Published: 19th August 2018
Why Ricky Kej's Earth Songs are going to be in 1 million textbooks in 2019
Grammy award-winning musician Ricky Kej is out with My Earth Songs which instill in children a consciousness for the environment and all its beings, by being in their textbooks
Wake up people let's seize the day
A time to take a stand for the Earth
All of us we're going to make a wave
Let's join our hands.
How do you feel when you hear these lines? Does it evoke the sense of responsibility we have towards Mother Earth? If yes, then imagine what 27 such songs can do. This is the aim of My Earth Songs, composed by Grammy Award-winner Ricky Kej — to inspire everyone, especially children so that we all do our bit for the environment. The Plastic War, Bicycle Day, Carbon Footprint, Catch the Rain and many more songs aim to remind us of the concerns of our planet. Moreover, Kej has also aligned them with the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals making them more relevant and universal.
The textbooks which will feature My Earth Songs will come with a QR code which parents can scan and get them on their smartphones
When we connected with the acclaimed musician, who is best known for his albums Winds of Samsara and Shanti Samsara, he gave us more good news. In the coming academic year of 2019, these songs will also feature in over a million textbooks, thanks to the publishers at Macmillan Education. Now only this, even UNICEF will help disseminate these songs to the rest of the world. "To create an environmentally conscious society, we need to start inculcating awareness right from childhood," says the Indo-American artist.
Grooving with the Gharial
It wasn't enough for Kej that he kept the lyrics, which are written by musicians Dominic D'Cruz, Lonnie Park and Kej himself, simple and the tune catchy — he performed them at schools and student-centric events to make sure it resonates with those they are made for. At a few Chinmaya Vidyalayas in Chennai, at Rangasthala Auditorium, VR Bengaluru and other venues in the Garden City, My Earth Songs received an overwhelming response everywhere, a delighted Kejinforms us. Songs like Big Daddy Gharial (a type of a crocodile native to India) were especially huge conversation starters because the endangered Gharial, and many other species which are present in India, are rarely spoken about in classrooms.
I have dedicated my life to the environment, celebrating our biodiversity and highlighting our ecological issues through music
Ricky Kej, musician
"When I was interacting with officials from the Karnataka Forest Department, they told me how, while on safaris, children insist on seeing animals like zebras and giraffes because those are what they learn about in schools," says the 36-year-old musician with exasperation. So with this and several other songs, students will not only be introduced to those animals who are on the brink of extinction in India, but will also learn about other factors like climate change, a carbon footprint and more.
Crooning for climate change
Whenever Kej has visited any school library, curiously, he has always found books related to music in the hobbies section rather than the professional section. "Music is as valid a profession as medicine or engineering. It is something that will always be in fashion. But unfortunately, music education in schools, except for private ones, is mostly non-existent," says Kej who was born in North Carolina but moved to Bengaluru at the age of eight. He does concede that it's difficult to make music a profession here because it is heavily shadowed by the Hindi film industry.
Speaking about My Earth Songs, he has placed them in the public domain with no copyright so that everyone can learn from them. Also, they will be translated into other local languages as well
As someone whose musical career took off with the progressive rock band he joined while studying, Bengaluru's Angel Dust, we had to ask him what he thinks of college bands today. "A lot of bands are opting to take the easier route and do covers of film songs because it gives them that instant recognition. This may be good, but not for the long term. It is very important for young musicians to create original music that has something to say," opines Kej. And true to his words, Kejfound what he wanted to say through his music a long time back. "I always saw musicians make strong statements about climate change and so on but their music never reflected it. I did not want to be one of those artists," says Kej, who is from a Marwari family.
And till date, his music reflects his beliefs. In fact, there were two instances which convinced him that he is an environmentalist and that's what his work should speak about. The first was when in 2011, he decided to stop doing any other commercial work and concentrate on songs that had social impact and the second, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself insisted that Kej take this up full-time, after he won his Grammy. "PM Modi told me my work is powerful enough and that I should take it up even more seriously," he recalls.
When in Andhra: In ZBNF, farmers use natural fertilizers like cow dung and waste crops
Masti in Mana Andhra
Kej has also visited parts of Andhra Pradesh like Araku Valley and will soon be visiting Visakhapatnam and Guntur as well for another special project. "I used to wonder when every single person in the world eats, why is farming considered the 'worst' profession?" That's when Kej was amazed by the Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) method, the model which requires no investment from the farmer and is a step ahead than organic farming. The musician is in the process of composing a song about this technique, which has been adopted by AP's CM N Chandrababu Naidu, and will perform the song on international platforms.
Kej will be performing in New York and Seattle in September and in Geneva in October. As someone who travels a lot, he loves staying at home in Bengaluru and make music in his own studio. "Music is pretty much all I do," says Kej. And if music is the love of his life, play on, we say!
Man of the moment
What makes Kej and his music special?
-Kej's latest album Shanti Samsara was launched by PM Narendra Modi and French President Francois Hollande at the United Nations COP21 Climate Change Conference in Paris
- He has also been awarded UN's Global Humanitarian Artist, Youth Icon Of India, Pride of Karnataka among several other titles
- Kej has been named as one of the 100 Real Leaders who Inspire the Future along with Bill Gates, Leonardo Dicaprio and others
- He also teaches at National Institute of Advanced Studies at Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru
With his Grammy: Kej took about one and a half years to come up with 27 My Earth Songs