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Pacing up and down in a huge high-ceilinged room painted white, with the Edinburgh sunlight streaming in through the massive wall-to-wall windows, Raghu Dixit had less than a day to create two songs, working with artistes whose music he isn't really familiar with. As the deadline dangles distractingly over his head, Raghu immerses himself in trying to learn the haunting melody of Baaton ko rehne do that Advaita's Suhail Yusuf Khan has written. The studio reverb adds to his already powerful voice.
"The moment I heard Suhail singing the melody, I knew that I had to sing this song, " Raghu says.
Brought together by whisky label Dewar's for TED Global in Edinburgh last week, Raghu and Khan joined a unique collective of musicians - acclaimed English duo Slow Club, Scottish singer songwriter King Creosote, Ziggy Campbell from Scottish band FOUND and The Pictish Trail - to create an eclectic album entitled The Dewarist Sessions Part 1 over the course of the week. All artists have collaborated on two songs each and the end result is a curious but synchronous mix that allows the artistes to stay true to their folksy roots.
Collaborations are hardly new to Raghu Dixit. For a man, whose band, The Raghu Dixit Project, was formed on the simple idea of being an open house, collaborating with Khan and King Creosote is just an extension of that thought. "Usually, collaborations like this aren't very easy, " Raghu says. "I try and listen to the artistes' music you know, at least to be polite or have an opinion. This time, I had no time whatsoever. I just landed and sank into the music that all of them play, but that's the beauty of collaborations, you find some common ground. "
For their second song, the Bangalore-based band chose to tweak their popular hit Mysore se aayi, which Raghu also performed for Queen Elizabeth II as part of the recent jubilee celebrations.
Khan, who plays the sarangi in the Delhi band Advaita, joined Kenny Anderson, popularly known as King Creosote, on the accordion for another song. Chided by his band members and friends for being a "serial collaborator", Khan likens this way of cobbling together a motley group of musicians to the classic Hindustani tradition of the jugalbandi. "I've seen my granddad and uncles who were also sarangi players accompany vocalists who they'd never heard before, " says Khan, who is the grandson of the legendary sarangi maestro Ustad Sabri Khan. "I've never collaborated with Raghu before but here we are. If you are even a little bit inflexible or hesitant, you'll never let yourself make music with other musicians. "
As the members of two very successful and popular indie bands, both Raghu and Khan know what it takes to create music that's appealing to a broad spectrum of listeners. "No point doing it if it's not good, no?" Raghu says. "Outside of my band, I don't get to sing great songs in Bollywood so that's why playback singing isn't an option for me. But here is where we can come and create songs we would like to sing. "
If the rapturous response at the TED after-party at The Caves in Edinburgh, where Raghu and Khan were joined on stage by King Creosote and The Pictish Trail, was any indication, it was a day's work well done.
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