Ravi Jakhotia is no stranger to performing at big celebrations.
The Tampa native, whose career as DJ Ravidrums has found him on stage with Mariah Carey in Las Vegas and Paula Abdul at the Super Bowl, returned to the city in 2014 to perform at the International Indian Film Academy's "Bollywood Oscars" at Raymond James Stadium.
Today the Chamberlain High graduate will play an event that's part of a much different, but also extravagant celebration: the inauguration of Donald Trump as the nation's 45th president. He's set to perform at the concert dubbed the Make America Great Again Welcome Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial that also includes Toby Keith and 3 Doors Down.
Much has been made over the politics of the artists who have accepted — or turned down — gigs at inaugural events. Jakhotia said that after carefully considering the opportunity, and the criticism he got on Facebook after announcing the show, he made a decision that was right for him. We talked to Jakhotia about the decision
How did this gig come together for you?
I can't say who because it's confidential, but in late December, one of the largest people in the music business called me and asked me to do this. I was kind of on the fence, but I talked to my dad and he said this is a great honor. My dad came to America from India with $8 and a one-way ticket to pursue the American dream. This is the dream! It's mind-boggling. What could be bigger than his son playing at the footsteps of the Lincoln Memorial. It's humbling, and it's a serious gig. Lincoln is looking at you.
Are you a Democrat or Republican?
I really can't get into the political side of it. My beliefs are, it's time for America to come together. Trump will be president, and that's it.
How did people in your life respond when you announced you'd be playing an inauguration event?
I got an ocean of hate and an ocean of praise. It goes to show how polarized society is. You have two very distinct sides, and I was being pulled right in the middle of them. Plus I'm a Libra, so that makes it even worse.
What's the security like at something like this?
The security is next level. It's beyond. Everything about this is Secret Service-approved. They're not playing.
How is the scene in Washington right now?
I got here on Monday. I've been so involved in my gig that I haven't even walked around and seen anything but the Lincoln Memorial, which is breathtaking. Unlike anything I've seen. This is my first time coming here, and I get to play in front of it. It's so strange to me. When you enter that stage you better come with an ocean of respect and kick a--. I'm performing with the presidential honor guard and the Marine Corps drum line. They're second to no one on earth. To even be on the stage with them is intimidating. It's an honor and a privilege.
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A lot of artists have turned down the chance to play during the inauguration because of personal politics. What do you think of that?
God bless anyone and their perspective. You have the right to choose in America. Different things are right for different people, but I'll be the only person who looks like me on that stage. I could have boycotted and been invisible, but I believe I'm going to generate value for people who look like me just by being on that stage and being visible. My message is peace and love through music. I can't believe they asked me, really.