Ricky Kej Wiki, Age, Girlfriend, Wife, Family, Biography & More

Ricky Kej is an Indian music composer and environmentalist. He is a recipient of two Grammy Awards. He won his first Grammy award in 2015 for his music album ‘Winds of Samsara’ in the Best New Age Album category. On 3 April 2022, Ricky received his second Grammy Award for his music album ‘Divine Tides’ in the Best New Age Album category. He is also the US Billboard #1 artist.

Ricky Kej is an Indian music composer and environmentalist. He is a recipient of two Grammy Awards. He won his first Grammy award in 2015 for his music album ‘Winds of Samsara’ in the Best New Age Album category. On 3 April 2022, Ricky received his second Grammy Award for his music album ‘Divine Tides’ in the Best New Age Album category. He is also the US Billboard #1 artist.

Wiki/Biography

Ricky Kej was born on Wednesday, 5 August 1981 (age 40 years; as of 2022) in North Carolina, US. His zodiac sign is Leo.

Ricky Kej in childhood

At the age of 8, Kej moved to Bangalore, India, along with his family. He attended the Bishop Cotton Boys’ School, Bangalore, and Cathedral High School, Bangalore. He completed his schooling in 1999. Thereafter, he went to Oxford Dental College, Bangalore, to pursue a Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS). Ricky was inclined towards music since childhood. He grew up listening to the songs of many renowned singers. In his college days, Kej joined a progressive rock band which gave him great exposure to music. Although a dental surgeon by qualification, Ricky decided to follow his passion and pursue his career in music.

An old picture of Ricky Kej

Physical Appearance

Height (approx.): 6′ 2″

Hair Colour: Black

Eye Colour: Black

Family & Ethnicity

Ricky is a half-Punjabi and half-Marwari by birth.

Parents & Siblings

Ricky’s father, Dr Gyan Kej, is a general physician. Gyan spent a major part of his life in the US working in West Virginia, New York, and North Carolina. He decided to move back to India in 1986. His mother’s name is Pammi Kej. He has a brother, who lives in the US.

Ricky Kej’s father

Ricky Kej with his parents

Wife

Ricky got married to Varsha Gowda (daughter of former KAS officer Y K Muddukrishna) on 18 March 2014. Before marriage, Varsha used to work as the assistant VP of an advertising and PR firm. However, she later quit her full-time job to work with Kej, handling his public relations. Later, she also started working as a musician. As of 2022, Varsha has worked with Kej in many of his music compositions. Varsha hails from a prominent Kannadiga Gowda family.

Ricky Kej with his wife

In an interview, giving the details of his wedding, Kej said,

It was a choice between having a ceremony in court or a 1,000-guest wedding. When we decided to get married, I told my dad that we’d like it small. I was quite surprised that he actually agreed. In fact, they had zeroed in on March 17, 2014 (Monday), to sign the papers. But since we thought that the court would be buzzing with activity on a Monday, we decided to go ahead instead of on what people generally consider unlucky, a Tuesday.”

Other Relatives

Kej’s maternal grandfather, Janaki Das Mehra, was an Indian actor, Olympic cyclist, and freedom fighter.

Ricky Kej’s maternal grandfather

Affairs/Girlfriends

Ricky met Varsha in the year, 2006, for the first time. They then re-connected in 2013 and very quickly decided to tie the knot. In an interview, while talking about their first meeting, Kej said,

You know, the way we met was quite typical. Varsha used to work with the Zee Group, while I used to work along with the advertising agency for jingles.”

Career

Ricky Kej started his career as a keyboardist in 2001 with the Bengaluru-based progressive rock band Angel Dust. He worked with the band for around two years and soon, realised that the band was unlikely to work for a long term in India. Therefore, he decided to set up his own music studio.

Music Composer

In 2003, Ricky established his music studio named ‘Raveolution’ in Indiranagar, Bangalore. He started off by composing music for small radio jingles, and eventually went on to create music for over 4,000 ad jingles for popular brands like Pantaloons, Foster’s, Kingfisher, Airtel, Vodafone, Royal Challenge, and Lifestyle. He has also created the signature music for some popular IT ventures like Biocon, Wipro, IBM, Microsoft, Google, and IGATE. Some of his other customers include Essilor, Sasken, Prestige Properties, Toyota, Mitsubishi Motors, Air India, Van Heusen, Allen Solly, Peter England, Sunfeast, and Bingo. Although his work is an amalgamation of multiple genres, Kej has always maintained that his work is largely based on Hindustani classical music and a bit of Carnatic music. He has also provided voice-overs in several advertisements.

