Two Indian musicians, Falguni Shah and Ricky Kej were among the winners at the 64th Annual Grammy Awards on Sunday night.
It was a night to remember for Indian music fans at the Grammy’s this year. Ricky Kej, a US-born and Bengaluru based musician, and Indian-American singer-songwriter Falguni Shah won Grammy Awards in their respective categories in a glittering ceremony held at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada for the very first time.
Kej won his award in the Best New Age Album category for his album Divine Tides while Falguni won hers in the Best Children’s Album category for her album A colourful World. Both have had a brush with Grammys before. Kej had won a Grammy previously in 2015 in the same category for his album Winds of Samsara. Falguni, or Falu as she is fondly called, did not win but was nominated in 2018 for her album Falu’s Bazaar.
Falguni grew up in Mumbai’s Juhu, where her mother worked as a musician at All India Radio. At first, she learnt Gujarati folk music, ghazal and other non-classical forms under the tutelage of Kaumudi Munshi and Uday Mazumdar. Thereafter she was taught Hindustani classical music by Sarangi maestro Sultan Khan and Jaipuri gharana vocalist Kishori Amonkar. Her musical journey in the US began after her marriage in 2000.
She has since collaborated with musical wizard A. R. Rahman and international musicians like Wyclef Jean, Philip Glass, Ricky Martin, Blues Traveler and legendary cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Her upcoming projects include American Patchwork Quartet, an interpretation of American songs of the past, which will be a collaboration with other musicians of diverse cultures from New York and another project on Indian folk music.
A grateful Shah thanked her fans at the award ceremony during her acceptance speech and said, “Who would have thought that having my mother sing an old children’s lullaby from India would get a response from parents in America?”
Ricky Kej, whose major musical inspirations are Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Pandit Ravi Shankar and Peter Gabriel, shared the award with Stewart Copeland, the drummer of iconic British rock band The Police, who collaborated with him on the album. The Grammy nomination described the album Divine Tides thus:
“This critically acclaimed album contains 9 songs and 8 music videos that were filmed around the world from the exquisite beauty of the Indian Himalayas to the Icy forests of Spain. Divine Tides has already won several awards at various festivals from around the world. With rich textures of transcendent music, Divine Tides is a surreal audio-visual experience carefully pieced together by two masters who are at the top of their game.”
Kej, a musician extraordinaire and environmentalist, has performed in over 30 countries including the United Nations headquarters in New York and Geneva. This half-Punjabi-half-Marwari man was born in North Carolina in 1981 but has lived in Bengaluru since he was eight. His father and grandfather were doctors and he himself did a degree in dentistry, but his interest lay elsewhere. During his university days he joined a progressive rock band which he says gave him a good foundation and exposure to music.
After winning the Grammy on Sunday night, Kej posted his heartfelt gratitude on social media.
“So grateful to have won the Grammy Award for our album ‘Divine Tides’. Absolutely love this living legend standing next to me – Stewart Copeland. Love all of you too! This is my 2nd Grammy Award and Stewart’s 6th,” he wrote along with a picture of him with legendary drummer, Copeland.