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Pleased to see Modi’s focus on building Indian economy: New Zealand PM

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Wellington: New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said he’s happy to see that under Narendra Modi’s leadership, there is a renewed focus on building Indian economy, and called for closer ties between the two countries.

In an email interview here, Key said closer economic and political ties between New Zealand and India would help both countries immensely.

“Prime Minister Modi has ambitious goals for improving India’s economic prosperity. I am pleased to see the renewed focus on building India’s economy,” Key told IANS in response to a question on his impressions about Modi.

Key, who has led the nation since 2008, said, “New Zealand, a small trading nation, wants to foster closer economic and political ties” with India as Indian economy is on the rise.

The prime minister, who heads the New Zealand National Party, said the two countries have a “great and growing” relationship and it “is one we are very keen to develop further”.

Key said India was New Zealand’s second-largest source of international students and “our largest source of skilled migrants”, and praised the large and growing Indian community in his country, pointing out that they make a huge contribution to New Zealand.

Hoping to visit India next year and meet Prime Minister Modi, he said he would be very pleased to host Modi in New Zealand. “Perhaps one day soon, I can tempt him down to attend an India/New Zealand cricket match,” he added.

Key has maintained for long that films and sports are two routes to make inroads for New Zealand into the hearts of Indian travellers.

To this end, Bollywood’s young and dashing actor Sidharth Malhotra has been appointed as the country’s tourism ambassador in India.

Sidharth even met Key here earlier this week, and they spoke about films, rugby, education, food and more.

Key praised Sidharth’s appointment as the first Indian ambassador for Tourism New Zealand, and said this would help foster stronger bonds between the two countries.

“I am sure he will encourage Indian travellers to visit our lovely country,” he said, adding that Sidharth, “a very nice young man”, was passionate about adventure tourism and would show India some of the “amazing activities available here”.

The actor has been experiencing that already — he has gone on the SkyWalk in Auckland and taken to skydiving, hot air ballooning and jetboating in Queenstown during his ongoing trip to the Pacific nation.

The prime minister said his country had much to offer, from its “beautiful scenery to unique cultural experience and outstanding food and wine”.

He said they would love to see more Indians coming to visit. “We will ensure they have a great time. And, of course, we have had some brilliant movies made here already so I would encourage representatives of your film industry to come and have a look for themselves,” the prime minister said.

(Radhika Bhirani, IANS)

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Know How Grammy Award Winner Inspired by PM Modi to Dedicate Music to Environment

From songs like "Ganga" - depicting the plight of the river considered holy by most Indians - to his Grammy-winning album "Winds of Samara" - which speaks of peace and global harmony

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grammy award winner, modi
"What was to be a photo opportunity with the Prime Minister turned into an hour-long discussion with him on environment. He spoke on the impact music could have on society and inspired me to make music on environment," Kej told IANS in an interview here. Wikimedia

A chance meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in September 2015 in New Delhi inspired Bengaluru-based Grammy Award winner Ricky Kej to dedicate his life and music to the cause of environment.

Since then, Kej, who has represented India on global fora, performing at venues including the United Nations General Assembly in New York and UN Headquarters in Geneva, has been using music to flag ecological issues to policymakers and public the world over.

“What was to be a photo opportunity with the Prime Minister turned into an hour-long discussion with him on environment. He spoke on the impact music could have on society and inspired me to make music on environment,” Kej told IANS in an interview here.

From songs like “Ganga” – depicting the plight of the river considered holy by most Indians – to his Grammy-winning album “Winds of Samara” – which speaks of peace and global harmony – Kej’s music connects with all — from world leaders to the man on the street.

With the aid of compelling visuals, Kej’s music, and collaborations with global music artists, highlights the deleterious consequences of urbanisation, climate change and human-animal conflict.

modi, grammy award winner
From songs like “Ganga” – depicting the plight of the river considered holy by most Indians – to his Grammy-winning album “Winds of Samara” – which speaks of peace and global harmony – Kej’s music connects with all — from world leaders to the man on the street. Wikimedia

“There are so many issues in India like child labour, gender inequality and poverty, which none seem to be reflecting through music. We see that music has lost the identity of being an art form and has become a profession,” he lamented.

Kej, 37, bagged Grammy in 2015 for the ‘Best New Age Album’ for “Winds of Samsara”, created along with South African flautist Wouter Kellerman. He is also recognised as the ‘United Nations Global Humanitarian Artist’ for his music with environmental consciousness.

The subjects of Kej’s music include, the rising air pollution in global cities and towns, the perils being posed to wildlife due to urbanisation and the story of Republic of Kiribati, an island nation in the central Pacific Ocean off Fiji, whose coasts are receding each year due to rising ocean levels due to global warming, among others.

With 15 studio albums released internationally, 3,500 commercials, three feature films in Kannada and over 100 music awards in 20 countries to his credit, the conservationist-musician’s album “Shanti Samsara” was released by Modi and then French President Francois Hollande at the United Nations Conference of Parties (CoP-21) Climate Change Conference in Paris, held from November 30-December 12, 2015.

The album, conceived after his meeting with Modi, had Kej collaborate with about 500 musicians from 40 countries, for songs like “Ganga”, throwing light on the pollution plaguing the river, and on “Earth and Water”.

“Politicians and policymakers are used to statistics and numbers, but when one approaches them through art, it makes a lot of difference. I have seen politicians change their perspectives towards environmental causes after attending my concerts,” Kej asserted.

The element of environment and nature in his work comes from his own experiences. For instance, he composed the song “One With Earth” – which highlights natural farming and the need to give up chemical fertilisers – after he lived with the tribals in Andhra Pradesh’s Araku Valley to understand their lifestyle and traditional farming techniques.

Grammy award winner, modi
“There are so many issues in India like child labour, gender inequality and poverty, which none seem to be reflecting through music. We see that music has lost the identity of being an art form and has become a profession,” he lamented. Wikimedia

Born in 1981 in North Carolina in the US, Kej moved to Bengaluru with family when he was eight, with intense love for music and nature.

“As a child, I felt music and nature were connected and found music in the sounds of nature, birds and animals. I used to look at music as a way of understanding history, cultures and emotions from different parts of the world. A lot of my education was through music,” said Kej, who was part of a rock band “Angel Dust” during his class 12th from Bishop Cotton Boys’ School in Bengaluru.

Even as Kej pursued a dental science course on his father’s advice, he continued to create music and decided to pursue it full-time on completing the degree.

“Like most musicians, I started my career with popular music and later turned to heavy metal and jazz. I finally zeroed in on world music as it connects with the people the world over, irrespective of the language they speak,” Kej recalled.

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As a professor at the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) in the renowned Indian Institute of Science (IISc) campus in this tech hub, the musician believes his job is to approach environmental subjects artistically.

“Numbers don’t hit people as hard as visuals and art can. My job as a musician is to drive the numbers and data through emotions,” Kej added. (IANS)