Filed under: Tour, Tour Diary | Tags: divine connection, handshake concert, live photoblog, pt vishwa mohan bhatt, shillong, soulmate, swarathma
These are a series of images of the Handshake Concert through our eyes. It is an honour to be a part of this event, featuring the likes of Pt. Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and the band we’ve admired for a long time – Shillong’s Soulmate. Here it is then, the glimpses from a day in the life of a ‘working-class’ band. More updates soon. Pics: Montry Manuel and Jishnu Dasgupta
Filed under: Tour, Tour Diary | Tags: dbit, feli geiger, live, PhotoBlog, Tour, tour diary
It’s a beautiful day. Overcast, drizzling. We gig today at Vismay 2011, the annual bash at Don Bosco Institute of Technology, Bangalore. Special guest today, the lovely Feli Geiger on the harp. There could be a bunch of djembe artists joining us on stage too!
Filed under: Tour Diary
The Pyar ke Rang tour was special. The promise of seeing the Taj Mahal, a first time experience for most of us, on the St Valentine’s celebrated day of love was something we went ‘oooh!’ over. Add a gig at Pune, our second home, to a crowd of Symbiosis Inst of Design students who are pretty awesome in every way, and you have a winning combo! For the full set of pics, click here
Filed under: Tour Diary | Tags: hard rock cafe, lights out, live, mumbai, power cut, swarathma
We’re mid-way through our set in Hard Rock Cafe, at the Opening Party of Nokia Music Connects 2010. Things have been going fairly swimmingly for us since we took over the stage from Oz-man Old Man River with whom we played 2 songs. And then, with no forewarning (not that we expected any) in the middle of ‘Pyaasi’ every light in Hard Rock Cafe went out. Every amp, every cabinet, everything on-stage and off, killed. A deathly pall descends.
It would be cool to say that for a moment we knew not what to do, and then the realization struck us that we ought to continue playing. But that would be a lie. To be honest, we didn’t think. We just kept playing and singing. And after the initial “Whoaaaa” from the crowd, we could hear voices singing with us, soaring louder and louder with each passing second. Before we knew it, Hard Rock Cafe became a magical galaxy of cellphone starlight, blinking and bobbing as the crowd stuck with us and got us through the song.
As the song drew to a close, there were no sign of the lights. We decided to press on with another song, this time ‘Khulja re’, our acoustic track that’s about fighting odds. There couldn’t have been a more apt moment to play the song, now could there?! We had everyone singing along right up to the time the lights came back on and we powered through the rest of a memorable set.
Here’s where we thank all of you folks for sticking by us in that time. And hey, thanks for coming out in the rain. We heard later that the HRC parking lot was a mini-lake that evening!
Filed under: Experiences, Tour Diary | Tags: awtar, babblefish, festival, live, morocco, podcast, swarathma
Here they are! The Morocco Podcast episodes 2 and 3 for your viewing pleasure. Put together by the good people at Babblefish Productions who stalked our every Marrakechian move.
Episode 2 has us getting to the venue, prepping, playing a memorable gig and the reactions of the lovely people in the country of Morocco. Watch!
Episode 3 has a memorable acoustic performance of Pyaasi on a Marrakech Cafe rooftop, after a crazy day of dancing in the streets with the dancers from GPD.
This concludes the podcast series. More coming up, stay tuned!
Filed under: Tour Diary | Tags: 2010, bangalore, bedford river festival, folk rock band, kirsty almeida, live, london, lovebox, man like me, swarathma, tour diary, uk
With one festival down and two to go, we were just getting warmed up. Saturday dawned sneakily, under a camouflage of clouds and sprang upon the unsuspecting city of London like a torch in the face of a sleeping cadet. Victoria Park, the venue of the Lovebox Festival was a stone’s throw away, or so we were led to believe. Turned out you needed a Bofors Gun to launch the stone. So we took a bus and legged it to the gate where Artist Accreditation (a booth-bungalow, if you get my drift) handed us wrist bands and put us in touch with a very matter-of-fact liaison lady who set about her business with German efficiency. It was easily the biggest festival (or perhaps even venue) we’d ever played at. Dozens of stages, some big, some small, scores of little nooks where you could catch a drink, relax between gigs, mill around, grab food…
Our stage was the Gaymers Bandstand, a circular covered structure bang in the middle of two huge stages. There was a tree house nearby, complete with tables, chairs and service before you get your Tarzan fantasy going. As the show was in London we had a bunch of friends show up: Guy Ohringer drove down from Oxford, Rajeev and Nisha, Chini our hostess with a day off made it a real feel-good gig. The fun part was we managed to stop all the traffic of people going from one stage to another, and by the time we wrapped up a short high-energy set, we had a crowd that went from the bemused curious to outright applauders. Lovebox FTW!
