With global sales of his 2004 debut album Storyteller reaching in excess of 1.6 million copies globally, multiple Top 10 hits in the U.K., and sold-out shows that attract up to 30,000 fans in India, Africa and North America, you’d think Raghav would be a household name in Canada.
But while North America’s South Asian community has embraced his music – and flocked to venues like Toronto’s Rogers Centre, Long Island’s Nassau Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum and LA’s Shrine Auditorium to see the Calgary-based, Indo-Canadian singer-songwriter perform – “It’s just never translated in the North American mainstream,” Raghav says.
“The first language you speak will always your mother tongue”- Raghav
Since he signed a Canadian deal with Cordova Bay Records and released his Juno Award-nominated song, “So Much” (featuring Kardinal Offishall) in 2011, however, that’s begun to change. Already, “Fire,” the second single from his 2012 release The Phoenix, has become Raghav’s most successful Canadian single to date; it’s garnered him nominations at the 2012 Canadian Radio Music Awards and Canadian Indie Awards, and achieved certified gold sales status. Raghav has recently signed a U.S. deal with Ultra Records and, at press time, was preparing to release “Fire” south of the border in the summer of 2012.
His records, however, are just one of the creative outlets that Raghav is exploring. Currently, he’s working on a Bollywood film with composer A. R. Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire) and a Hollywood film with both Rahman and Grammy/Academy Award-winning composer Stephen Schwartz (Wicked). “A.R’s known about me for some time,” says Raghav. “I happened to be in India when he was there and he called me. We started cutting songs for the Bollywood project and ever since, it seems like I’ve been following and working with him all around the world.”
Raghav’s goal has always been to become a more sophisticated songwriter and to expand his musical vocabulary with each successive record. While the Indian music he grew up with still informs his distinctive brand of energetic R&B/pop, The Phoenix finds him drawing inspiration from blues, R&B and the musical traditions he’s encountered while travelling to countries like Kenya, Pakistan and Nepal.
“The first language you speak will always your mother tongue,” he says. “It’s helped me break down the barrier of scale, so when I’m writing a song and I want to take somewhere else, I can, but you can’t keep doing the same thing. The fusion always has to take a different form.”
• At age 16, Raghav won the National Songwriters Association of America Award
• As a teenager, Raghav trained with vocal coach Seth Riggs, who’s worked with international stars including Madonna, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson.
• His music has been described as “South Asian-flavoured U.S. R&B with hip-hop flourishes.”