Raoul Juneja, music producer, TV producer, columnist, activist
Raoul Juneja, also known as Deejay Ra, is a columnist, TV host, music producer and activist. He is also a media expert on urban and South Asian music. He has created and produced the award-winning national Canadian music TV show.
Raoul was born in Toronto, and was raised in New York City. He studied media at Western University where he began DeeJaying and appearing as a TV host and columnist.He has also interviewed prominent Canadian celebrities including Russell Peters and Maestro Fresh Wes.
Raoul started his professional career in 2001 founding his Lyrical Knockout Entertainment company. He also began writing articles and interviewing artists.
Here’s Generation Next’s interview with this multi-talented young man:
You are multi-talented, music producer, TV producer, columnist, activist. Do you have to spread wings far enough to sustain yourself in show business?
To some extent, but you shouldn’t get distracted focusing on too many things at once as you run the risk of not excelling at any of them. I’ve found it’s more important to have the skills to work in multiple areas depending on the flow of your career. So for example, I was producing compilations and writing early in my career, spent 4 years producing a TV show, went back to writing, and now am back producing compilations.
It seems as if South Asian artists have been booming in Canadian and American TV. Is it just an impression or has the field really grown?
Growing up I was lucky to have Aashna on YTV and Monika Deol on MuchMusic as inspirations for me wanting to become a veejay, but ‘Apu’ from “The Simpsons” was still who the mainstream would compare us to. Russell Peters, who was one of my mentors, has done amazing on TV and Netflix as has Aziz Ansari and so many others.
How supportive is Canadian government of Canadian South Asian artists in comparison to say British, Indian or American governments?
This wasn’t always the case, but in recent years I’ve seen great support from the Canadian government and industry for Canadian artists of South Asian heritage, when it comes to grants and other opportunities. Not just because they are South Asian, but because they are talented artists who present themselves professionally, which is the most important thing.
It’s great that many Canadian artists have seen success in Britain, India and America so I hear each country’s government and industry has its own unique benefits for their artists. Raghav, Jonita Gandhi and Anjulie are just three examples of Canadian artists who’ve been very successful in Britain, India and America respectively.
You have worked in mainstream media. Tell us what the mainstream media gets wrong about South Asian artists working in Canadian showbiz?
Back in the day, it was still common for South Asian artists or TV personalities to be typecast under Bollywood when it came to the Canadian industry. It was difficult even for myself and V-Mix’s host Dilshad Burman to be taken seriously at first, given that we were both South Asian but doing an urban and world music TV show that didn’t cover Bollywood.
Now there are artists like Alysha Brilla who have large mainstream fanbases, or hosts like Sangita Patel on Entertainment Tonight Canada who are interviewing the biggest Hollywood stars. More progress can always be made, but I’m proud to have tried to do my part and will continue to!
What do you think about various Bollywood and Hollywood award shows in the light of the fact that many Hollywood and Bollywood stars do not think very highly of these shows.
I believe the Bollywood and Hollywood award shows are very important but should always have a diverse team of judges, so there is consistent diversity amongst the award winners. Not just culturally, but also within genres so the artists truly feel represented as a community.
I’ve won several awards in the past and definitely feel it helped with my career, plus now I’m honoured to now be a juror for several awards shows like Canada’s Prism Prize and the Toronto Independent Music Awards.
How do you think technology has changed music and music industry?
Technology has always and will continue to change various art forms and their industries, especially music. Bootlegging has always been there, as have consumers who like to purchase music versus those who like to hear it for free, whether on the radio in the past or by streaming today.
10 years from now, how do you see technology changing this industry even further. In other words what are the jobs of future in the music industry?
I feel there has always been a need for both artists and tastemakers. Artists to create the music, and tastemakers who can curate the music to present what they feel will be most enjoyed by the public at large. Both deserve to be compensated for their work, otherwise you won’t have the art or the public will be overwhelmed and not able to absorb it all, which is happening to an extent today as we see opportunities for music journalists lessen.
What are some of the social issues near and dear to your heart and why?
Bullying is something I’m very vocal about, and I’ve been honoured to tour Canadian schools these past few years as part of the “Conquer The Fear” tour alongside Alexi Couto, Shane Kippel, Jae Cabrera and recently Scott Graham.
Over the past year, the issue of human trafficking is something I became aware of and wanted to do something about.
Both bullying and human trafficking can negatively affect youth in a huge way, leaving a lasting impact on their lives or in many instances even put their lives at risk.
Sometimes I get an impression that you prefer to be behind the scenes. Is it accurate?
Absolutely, but I do enjoy being on camera or on stage when necessary! So many get into the entertainment industry because of acting or musical talents they have, even though I acted in plays and was in bands at school I was always more interested in whose vision the actors or musicians were helping bring to light.
A common joke about TV producers or producers of music projects is that we’re the ones who no one notices if everything goes right, but we’re the ones to blame if anything goes wrong! Our job is to bring out the best in the TV directors and hosts, as well as in the artists and composers, to make sure they get the credit they deserve.
Please talk to us about your music compilation releasing with The United Nations on Jan. 31st to benefit the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons.
I couldn’t be more honoured to co-produce the “Music To Inspire: Artists United Against Human Trafficking” triple album alongside Sammy Chand, Founder of the Los Angeles based label Rukus Avenue. We’ve assembled over 65 world renowned artists to lend their songs and names to raise awareness and funds to fight human trafficking. The album is out now on Rukus Avenue, available on iTunes and all digital retailers with the proceeds going to the UN Trust Fund.
I was very moved that the South Asian music community came out in full force to support us, including AR Rahman, Anoushka Shankar, Sonu Nigam, Apache Indian and Panjabi MC. Some of my favourite mainstream artists like Joss Stone, Vanessa Carlton and Garbage were also quick to offer their help.
What are some of the other initiatives you have been part of and why?
I’m excited to be returning as the keynote interviewer at the Canadian Urban Music Conference on September 2nd, and to host at TDotFest on September 3rd. The conference and festival have been a huge live platform for upcoming and established Canadian urban artists.
I’ll also be involved with the upcoming CUT Hip Hop Awards on May 6th, a hip hop awards show which is very much needed in Canada considering Canadian artists’ huge contributions to hip hop over the past 25 years.
Working in this industry, who has inspired you the most and why?
It may seem surprising, but Professor Noam Chomsky has been my biggest inspiration ever since I read a small article by him when I was in university. I was in a business program only taking one media course, which is how I discovered his work, and just a few of his words changed how I thought about the world entirely. I immediately switched to a media program, and the rest is history!
I was very inspired by the fact that he was both a linguistics professor and an outspoken activist, which made me believe I could also combine my love for media and music with making a difference.
With all the work you do, how do you find time to eat, sleep, rest and be on social media?
Having a schedule to do all those things is integral in the music and media industries, as there’s a constant mix of busy and slow times as well as emotional highs and lows. You can easily lose your work ethic, physical health or mental health if you don’t give yourself a structure, and even in my case it took years to find the right rhythm for myself.
I find it’s also important to differentiate between meetings, networking and socializing, as well as the hard work that progresses your career. All are important but focus on things that are actively bringing you closer to your goals, even if it seems like it will take a long time to get there. It took me 15 years of working in the industry before I got to go to The Grammy’s for the first time last year, but that made it all the more worth it. I couldn’t be happier to be going back to the Grammy’s this year too!
Follow Raoul on Twitter @RAOULJUNEJA and on Instagram @LYRICALKNOCKOUT