Ricky Kej working on a music project

On 17 February 2011, Ricky composed music for the Cricket World Cup opening ceremony at Dhakka. Ricky has released 17 studio albums. Many of his albums are released in the US but not in India. On 9 July 2013, he released his 13th studio album titled ‘Shanti Orchestra.’ The album peaked at number 3 in November that year on the ZMR Top 100 Radio Airplay Chart. It was ranked No. 37 on the ZMR Top 100 Airplay Chart for 2013. It was nominated for the 2013 ZMr Music Awards. A track ‘Forever’ from the album was also nominated for a Hollywood Music in Media (HMMA) Award in 2013.

In 2014, Kej collaborated with the South African flautist Wouter Kellerman to release his 14th studio album titled ‘Winds of Samsara.’ The album was released on 15 July 2014 after being in production for around two years. Kej and Kellerman bonded over Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela for the album. In August 2014, the album debuted at No. 1 on the US Billboard New Age Albums Chart, a first for a person of Indian origin. In December 2014, they were announced as the nominees for a Grammy award in the Best New Age Album category, and they eventually won the award on 8 February 2015.

 

In 2015, he collaborated with the English singer and musician Peter Gabriel to release a double benefit music album titled ‘2 Unite All.’ The album is a collection of musical prayers to celebrate the goodness of the Palestinian and Israeli people. It aimed at urgent humanitarian aid to the Palestinians in Gaza. It featured many renowned music personalities and bands including Stewart Copeland, Rick Allen, Def Leppard, Serj Tankian, and Sasha Cooke.

On 30 November 2015, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched his album ‘Shanti Samsara – World Music for Environmental Consciousness’ at COP 21, the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference. A copy of the CD was personally presented to French President François Hollande by Narendra Modi. It was also played at the event for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the gathering of world leaders.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi launching the music album ‘Shanti Samsara’

On 26 April 2016, Ricky was named the goodwill ambassador for Save the Children’s new global campaign, Every Last Child in Jaipur. In 2018, in an endeavour to familiarise children with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Kej created My Earth Songs- 27 children’s rhymes based on 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The songs were launched by UNICEF and were published in over five million textbooks in various languages like Hindi, English, and Kannada. Ricky has also composed music for five Kannada films including Accident (2008), Venkata in Sankata (2009), and Crazy Kutumba (2010).

Ricky Kej in his music studio

Live Performances

Ricky Kej has performed live at many stage shows and events. Some of his notable live performances include:

  • In May 2015, ZMR Annual Music Awards and Gala celebrated its 11th year with a week-long live event in New Orleans, Los Angeles. Kej also gave a musical performance during the concert.
  • An alumnus of the Bishop Cotton Boys’ School, Bangalore, Ricky was invited to give an exclusive performance for the then President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, on 23 December 2015, as a part of the one-hundred-and-fiftieth anniversary celebrations of the school.
  • On 8 July 2016, when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited South Africa, a welcome concert was organised for Modi’s four-nation tour of Africa. As a part of the event, Kej, along with Wouter Kellerman, performed the song ‘Mahatma’ from their Grammy Award-winning album Winds of Samsara for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other South African state leaders and dignitaries.
  • On 17 July 2016, Ricky, along with Sussan Deyhim (Iranian music composer, vocalist, performance artist, and humanitarian activist), Premik Russell Tubbs (American saxophonist, songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist), and Lonnie Park (American musician, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and record producer), performed at the United Nations General Assembly as a part of the opening of the first-ever annual NOVUS Summit.
  • Ricky presented the gala Shanti Samsara LIVE at the Bangalore Palace on 23 July 2016. Many popular artists like Vishwa Mohan Bhatt were a part of the concert.
  • On 17 May 2017, Kej performed music from his album ‘Shanti Samsara’ at the United Nations General Assembly on a personal invitation by Peter Thomson, the then-president of the UN General Assembly. This was the second time that he performed at the United Nations General Assembly.
  • On 6 October 2017, Kej performed at the historic Vidhana Soudha, Bengaluru, in the presence of various legislators, ministers, bureaucrats, and change-makers. The President of the island nation of Kiribati Anote Tong was also present at the event. Around 200 musicians from eight countries performed with him at the event.
  • In March 2018, Ricky, along with his Shanti Samsara ensemble, performed in Langley, Canada, as a part of the elimination of child brides campaign by the United Nations Women.
  • Kej, along with his ensemble of musicians from across the globe, delivered the finale performance at the RoundGlass Music Awards 2018 at Times Square, New York.

