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1. Why are you a musician?
I started songwriting when I entered a contest in the 4th grade. I think writing and music have always been an essential part of who I am. In the 8th grade I turned a play into a musical, and I look back now and think this was a foretelling of how my life was going to be! This is my dharma, my purpose.
2. Who are your musical inspirations?
I remember listening to Beatles albums after school with my friends. Growing up I enjoyed Billy Joel, Fleetwood Mac, Journey, and Earth, Wind, and Fire. At the same time, I took piano lessons and studied classical music – so it was quite the mix of inspirations!
3. What is your practice routine?
I don’t have a daily writing routine, I go with the flow. I make sure I have plenty of meditation time to keep that flow going!
4. Why did you make this album?
Song Divine: The Bhagavad Gita Rock Opera
By Lissa Coffey, David Vito Gregoli
The Bhagavad Gita has been to incredibly inspiring to me, and I really wanted to share it with a larger, western audience in an accessible way. Luckily I got Vito on board – I couldn’t have done it without him. We made a really good team on this – I’m so blown away by how it all turned out.
5. What were the biggest obstacles in making this album? How did you overcome?
The pandemic was a big one! And then just life – moving, family stuff, job stuff for both of us. Song Divine was a huge undertaking, and it took us 3 years to write and record the songs. The lyrics provided us with enough encouragement and fortitude to keep going despite any obstacle.
6. Who is featured on the album?
Sonu Nigam, probably the most popular vocalist in India for the past 3 decades, sings “Know Who You Are” – the chapter 2 song. He’s AMAZING! Deepak Ramapriyan sings the Krishna role for the rest of the album. Alexander Perez sings Arjuna. Visvambhar Sheth sings the Sanskrit verses, and takes the lead on the Maha Mantra. We had musicians from India, and many great artists from here: Venu Bhanot, Kimberly Haynes, Neelamjit Dhillon, and more.
7. Where may we find you online?
Carry On: Reflections for a New Generation is nominated for a Grammy Award in Best Spoken Word Album. The book is by John Lewis and Kabir Sehgal, and the audio book is narrated by Don Cheadle.
A message from Kabir:
I miss you, John Lewis. I love you, John Lewis.
It’s also bittersweet.
Those of you who know me well know I’m uncomfortable posting about my involvement with nominated projects.
I prefer the spotlight on the artist, the nominee. I like the background.
That’s probably why I didn’t excel as a musician.
But this feels so very different. It’s personal. It’s emotional. Like, I cried yesterday.
Not because of the recognition and the validation. Yes, those things are nice.
But because I miss my friend.
2020 was an extremely tough year. The pandemic, the racially-charged killings.
The suffering. The sadness.
We also lost a national hero and human rights icon.
We Georgians lost a congressman.
I lost a mentor.
Yesterday when the nomination was announced, that sadness of losing him came back.
I thought about our conversations in his final weeks.
Those memories soon turned to fond ones: meeting with him in DC, marching in Selma, singing together in Atlanta.
That sparkle in his eye. That wonder in his mind.
Lewis knew that he didn’t have much time left, but he made the time to speak about what was important to him.
He wanted to share his wisdom – one last time – for this book.
And for the ages.
When he passed away, I felt an enormous responsibility to make sure his words and thoughts were reflected properly on the page.
How do you help write the final words of a luminary?
I struggled with this project more than any I’ve ever been involved with.
So that’s what makes this nomination special and bittersweet.
John Lewis would have been elated with the news.
He loved music. His favorite artists were Lou Rawls, Mahalia Jackson, Usher, John Legend.
I know he would have been over-the-moon to attend the Grammys and celebrate with all of our peers.
In my mind’s eye, I can see him dancing in heaven.
I’d like to thank John Lewis’s family and estate, Don Cheadle who beautifully narrated the book, my godfather Ambassador Andrew Young, the incredible team at Hachette, and my co-producers of the audio book.
I flipped through the book this morning, and these words of John Lewis stuck out:
“I know it is within our power to make such a world exist.
Keep the faith.