
However, Anoushka Shankar,
sitarist and daughter of the late
sitar maestro Ravi Shankar, who
was nominated for her album
“Traces of You” in the BestWorld
Music Album category lost out to
Angelique Kidjo’s album“Ev.”
Other Indians who have won
the prestigious awards in the past
include A.R. Rahman, Zakir
Hussain and Pandit Ravi Shankar.
Sitar legend Shankar has been
honored with four Grammy’s
including a Lifetime Achievement
Grammy, a few days after he
passed away. A 1967 performance
at Monterey Film Festival named
“West Meets East” brought
Shankar a Grammy Award for Best
Chamber Music Performance;
while the album of a charity con-
cert called “Concert for
Bangladesh” held in August 1971
won the ace musician his second
His third Grammy came in
2000 for his album“Full Circle:
Carnegie Hall 2000.”
Rahman won two Grammy’s in
2010 for “Slumdog Millionaire” –
Best Compilation Soundtrack
Album (shared with sound engi-
neers H. Sridhar and P.A. Deepak)
and the other one for “Jai Ho,” in
the Best SongWritten for Motion
Picture category (shared with
singers Sukhwinder Singh, Tanvi
Shah, Mahalakshmi Iyer andVijay
Prakash and songwriter Gulzaar).
Hussain won the award in 2009
for the ContemporaryWorld
Music Album“Global Drum
Project,” on which he collaborated
with Mickey Hart, Sikiru Adepoju
and Giovanni Hidalgo.
T. H. Vinayakram became the
first ever South Indian to win a
Grammy when the same was
awarded to him for his participa-
tion in Mickey Hart’s “Planet
Drum.” Reportedly, the musician
went on to donate all the pro-
ceedings from the award to a
charity group.
Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt,
recognized for his fusion and pan-
cultural collaborations with many
western artists, won the award in
1993 for his album“A Meeting by
the River” with Ry Cooder.
Ricky Kej, Neela Vaswani Join List of Indian Grammy Winners
Above, Gwen Stefani and Adam Levine perform “My Heart is Open” at the 57th annual
Grammy Awards in Los Angeles Feb. 8. Left, Madonna performs “Living for Love.”
Below left, Neela Vaswani poses with the award for best children’s album for “ I Am
Malala: How One Girl Stood Up For Education And Changed The World” (Malala Yousafzai)
backstage. Bottom, Ricky Kej, left, and Wouter Kellerman pose with the award for best
new age album for “Winds of Samsara.”
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