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By Paul Guzzo  Tribune Staff
Published May 30, 2015

Tampa DJ’s star rising with aid from Mariah Carey

By Paul Guzzo | Tribune Staff
Published: May 30, 2015

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TAMPA — If you had asked Ravi Jakhotia a few months ago to name the highlight of his musical career, he would have said performing as a headliner at the International Indian Film Academy Awards in Tampa last year. The Tampa native and Chamberlain High School grad had performed at the Academy Awards and the Super Bowl, but the “Bollywood Oscars” in April 2014 gave him the chance to represent his India heritage, as well as his hometown.

“I felt like a conquering hero returning home,” said Jakhotia, who now lives in Los Angeles and uses the stage name DJ Ravi Drums. “I didn’t think I could top that.”
Now he has. Jakhotia was offered a feature role in a lavish Las Vegas concert series starring diva Mariah Carey, performing nine shows in May at Caesars Palace. He will play the same role for Carey’s next nine shows in July.“This is absolutely surreal,” he said. “Mariah Carey is one of the most talented entertainers of my lifetime.”

Midway through each concert, Carey rushes off stage for a wardrobe change, and Jakhotia is wheeled on aboard his musical rig — a percussion set and DJ gear combination designed by NASA scientists that enables him to remix his music on the fly. He performs an electronic dance music version of Carey’s “Dream Lover.”“I am the only one who gets to go front and center in her spot,”
Jakhotia said.“That alone is special.”As his rendition of the song comes to an end, he is wheeled off stage and Carey walks back on while the band transitions into her version of “Dream Lover.”“It is this unbelievable moment in her show,” Jakhotia said. “I’m humbled I was personally chosen for it.”

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The offer came from Ken Ehrlich, executive producer of the Grammys, who is also in charge of Carey’s Las Vegas show.Electronic dance music, Jakhotia said, is the rage across the Las Vegas club scene so Carey wanted to tap into it.“Ken Ehrlich called me and said this could be a very short conversation or a long one,” Jakhotia said. “He told me about the show and then asked what my schedule was like. I laughed and said when Mariah Carey and Ken Ehrlich want to work with you, you drop everything else.”Jakhotia’s rise was to be expected, said Roshni Patel, a Tampa native and CEO of urbanasian.com, an online publication keeping North Americans up to date on all Bollywood news.

“I have noticed many people still remember him from the event,” Patel said, referring to the Tampa Bollywood performance. “Many actors and people who did come still have great memories of it.”Jakhotia performed at parties throughout the week, ending in the Bollywood awards show at Raymond James Stadium.He also wrote the event’s theme song, “Do Da Tampa,” a high-energy tune featuring Miami-based conga player Gumbi Ortiz. The song was part of a six-minute opening dance number that told the story of Tampa’s culture.

Even before the Bollywood Oscars, Jakhotia’s résumé was packed with major gigs.His talents have drawn him to the late rapper Tupac Shakur, as well as top entertainers Paula Abdul, Justin Timberlake, Ricky Martin, Will Smith, Brittany Spears, Pitbull, Slash and the Black Eyed Peas.He also landed a job as musical director in 2008 for a prime-time U.S. TV show, comedian Howie Mandel’s “Howie Do It.”Next up may be an appearance in the movie “Entourage,” set to be released nationwide June 3.The film follow-up to the popular television series of the same name follows fictional movie star Vincent Chase and his lifelong friends as they navigate the cutthroat world of Hollywood.

When the producers planned a party scene, they wanted Jakhotia as DJ to make it authentic.In real life, he would be the top choice of Hollywood’s biggest stars. He has been booked for a number of bashes, for example, at the Playboy Mansion.“I don’t know yet if I made the final cut of the film,” Jakhotia said. “It will be cool if I do.”Still, nothing can compare to this latest string of concerts in Las Vegas.For starters, he said, The Coliseum at Caesars Palace is becoming the Radio City Music Hall of the West Coast — the venue of choice for entertainers such as Celine Dion, Elton John and Reba McEntire.

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Then there is the opportunity to perform in a Mariah Carey show.Carey first topped the U.S. pop singles chart in 1990 with “Vision of Love” and has released another 17 No. 1 songs. By comparison, Jakhotia noted, The Beatles had 20 top singles.“She is so good I get teary-eyed when I watch her sing. People get caught up in her celebrity and the diva thing and forget what an incredible musician she is. Her talent is unreal.”

pguzzo@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7606
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