Singer-songwriter Raghav Mathur, known professionally as Raghav, credits much of his musical genius to his childhood spent in Calgary. An eclectic mix of classical and film Indian music at home, with his personal favourite R&B and hip-hop, against the backdrop of Alberta-favourite country music, helped him create the distinct style that he is known for today.
Toronto-born Raghav spent his childhood in Calgary distancing himself from his Indian roots, but embraced them upon moving to the U.K. and realizing that Indians were, by then, quite welcomed in the mainstream culture. This enabled him to incorporate his knowledge of Hindi vocals into the music he loved, which kick-started his career and turned him into the successful brand that he is. In his younger years, Raghav worked with vocal coach Seth Riggs (who had trained legends such as Michael Jackson and Madonna) in Los Angeles, and studied at the Institute of Performing Arts in Liverpool. Today, his hybrid music is a blend of reggae, hip-hop, Indian pop and R&B, with an unmistakable country music flare.
Right now there’s a huge spotlight on Canada musically and not just on the usual suspects — the Drakes and the Biebers, etc. There’s a huge spotlight on a sound, and it’s an energy that I first felt when I moved to the U.K., which since the ’50s or even before has been on the forefront of creating pop sound. There’s a real light shining on Canada now. People are paying a different type of attention [to] Canadian writers, Canadian producers, particularly in R&B and hip-hop.
Raghav’s debut album Storyteller (2004) has sold over 1.6 million copies to date, leading to a sold-out world tour and winning him two UK Asian Music Awards in 2005 (Best Newcomer and Best Single for “So Confused”), one Music Of Black Origin Award in 2004 for Best Collaboration, and an Urban Music Award in 2005 for Best Chart Act. This was also the sixth biggest selling album of all time in India.
His following album, Identity (2009), topped the charts in India and the Middle East, and three years later the singer went on to record the hit Bollywood single “Ishq Shava” (for Jab Tak Hai Jaan starring Shahrukh Khan and Katrina Kaif) with the legendary A. R. Rahman. His collaboration with 2Play on singles “So Confused” and “It Can’t Be Right” from Storyteller reached the Top Ten on UK charts, with “Angel Eyes” releasing later and peaking at number seven on the UK Singles Chart for six weeks. Raghav’s “So Much” from his third album The Phoenix (2012) featured Canadian hip-hop artist Kardinal Offishall and was a top 40 feature on many mainstream Canadian music stations, earning him a well-deserved Juno nomination in 2011 for R&B/Soul Recording of the Year.
Over the course of his career, Raghav has also worked with mainstream artists including Iceberg Slimm, Jahaziel, Jucxi, Frankey Maxx and Redman, with Kardinal Offishall as a frequent collaborator. The Juno-nominee is one of the very few South Asian artists in the world today to have had significant success in cross-over and international projects. His singles “Angel Eyes,” “Fire,” and “So Confused” have been fan favourites on mainstream radio channels, with “So Confused” having stayed at number six for 13 weeks. It is rather unusual to hear a South Asian artist on mainstream radio channels, a feat very select few have achieved, and Raghav is among the top on this distinctive list.
The award-winning artist has had sold-out shows all across the world. In 2008, the 18-city The Unforgettable Tour had him sharing the stage with some of the biggest names in Bollywood such as Amitabh Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Preity Zinta and Riteish Deshmukh, among others.
You have to believe in your record because no one else is going to believe in it. I saw folks get much bigger deals than I did, never put out a single, never put out a record, never put out a demo. You just have to believe in yourself enough that you are willing to put your own money where your mouth is, into your own music, and let other people follow.
Raghav has also lent his voice to charity work. His collaboration with American rapper, singer and songwriter Nelly, and Bollywood star Abhishek Bachchan led to the single “Until The Sun Comes Up” in 2015, in an effort to raise awareness for lack of electricity in remote African villages. Raghav partnered with international NGO SolarAid that same year to help achieve their goal of bringing solar lights to these villages, replacing the hazardous kerosene lamps that are currently in use.
In October 2017, Raghav was asked to participate in the ATB Storytellers series by the National Music Centre in Alberta, an initiative to collect and record the stories of Alberta’s music history. Owing to Raghav’s success and connection to the province, his interview was broadcast live (conducted by Kardinal Offishall) as a part of this multifaceted educational project to conduct live events with music icons.
Raghav was included in the ANOKHI Sexy & Successful List in 2011 and received The ANOKHI Award that same year.
Thumbnail Image Photo Credit: Courtesy of Raghav
Main Image Photo Credit: Courtesy of Raghav