    Ricky Kej performing live at the United Nations General Assembly Hall in New York

  • During the Global Environment Day celebrations in New Delhi in June 2018, Ricky performed at two concerts. His audience at the first concert included the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, Environment Ministers of India, the current Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program, Eric Solheim, and other high ranking dignitaries from around the world. The second concert was performed in front of the India Gate and was attended by thousands of people.
  • In May 2018, after Kej was honoured by the House of Commons of Canada, Ricky performed two concerts at the Simon Fraser University, Surrey, and at the Surrey Fusion Festival.
  • In August 2018, Ricky performed at a concert in Bangalore in collaboration with the International Justice Mission to highlight the brutal practice of captive bonded labour on the occasion of the Indian Independence Day celebrations. Thousands of people gathered at the concert to watch his performance. He also collaborated with many survivors during the concert.
  • In October 2018, Ricky performed at the Indian International Science Festival. Many renowned Indian government officials like the then President of India – Shri Ram Nath Kovind, the then Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh – Yogi Adityanath, the then incumbent minister of the Ministry of Science & Technology, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and Ministry of Earth Sciences of India – Dr Harsh Vardhan, and several other dignitaries were present at the event.
  • Ricky also performed at the spiritual headquarters of the Brahma Kumaris in Mount Abu, Rajasthan, where around 10,000 Brahma Kumaris were present.
  • In November 2018, Kej gave a large scale performance at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium, Chennai, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Chinmaya Vidyalaya educational institutions.

    Ricky Kej performs to a sold-out crowd at Jawaharlal Indoor Stadium in Chennai

  • Next, he performed at Mysore Palace for the Queen of Mysore during their annual Dussehra celebrations. Around 20,000 people were present at the event.
  • On 31 October 2018, Ricky was invited by the World Health Organization (WHO) to perform for the first Global Air Pollution Conference at the historic Palais Des Nations headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Many famous world leaders, heads of various United Nations agencies, and many other dignitaries from around the world were present at the event. Kej performed many new compositions,  highlighting the dangers of air pollution.
  • On 31 October 2018, Ricky was invited by the World Health Organization (WHO) to perform for the first Global Air Pollution Conference at the historic Palais Des Nations headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Many famous world leaders, heads of various United Nations agencies, and many other dignitaries from around the world were present at the event. Kej performed many new compositions,  highlighting the dangers of air pollution.

    Ricky Kej performing live at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva

  • On 22 December 2018, Kej performed at a charity concert at Proto village in Anantapur District, Andhra Pradesh during their annual Samsara Festival. The concert was attended by thousands of villagers.
  • Subsequently, he performed at the annual Visakha Utsav in Andhra Pradesh on 28 December 2018. The concert was attended by around 88,000 people and was inaugurated by the then Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh Shri. N Chandrababu Naidu.
  • As a part of Brahma Kumaris’ Global Summit on Science, Spirituality, Education, Environment and the role of human beings in creating a better world Ricky performed at the Talkatora Stadium on 10 February 2019. Around 6000 people gathered at the concert.
  • On 14 February 2019, Ricky was invited to perform during the launch of WHO’s “Make Listening Safe” initiative at the Headquarters of the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. The initiative was aimed at ensuring that people of all ages could enjoy listening to music and other audio media in a way that does not harm the hearing ability of a person.

    Ricky Kej with former Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban-ki-Moon, at the Asia Initiatives Gala in New York

