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The carbon-negative musical life of Ricky Kej

Ricky Kej during his IIT-D concert

Worried about climate change, the Indian-origin composer has resolved for a greener, kinder planet

BySiddhi Jain

September 9, 2019 (IANSlife) Grammy-winning Musician Ricky Kej swears by the power of the language of music. And he is using it to drive home his concerns. Many songs by Kej, a staunch environmentalist, highlight the urgency towards pressing environmental issues. But going beyond lip-service, the 38-year-old audits the carbon footprint of his each music concert and offsets it through green drives.

“For all my concerts, we have somebody who audits and calculates our carbon footprint every quarter, right upto the energy consumption by the each generator, lighting, ground and flight transportation.

“Every quarter, we offset our carbon footprint, in terms of carbon units, through tree plantations and investing in renewable energy. That way the entire musical act leads to a carbon-negative lifestyle. We try to give more than we take away,” Kej told IANSlife.

Musician Ricky Kej during a performance
Musician Ricky Kej during a performance


One can well imagine the effort and resources that go into calculating the footprint since the Indian-origin musician has performed live in at least 25 countries -- including at the United Nations Headquarters in New York and Geneva.

Kej, who is also the UNESCO MGIEP kindness ambassador, was in New Delhi recently for the global premiere of UNESCO MGIEP’s kindness anthem, ‘Shine Your Light’. The anthem, an energetic, upbeat song, filled with positivity and the importance of small acts of kindness, has been composed by Kej in collaboration with American singer Laura Dickinson.  

Kej is a quite vocal about the issue of climate change, which he calls one of the biggest threats to the world today, with rising ocean levels and temperatures. And he contributes to alleviating it through his lifestyle, which is designed to reduce his carbon footprint. Kej said he never flies “first-class business”. “The carbon footprint of business-class tickets is four times that of an economy class ticket. And it’s eight times for first class business tickets. So my team travels economy,” he added.

Ricky Kej during his address at the UN
Ricky Kej during his address at the UN


It is this heightened consciousness towards nature that pushed Kej to compose ‘Shanti Samsara’, an album that brought together over 500 musicians from 40 countries. The album was launched in 2015 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former French President Francois Hollande at the United Nations COP21 Climate Change Conference in Paris. The same year, the US-born musician won a Grammy in the ‘new age’ category for his album, 'Winds of Samsara'. 

Profile of Ricky Kej
Profile of Ricky Kej


As the UNESCO MGIEP envoy, Kej defines kindness as a mix of empathy and compassion. How does he link it to the environment and biodiversity?

“Compassion is being selfless and having a soft approach towards everything. That's what is required to save the environment because when we talk about co-existence, it is not just about living in harmony with humans, but with everything around us,” he told IANS.

(This article is a website exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission of IANSlife)

Siddhi Jain can be contacted at