Album Review: The Raghu Dixit Project’s Bold New Sound
The Bengaluru band move beyond folk, overreach and succeed on their much-awaited second album
The Raghu Dixit Project’s second album, like the band, is ambitious: the scope of the album stretches from cinematic anthems to wistful ghazal-flavored ballads to devotional rock. Band leader Raghu Dixit is a master fusionist and collaborator and the eight tracks on the album suggest that the band is capable of much more than the buoyant folk rock that defined their 2008 debut Antaragni – The Fire Within.
The album is also a journal of the Bengaluru folk band’s journey so far. Had it not been for their multiple UK trips, members of British folk group Bellowhead, clawhammer banjo player Abigail Washburn and London-based sarod player Soumik Datta may have not made it to this album.
“Rain Song” is one of the biggest surprises on the album where Dixit bends his booming voice for a love song unlike “Ambar” or any other he’s sung before. This one veers towards a ghazal with Datta drawing out the notes on his sarod as the track builds towards a burning finish. Dixit has been composing soundtracks for both Hindi and Kannada films after establishing himself as a folk rocker, but this still doesn’t prepare you for tracks such as “Amma,” and “Parasiva” that could easily fit into film scores. “Amma,” the emotionally charged track that Dixit wrote for his mother, recalls the AR Rahman soundtrack for Rhythm, a Tamil film released some 13 years ago. Besides the melodic arrangement driven by rousing violin parts performed by Mysore HN Bhaskar, the track’s lyrical style also leans towards the mainstream. A look at the album credits shows that Madhan Karky, the son of recognized Tamil film lyricist Vairamuthu, has written “Amma,” bringing a lot more drama to Dixit’s first-ever Tamil song.
Bhaskar’s virtuosity lends an edge that we’d love to hear on stage too. But the violinist has raised the bar so high that we’ll be happily shocked if the band’s touring violinist takes up the challenge and lives up to the studio version. But to the album’s credit, the sound not only matched their propulsive stage sound, but almost surpassed it. Almost. Again, thanks to Bhaskar’s violin parts.
Those more familiar with Hindi film music may find a parallel between “Parasiva” and the title track of the Vishal Bhardwaj score for Omkara. Both work with a barrelling rhythm section. But staying true to his roots, Dixit added the dollu, a large traditional drum played during temple festivals in Karnataka, to “Parasiva’s” percussion section.
The album returns to the sound that TRDP are best known for in “Kodagana Koli Nungita,” and “Lokada Kaalaji” both powerhouse tracks that would work well as a concert closers.
Jag Changa sets a stratospheric benchmark for artists who want to draw from varied folk influences and Dixit’s biggest achievement has been in bringing a cohesive sound to the album.
Buy Jag Changa here. Stream the album below