Kolkata boy Rickraj Nath, 23, performed alongside musical maestro A R Rahman at the Dubai Expo 2022 on December 22, 2021. Currently a resident of Mumbai, Rickraj completed his schooling from St. Lawrence High School, Kolkata, and is a 2019 Accounts and Finance graduate from The Bhawanipur Education Society College.
Rickraj tells Edugraph about his journey as a guitarist
Edugraph: You have performed live with A R Rahman How was your experience?
Rickraj Nath: Keba Jeremiah, the guitarist who performs with A R Rahman wasn’t available. Ranjit Barot, the band’s drummer with whom I have been working for the past couple of years, recommended me. We flew to the venue. Our set had musicians from all over the world. We rehearsed on stage for two days before the concert. A.R. Rahman, as a person, is very reserved and doesn’t talk much. I was, of course, a little nervous because I was sharing the stage with the legend. I remember going up to him and introducing myself. He was very sweet and appreciative of what I did. It was extremely inspiring to see a legend of his stature stay as humble as he is. The crowd was incredible, the whole production was massive and overall it was really exciting for me to play the songs that I have grown up with, alongside the man who has composed it all. In one word, it was surreal.
Who else have you performed with?
Rickraj: I have been performing with singer Sona Mohapatra and with drummer Ranjit Barot since 2019. I was a part of Shantanu Moitra’s Ensemble in 2018. I have performed at the Hockey World Cup in Bhubaneswar with his band Classic Kid Sid in 2018. I played with Javed Akhtar as a part of his recital in 2017. I have shared the stage with musicians like Kaushiki Chakraborty, Purbayan Chatterjee, and Rakesh Chaurasia. I was a guest musician at Zee Bangla Sa Re Ga Ma Pa in 2016 and 2018.
Tell us about your musical journey?
Rickraj: My mom is a vocalist, so music was always around me when I was growing up. I picked up the guitar first when I was seven years old. My music teacher taught me how to play Happy Birthday on guitar, which never interested me. I lost interest. After a three-year break, I picked it up again when I was 10 and decided not to take lessons and go at it alone. This is where I believe my musical journey started. I immediately knew that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
I used to practise for 8 to 10 hours a day. I slowly started playing in-studio sessions and live concerts. Rathijeet Bhattacharya, who was arranging the music for Sa Re Ga Ma Pa at that time, had come across my YouTube channel. He asked me to perform at Zee Bangla Sa Re Ga Ma Pa as a featured musician. I got discovered by Shantanu Moitra, who was a judge in the show at that time. He convinced me to move to Mumbai. Here, I am making a living out of what I love doing.
Where did you get trained?
Rickraj: I am a self-taught musician. I have taken a couple of lessons from Raja Chowdhury, a studio session guitar player who was a huge inspiration for me. Other than that, I have taken a couple of lessons from Amyt Dutta. YouTube, books, online resources — I collected information from wherever possible. A website called Licklibrary helped me. John Petrucci’s Rock Discipline is my bible. Another book that helped me in jazz theory is Mark Levine’s The Jazz Theory Book.
What makes you so passionate about guitar? Who are your inspirations?
Rickraj: When I was young, I gravitated towards rock music where the guitar had a huge role to play. And once I picked up the guitar, I realised it’s a very intimate instrument. You can express yourself through it. It became my friend with who to share secrets. I made that connection pretty quickly.
I experiment a lot with different stroke instruments like mandolin, guitalele, charango and banjo. Pretty much any stringed instrument where I can apply my guitar skills. I want to keep trying more and more guitars because each instrument inspires you in a different way when you pick it up. John Petrucci is my biggest inspiration. His playing changed my life. Other than that, Guthrie Govan, Eddie Van Halen, and Eric Johnson.
What guitars do you play?
Rickraj: I play all kinds of guitars like electric, acoustic steel string, nylon string, 12-string, 7-string electric, and resonators. I mainly use a Fender Telecaster, Gibson Les Paul, Schecter 7 String guitar, Fender Dreadnought Acoustic and Kempa Acoustic.
Pandemic gave people a lot of time. How have you been using this time?
Rickraj: Initially, it was difficult since the music industry was completely shut but that gave me some time to work on my solo album. I wrote a full-length nine-track solo album during the pandemic and have been releasing singles for the past few months.
I have a habit of recording bits and pieces, whatever ideas I get, either on my phone or computer. During the lockdown, I was going through the archive and I had a lot of ideas recorded. So, I thought why not use this time to finally write my solo album. All the tracks are of different genres — rock, metal, progressive rock, funk, and jazz fusion.