The rest of the evening brought home the fact that even though the festival was small by UK standards, it seemed HUGE to us. 30,000 people, great lights, happy crowds and good music in the unlikeliest of stages. I loved Kirsty Almeida whose myspace profile says she is influenced by ladybirds, rainbows and other delights that are all around us but we never notice. It is refreshing to see an artist that quotes such delights as musical interests. There was Man Like Me doing a set in a small tent-stage that blew my socks off with their stage presence and coordinated stage moves. There’s so much we learnt in such a short span of time!
The last gig of the tour was at Bedford, at a festival by the river. This was a total village mela. Gazillions of rides, clowns, stilt-walkers, food and drink stalls, little flea-markets, and people milling around. They had a pretty decent stage where we were slated to play at 4pm but thanks to traffic and the general absence of correct directions we got there just in time. We had the unique experience of having to toss over our gear over a fence behind the backstage area in order to save time. I felt like I was an East German, about to play a concert in West Germany, looking furtively over my shoulder for the Stasi or border guards who would gun me down for escaping any moment. Nothing happened, of course. We did end up playing a fun show, a relatively quieter one. This was the only show where there were quite a few Indians, who looked equally bemused as the British.
That was it, a short sweet tour wrapped up. We loaded back in to the tour van and headed homewards setting our controls for the heart of the sun, or London town, whichever you prefer. The next day would be a day off before we caught our flight back to India. We spent it giving Chini’s house a makeover. After a week of housing the Swarathma brigade, it had taken a beating as you can imagine. So while Chini went to work, we set to work too. The vacuum cleaner made an appearance as did several brand of domestic cleaners. We toodled off to my uncle’s home, our host the last time we were in London. My aunt had prepared a massive spread of honest-to-goodness Indian food that we fell upon like a pack of wolves forced to eat the food of sheep for a week. Don’t get me wrong, the English breakfast is great and the Shepherd’s Pie and Fish and Chips are all up there. But then place a spread of desi khana cooked at home and what can I say, you should shield you face from the splattering. We collapsed soon after in a stupor that good food frequently brings upon you, rousing from it only at the strident honking of the cabbie who would take us to Heathrow.
It was a terrific trip. Much had been accomplished, many doors opened, and new friends made. It was time to head home. And there were broad smiles in our hearts.
[Concluded. For now.]
Filed under: Tour Diary | Tags: 2010, band, bangalore, india, indian folk rock, larmer tree festival, summer, swarathma, Tour, uk
I wonder what it is about a big city that winds people right up. I’ve seen it in the Bangalores, Mumbais and Delhis of the world, and I saw it in London too. There’s a strange mix of a constant state of wakefulness blended with an ever-present tiredness in everyone’s eyes. But the moment you travel outside the city, Nainital for example, or Guwahati (these being smaller towns we’ve played in) and the pace of life takes on a new life in the eyes of those who live there. More easy-going, less stressed, more liable to break into a smile, less liable to snap at you.
I was made acutely aware of this in our festival weekend where we started out in the country, returned to London and then went back out again all in three back-to-back shows. The Larmer Tree Festival out on the Wiltshire/Dorset border just outside the city of Salisbury was a distillation of the loveliest people in the whole of England, or so it seemed. The stage manager Pete had a weather beaten face, but one filled with lines he got from smiling at the world, or so it seemed. Angel in pink disguise Abi was like a 500W bulb of good vibes. The place was smack bang in the middle of the English countryside which, I have to say, is just achingly beautiful with meadows and fields that fall away with a base jumper’s abandon. To have a music festival in a setting like this is about the best ideas you could have.
This was also our first real festival, complete with campervans, kids racing around dressed like dracula, a cross section of ages lounging about soaking in the sun (yes, we brought it back, muhahah), and the most delicious aromas wafting about like they were checking the festival out too. The show, ah what can I say. Suffice it is to say that it took us aback. From the first 10 or 15 people who started swaying to over a hundred of them right in front of us, moving, grooving, singing along, and not understanding a thing was a life-affirming moment for us all. It was quite kickass to see the topis and masks in the crowd too. The CD tent made brisk business, and we did an impromptu signing session. Now these are scheduled things where the big artists come down and interact with fans. Neither the organizers nor us thought one might be needed for an unknown Indian band! How’s that for the power of music?
Things went a little wrong in the end though. Montry and I got a little carried away by the brilliant atmosphere of the place and time slowed down. Thanks to that, the whole band got late getting out of the place and we hit bad traffic entering London. To all Bangaloreans, we say this. WE HAVE IT EASY! Downtown London on Friday night is a mangled mass of egos in cars. Vijay Nair was the most rattled. Every six minutes he would turn around from the front of the van and shoot gamma ray burst dirty looks at me. Richly deserved too, alas. Mention must be made of our angel of mercy on the road Prashant Nair. A chip of the old Nair block, he was absolutely marvelous as our driver and tour manager rolled into one.
Coming up: Love in a Box, and a Riverside Festival.
