How I went from studying economics in the UK to launching India’s very first international reggae festival

Raghav is DJing in a room with a wooden background. The photograph is high contrast and the focus is his hand on the mixer. There is a long exposure so there are some lights that blur in orange like a fire to show movement.

Raghav DJing at High Spirits in Pune, India.

Raghav, from India, graduated with his bachelor’s in economics and statistics from UCL in 2005. He now runs Goa Sunsplash, one of India’s most loved music festivals.

‘The UK encourages you to be an individual and to think differently about your life and career’

For me, London is one of the best places to study in the whole world. My course at UCL was absolutely excellent and just being in the city was inspiring. I’m Indian but I grew up in both India and the UK so I know a lot about what makes the UK a unique place. It encourages you to be an individual and to think differently about your life and career.

After graduating with my bachelor’s in economics and statistics, I worked at a major bank for a while and spent every bit of my spare time taking in as much of the UK’s live music and culture as I could.

A very high-quality photograph of Raghav standing with his arms out on either side of him. He has a side parting and a black shirt rolled up to his sleeves and he is standing in a car park with a beaten up white van to his right-hand side.

'After the global financial crash I knew it was time to reinvent my career'

‘After the global financial crash in the late 2000s, I decided to reinvent my career’

And then there was the global financial crash in the late 2000s. I knew it was time to reinvent my career. I decided to take everything I had learned in the UK and head back to India. The cultural scene was very different there and not of the scale that I had experienced in the UK. So I hooked up with a British Indian friend in Delhi and we started organising live music events and shows together.

‘My friends and I kick-started India’s first proper reggae scene’

In the UK, my friend and I had heard modern reggae all the time. New and exciting acts were taking the genre in interesting directions. We decided to bring it to India. With some other friends, we formed the Reggae Rajahs Crew and kick-started what was ultimately India’s first proper reggae scene. Not everyone understood what we were doing, but everyone who did loved it. They would bring a friend to our shows who would bring another friend and before we knew it we had a real following.

‘At festivals, we opened for acts like Major Lazer and Snoop Dogg’

The Reggae Rajahs Crew were booked at festivals and we opened for acts like Major Lazer and Snoop Dogg. I branched out from DJing and formed a live band called The Ska Vengers. We went on to win major prizes and were nominated for MTV music awards and many others.

Photograph of daytime at Goa Sunsplash festival. To the left the red, green and yellow flag flies from the stage. There is a large crowd. A coconut tree, and the sun is visible and peach coloured through a hazy evening sky.

Daytime at Goa Sunsplash, India's very first international reggae festival.

‘In 2016, we launched India’s very first international reggae festival’

Alongside DJing and the band, I stepped up my work as a music promoter. In 2016, The Reggae Rajahs Crew launched Goa Sunsplash, India’s very first international reggae festival. We had to do everything by ourselves and it was really hard work, but by using our network of friends and supporters in the UK, we did it. And I’m proud to be a pioneer, bringing this artform that I love to Indian audiences.

Main stage at Goa Sunsplash.

‘All of this happened in India but I have no doubt that its roots lay in the UK’

All of this happened in India, but I have no doubt that its roots lay in the UK. In the UK I was being inspired without knowing it. It has so much culture and such a huge mix of people from every corner of the world. And London is a powerhouse. It’s electric. It’s a global capital for music, theatre, sport and even finance. Whatever you can think of, it’s happening there.

A high-quality portrait of Raghav looking into the distance. He's wearing a dark blue shirt with a pattern on it and his face is lit from the left-side. Dark shadows are cast on his right side. And he has a look of determination in his eyes.

'I feel prepared to deal with whatever life throws at me'

‘The UK taught me how to think creatively and analytically’

I am certain that my UK education is one of the reasons that I’ve managed to be so successful in my career. Having studied economics and statistics, I know how to plan, budget and do everything that is required to get a business off the ground. But it’s more than that.

The UK taught me how to think creatively and analytically. Nothing in the music business ever runs smoothly. But by learning to be myself in such a forward-thinking country, I feel prepared to deal with whatever life throws at me.

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