  • In March 2019, Kej was invited to perform at the launch event of India’s first blue-chip natural history film – Wild Karnataka. It was Ricky who composed the original background score of the film. The audience consisted of around 3,000 dignitaries from all over Karnataka and members of the general public.
  • In July 2019, Kej performed for several prominent dignitaries and high ranking officers of the Indian Army at a concert in Leh. The concert was organised on the occasion of Kargil Vijay Diwas celebrating 20 years of India’s victory over Pakistan in the Kargil War.
  • In August 2019, he performed at a sold-out concert in the Indian Institute of Delhi organised as a part of UNESCO-MGIEP’s World Youth Conference on Kindness.
  • In September 2019, Kej performed for an audience of world leaders, high-level dignitaries and several prominent members of the Indian government at the high-level COP14 summit in New Delhi. At the event, he was honoured with the title of UNCCD Land Ambassador by Ibrahim Thiaw, the Executive Secretary of the UNCCD.
  • Kej also performed multiple concerts in New York, notably at Central Park for the World Health Organization’s Walk the Talk: The Health for All Challenge Campaign.
  • In October 2019, Kej performed at the launch of the United Nations Global Campaign on Sustainable Nitrogen Management in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
  • He followed this with a performance at Bangalore Club in November 2019 and was the headlining act in Vietnam for the Hozo Festival in December 2019.
  • Kej was invited to perform at the MEG Centre, Bangalore, to over 7,000 members of the Indian Army in December 2019. He has since remarked that his performances for the Indian Army are the biggest highlights of his career. January 2020 saw Kej headline the Jaipur Literature Festival and he followed this with a live performance to over 20,000 people at Sirsi for Kadambotsava 2020.
  • With the live music industry grinding to a halt due to the lockdown and other restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Kej performed three large-scale virtual concerts between April and July 2020. These concerts were telecast on television in over 75 countries with an estimated viewership of over 200 million people. Several global organizations such as UN Climate Change, UNEP, UNICEF, WHO, Earth Day Network, WWF, UNCCD, etc., joined hands to telecast these concerts simultaneously. This also included the world’s largest concert for children in association with UNICEF.
  • In September 2020, owing to Covid-19, Ricky performed many concerts virtually at the United Nations General Assembly. One such concert was organised at the closing of the high-level Biodiversity Conference at the UN General Assembly.

Other Work

Apart from composing music and performing live at stage shows, Kej has also appeared as a guest judge on many singing reality TV shows in India. He is a trustee and founding member of the Majolly Music Trust, which aims at raising the standards of music education in India. The Trust is also focused to set up a pension fund for old and infirm musicians (those who are not able to make musical performances and recordings). He is also a professor at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Shimla. As of 2022, he is serving as a UNESCO – MGIEP ‘Global Ambassador for Kindness,’ UNICEF ‘Celebrity Supporter,’ and ‘Ambassador for the Earth Day Network.’

Awards. Honours & Achievements

Grammy Awards

  • Best New Age Album for the music album Winds of Samsara (2015)
  • Best New Age Album for the music album Divine Tides (2022)

    Ricky Kej with his Grammy Award

Other Awards, Honours & Achievements

  • One Show Award in Advertising for the Jingle TreesforFree.org (2008)
  • Adfest Asia Award in Advertising for the Jingle Seventy mm Movie Rentals (2009)
  • ZMR Award for Album of the Year for the music album Winds of Samsara (2015)
  • ZMR Award for Best World Album for the music album Winds of Samsara (2015)
  • South African Music Award for Best Producer of the Year for the music album Winds of Samsara (2015)
  • Special Recognition for Global Achievement at Global Indian Music Award (2015)
  • Mirchi Music Award for Best International Musician (2015)
  • Global Music Awards World Music (India) for the song “Samsara” from Shanti Samsara (2016)
  • International Acoustic Music Awards for Best Open/Acoustic Open Genre for the song “Samsara” from Shanti Samsara (2016)
  • Youth Star Award (2016)
  • Radio One Award (2016)
  • Barcelona International Environmental Film Festival (FICMA) Award for the song “Ganga” from Shanti Samsara (2017)
  • Professional Achievement Award by RNRI Awards (2017)
  • House of Commons of Canada Award for Outstanding Musical and Humanitarian Achievement (2018)
  • Interfaith Leadership Award by Vishwa Shanto Padam (2019)
  • CineMagic Film Festival Award for the song One With Earth Song (2019)
  • Shahu International Film Festival (SIFF) Award for the song One With Earth Song (2019)
  • Cult Critic Movie Awards for the song One With Earth Song (2019)
  • Shahu International Film Festival (SIFF) Award for the music album Breathe Life (2019)
  • Citizen Extraordinaire Award by Rotary Club (2019)
  • GQ Hero by GQ Magazine (2019)

Favourites

  • Musician(s): Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Peter Gabriel
  • Actor: Marlon Brando
  • Actress: Eva Green
  • Book: The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
  • Sport: Football
  • Cuisine: Western
  • Beverage: Tea

Facts/Trivia

  • Ricky loves cooking food and reading books in his leisure time.
  • He follows a non-vegetarian diet. Ricky abstained from eating meat for several years, but later, turned non-vegetarian for the sake of his wife, Varsha. Talking about it in an interview, Varsha said,

    We’d always have to order separate dishes and we wouldn’t be able to share it.”

