Decoding The Electric NYC/Mumbai-Based Rock Band Ranjit & The Ambassadors
Born in Kerala, Ranjit is self-admittedly a diehard rock n roll fan. On vocals, guitars and keys for his NYC-based band today, his musical inclinations surfaced pretty early on; he moved to the USA as a small child, and grew up in New Jersey, singing in the church choir. “That’s probably where I got most of my early music education,” he recalls.
Ranjit’s mother was his first piano teacher, and once he got the hang of the instrument, coupled with some Music Theory he picked up in church, he was able to teach himself the guitar. There’s been no looking back since; he’s played in various bands since his first jam session in the summer before his ninth grade.
Citing hometown-bands Spin Doctors and Blues Traveler as favourites, he is also a Music Educator, a champion of early childhood music education, and is involved with art education in schools in general. We catch up with the main man to decode the myriad influences behind the band and more:
I. Tell us a little bit about how Ranjit & the Ambassadors was formed, and how you collaborate.
R&TA came about at a time in my life when I was getting tired of the solo singer-songwriter scene. I started writing more songs for electric guitar, and the need to add drums and bass was born as a result. I write all the songs, but when an Ambassador adds his own flavour to a part, making it his own, is when the music is at its best.
II. What are your biggest musical influences, as a band?
Thin Lizzie, Motörhead, The Pixies, The Smiths, Iggy Pop, The Stooges.
III. Ranjit – tell us a little bit about growing up in a musical household, and whether/how that shaped your outlook to music.
We had a Piano and a Veena in the house growing up. Access to instruments is vital to a young musician. I was certainly also exposed to a variety of music by my Father, from The Beatles to The Beach Boys, Bach to Chopin. And my folks sent me to church choir three times a week, from the age of 7, which was where I learned Music Theory for the first time, as well as classical vocal technique.
IV.What are some of the other genres you enjoy, besides rock?
I’m one of those musicians who likes a little of all genres, but is an aficionado of none. If I had to choose a favourite genre — even above rock — it would be funk. I’m talking about Parliament Funkadelic, Sly and the Family Stone, James Brown, The Meters, Tower of Power kind of Funk. It’s dirty and naughty and subversive and at the same time, it’s very demanding musically.
I mean, anyone can play funk music, but it’s one genre which gives so much breadth for excellence in musicianship. You can play funk like a virtuoso, but you can also play the Funk on one note, with a rotten look on your face.
IV. How has performing in India been like, and what is it about it that appeals to you the most?
India is my motherland. I was born here, so I can’t even tell you how much it means to me to be able to perform here. What appeals to me most about India is this energy, this thing that’s going on right now. You could call it an awakening, a renaissance, or a youth movement. There’s a sexual revolution, a women’s rights’ movement, a gay rights’ movement, a counter-culture, and the emergence of new technologies, all going on at once.
Audiences are informed and know what they want. Parties are pumping. Young people are starting to realize that the future is in their hands, and they are shaping it into something beautiful. I am attracted to that kind of energy. That’s why I’m here.
V. What was your Blue Frog launch like?
The show was great fun! They always have such great sound at Blue Frog. I’m looking forward to playing at their other locations soon!
VI. What is the kind of energy you want to create at a gig of Ranjit & the Ambassadors, and how do you prepare for this?
The energy we are trying to create is wild and electric, but full of love. I want people to dance and mosh and break a sweat, but also to see the divinity in one another, and perhaps leave the show with a heightened awareness about one or another of the issues that I sing about in songs like Refugee and The Polar Bear Song.
VII. An artist it’d be a dream to collaborate with?
VIII. Three words that describe the personality of your band.
IX. One track that’s on loop in your headphones.
Really Love, from D’Angelo’s new album, Black Messiah.
X. What are your future plans for Ranjit and the Ambassadors?
Ranjit and the Ambassadors is my full band project. My next plans are to recruit and assemble a band of Ambassadors from the local talent pool and tour with them all around India. I’m preparing to release our new album, “Pianofortissimo!” in the Indian market, followed by touring, touring, touring. I’ve also got some music videos in editing which were shot recently in Goa. I’m so excited to get those on TV in India.