Interview with Kam Williams
Born in his mother’s hometown of Trivandrum, India, the terra cotta-colored capital of Kerala, Ranjit Arapurakal spent his infancy in Vienna and Frankfurt before moving to New Jersey when he was 4. Today, the versatile vocalist, composer, multi-instrumentalist and music educator is based in Goa, India, and is currently on an extended tour across Russia.
The Jersey boy started playing rock music in high school and never stopped, except for slowing down a bit to earn a bachelor’s degree in literature with honors at Rutgers University. After graduating, he migrated to NYC where he honed his stagecraft, while working as a jazz singer, session musician, bartender, open mic host, dance accompanist for Alvin Ailey, Juilliard and several other leading dance academies, and as a music teacher for infants and their parents.
Visit Ranjit’s recently-launched Patreon page to help enable folks all over the world to follow and support “Ranjit Arapurakal’s World Peace Tour” at: https://www.patreon.com/RanjitArapurakal/overview
Kam Williams: Hi Ranjit, thanks for the interview.
Ranjit Arapurakal: It’s my pleasure. Kam. Thanks for reaching out.
KW: When did you develop an interest in music?
RA: I started singing in the church choir when I was 7 years-old, and I enjoyed it from the start. But I was drawn to the mysteries of sound even before that. There was a lot of music in the house.
KW: How would you describe yourself, musically?
RA: As a psychedelic singer/songwriter. But it changes all the time. As a multi-instrumentalist, I get to play with many different musicians in many settings. My comfort zones include funk, groove, soul, reggae and rock & roll. And I’m delving into psychedelic rock and live techno at the moment.
KW: Do you prefer playing solo or with a group?
RA: I don’t have a preference. Both have their own unique charms as well as limitations. When you can communicate with other musicians the same way you can communicate with yourself, you get the best of both worlds
KW: I enjoyed listening to a lot of your songs, especially “Lonavala,” “That’s My Name” and “Since the Start.” What is the source of your inspiration when creating a tune?
RA: The songs usually just bubble up from my subconscious or inner voice or paramatma. Some songs are about love and some are about the environment, from fracking to the Dakota Access Pipeline. I also have a penchant for post-apocalyptic love songs, as a genre.
KW: You hail from New Jersey, but perform in India and elsewhere around the world. Where do you like playing the most?
RA: I have been based in Goa, on India’s west coast, for the last three years. The music scene there, as well as the audiences and the beautiful nature, are what made me stretch out what was originally meant to be a two-week holiday.
KW: You play both guitar and piano. What is your favorite instrument?
RA: My favorite instrument is the human voice. It’s easy to transport and can touch, directly, the soul of any listener.
KW: Who are some of your musical influences?
RA: Lenny Kravitz, The Doors, Blues Traveler, Caetano Veloso, Michael Jackson, James Brown, Fela Kuti, Ella Fitzgerald, Stevie Wonder, Frédéric Chopin, Gabriel Fauré, Claudio Monteverdi, Frank Sinatra, The Band, The Beatles, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Santana, Terence Trent D’Arby, Bob Marley and the Wailers, Gil Scott Heron, Motorhead, The Cure, Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, Phish, and The Dave Matthews Band, to name a few.
KW: What was the last song you listened to?
RA: It’s been ages since I listened to a song. I was recently exposed to some Russian minimal techno, but these are not songs — more like moody soundscapes.
KW: What is your earliest childhood memory?
RA: I remember my nursery school at All Saints Church in Princeton, New Jersey. Mrs. Weatherall had a pair of gray rabbits in a cage in the garden. And apple juice and graham crackers. It was paradise!
KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
RA: Most recently, carrot-ginger soup.
KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
RA: I see a guy who’s ready for showtime!
KW: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
RA: Aside from being born yet again on this plane of reality? Nothing.
KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
RA: A global end to state-sanctioned violence against the vulnerable and the environment.
KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
RA: Yes. Whether I have any ideas about how we can help save our planet. Yes I do! I think that we need to raise awareness about pollution and sustainable habits in daily life and in industry. I believe in volunteer community clean-ups. And in sharing resources. I believe in a sustainable way of life that seeks to be in tune with nature on a local, planetary, and cosmic level. I believe that just as we can receive healing from the Earth and Nature, so can we give them healing back. And so we should!
KW: Finally, as Samuel L. Jackson asks in the TV ad, what’s in your wallet?
RA: IDs, ATM cards and Russian rubles.
KW: Thanks again for the time, Ranjit, and best of luck on your Russia tour.
RA: I enjoyed this very much, Kam. Cheers!