  • Ricky is fond of fast food.
  • He often consumes alcohol and smokes cigarettes to deal with the stress.
  • Ricky has an aversion to exercise. In an interview, he revealed that although he had a membership in three gyms, he used none.
  • Kej is a homebody and prefers entertaining his friends at home than going out.
  • Kej has won more than 100 music awards in over 20 countries.
  • He is an avid dog lover and has two pet Golden Retrievers.

    Ricky Kej with his pet dogs

  • A chapter based on Ricky’s life and musical journey is included in class 7 English textbooks (ICSE) in India.
  • In an interview, Ricky revealed that he loved making jingles. He said,

    Making jingles is like a workout. One day, I get to work on a Tamil folk jingle and the next day I get to work on a Celtic jingle and an Oriental jingle on the third day. It keeps you on your toes and helps you extend your creativity. The more I work on jingles the better I get at working with new people.”

  • In 2010, Kej was nominated for an award at the Cannes Film Festival for his jingle on Nike. He has created music for around 4000 jingles (as of 2022).
  • In 2013, the Indian TV channel VH1 dubbed him as ‘India Rules Artist.’
  • In 2015, after Ricky won a Grammy award, the first person to congratulate him on his win was Hans Zimmer, a German film scorer and record producer. After congratulating Kej, Zimmer also posed for a selfie with him.
  • In an interview, Kej’s mother revealed that his artistic genes were inherited from his grandfather.
  • Initially, his parents were against his decision to follow a career in music. In an interview, while talking about it, Kej’s father said,

    I did not have any problem with him pursuing music. However, he promised me that he would become a doctor.”

    His father further shared an instance from his teens when he had a college exam, and instead of studying, Ricky was busy recording music for a client.

  • Although Ricky never received training in music, he studied classical music when he was 24 years old.
  • In an interview, Kej’s parents revealed that he was a self-made man. His father said,

    I have seen him really struggle. He bought a second-hand guitar from his own pocket money and learnt it without anyone’s help. I did not give him any money, yet he built his studio. I used to feel sorry for him carrying big instruments while he was a very small boy.”

    His mother added,

    We did not help him in any way in his pursuit of music. He is a self-made man who started from scratch.”

  • During a media interaction in 2015, when Kej’s father was asked about his son’s Grammy win, he said,

    I am extremely proud of him. I was able to watch only a minute of his Grammy speech, but I think it was one of the best I have ever heard. It was very fluent and very precise.”

  • In 2020, Ricky was shortlisted as a finalist in two categories of the India Australia Business & Community Awards (IABCA).
  • In November 2020, Kej was honoured with the title of UNCCD Land Ambassador by Ibrahim Thiaw, the Executive Secretary of the UNCCD.

    Ricky Kej being conferred the UNCCD Land Ambassador title from Environment Minister of India Prakash Javadekar

  • In 2022, when Kej and Stewart Copeland were announced as the winners of the Best New Age Album category, Kej walked onto the stage to receive the trophy. He greeted the audience with ‘namaste’ and began his speech with the Sanskrit phrase ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam,’ which means ‘the world is one family.’
  • Post his win at the Grammy Awards 2022, during an interview, Kej revealed that the award was much more special to him as he shared it with his childhood idol, Stewart Copeland. He further said that it was nothing less of a privilege for him to have worked with Copeland. He said,

    I have grown up listening to his music and his music has shaped my entire life (when it comes to my musical career) and to have this privilege to create an album with him and to actually win a Grammy along with him on the same stage has been quite a surreal experience.”

  • The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter to congratulate Kej on his victory, he wrote,

    Congratulations for this remarkable feat and best wishes for your future endeavours!”

    Amazed by Modi’s wishes, Ricky replied,

    Wow.. speechless! To receive praise from the Hon’ble Prime Minister himself! Thank you @narendramodi ji, I hope I made you proud. You set me on the path of Environmental Consciousness 7 years ago when I won my 1st GRAMMY Award, and here I am today 🙂 Thanks for your blessings.”

  • Kej has been vocal about piracy affecting the artists in India. In an interview, he said that very little was done in India for the protection of intellectual property rights which resulted in uncontrolled illegal downloading of music and films. Suggesting ways to curb it, Ricky said,

    I think two things need to be done – the anti-piracy laws that exist need to be enforced very strongly and awareness needs to be created that piracy is not a victimless crime. The victim is the artiste.”

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