Filed under: Tour Diary | Tags: bangalore, festivals, folk rock, gibson showcase, Indian, london, susheela raman, swarathma, uk tour
Part 3 of a series of Tour Diaries of a Bass Player with a Folk rock band. Not likely to be a major motion picture anytime soon.
The people of London regarded us with a jaundiced eye the first couple of days. We were harshly accused of bringing Bangalore weather with us. Indeed, until hours before the fateful plane carrying the Ghodi and her boys landed, London was sunny, happy and vibrant. But the second we landed, an inexplicable change in weather pattern caused the Meterological department to flip through textbooks and browse Wikipedia in search of an explanation.
It turned cloudy, gloomy and rained off and on. They finally pinned it on us, and we ran like fugitives from nook to corner until the weekend arrived and proved everyone wrong.
It is not easy to keep your spirits up under the circs, especially if you’re playing the most important show of the tour and the sound engineer considers you the canine turd that stuck to his shoes that morning. For reasons unknown to us, he had his head so far up his ass that he was staring at us from behind his tonsils (I borrow the expression from TAAQ, apologies). To use lingos that techies like Sanjeev will follow, God had filled his head with thousands of lines of code, and then commented it out. It took ages to soundcheck, nerves were taut and tempers nearly flew but we got some semblance of order by the time we stepped off. We really missed Pete and Mark, our Tour crew from last year who took our mind off the hassle. Alas, budget constraints meant that we had to go with the flow this time around.
Things were tense in the green room behind the venue in Central London where we were hosting the showcase for industry professionals in London, a list of really cool people put together by Sanj and Ash, good friends from London and of course our own Nair-saab. But then, quite like magic, mood lifted like a happy hot air balloon in flight when we heard Susheela Raman herself was going to be at the show. We were truly elated, to have one of your heros in the crowd gave us that much needed fillip to forget our troubles and do our thing on stage. There were a few hiccups but I’m glad to say we really got it going in the end. Miraculously the sound guy got everything going and had decent sound in the end. Talvin Singh made it to the show too, which was another bonus, he really liked it too, we were told. But the proverbial icing on the cake was high praise coming from Susheela, and the epic picture we took of Susheelathma. Thank you so much for coming Susheela, we sang and played our hearts out for you!
Allow me to paint a picture of a typical Swarathma morning in London. Breakfast was the only elaborate meal we had every day. We would have it in waves. A round of chai, followed by cereal for the early risers. Then when the first lot are doing the dishes the second wave of band walleh come tottering in, rubbing sleepy eyes and bumping into the frig in their quest for a sandwich crafted out of cold cuts. An adventurous chap attempts frying eggs while the late riser makes an appearance getting in everyone’s way with step 1 when the rest are in step 4… matters are made no simpler by the fact that there is ONE loo for the six of us. Needless to say the last guy in got the raw deal. But there is something really really awesome about lounging around nursing an after breakfast cup of tea with a gig at a festival in the offing. Nothing can take away from that.
Coming up: The Festival Weekend!
Filed under: Tour Diary | Tags: airport, barnet, delhi, london, music stores, swarathma, Tour, uk
A first hand account of a bass player’s travels with a band in the UK. The only time the bass player is heard is now.
New Delhi airport baffles me. All those who fly in and out of the gateway to the capital regularly will know what I mean when I say that all airlines bring fly only to the outskirts of the city. Upon touching down at the extremities of the city, every aircraft begins a long and arduous drive through what seems to be peak hour traffic to the terminal which to all appearances is at the other end of the city. I swear I felt like I was back in Bangalore trying to negotiate old airport road at 7pm, except with aircraft and not vehicles. The day is not far when syrupy paperback sellers, trinket vendors and the guys who try to foist off sun-shades for your windows will make their appearance as you pause on the taxi-way waiting for traffic to clear. T3 we are told will make it all different, we’ll see.
The last time we were in London we were too excited to really notice the city. We were more like the sights from the window of the pickup van on the way to my cousin’s house. Chini is a doctor working at a hospital here in London and very graciously offered to host the whole band at her flat in East London. The last time around, we were split up and stayed apart which is always about half the amount of fun it is when we’re all together. As an example, even as I speak a battle rages on before me where Pavan and Montry are pummelling the crap out of each other for no apparent reason. The others stand around and bet on whoever they think will win. I suppose if you write serious music, it has to be offset somewhere. If they’re not too embarrassed by the video, they may even let me put up the video online.
We spent a delightful afternoon at a lovely little suburb of London called Barnet. Apart from the location (at the very edge of the tube map right under the ‘here lie dragons’ part) and that it takes about three years to get there on the tube, it was just perfect. Now we may not be authorities on London, none of us can speak eloquently of quaint little places or nice little cafes or even of places to see and do in the city with any confidence but Barnet we can tell you gladdens the heart. An unhurried pace of life is probably what took us. But what took us to Barnet, you ask? Indeed when we told most Londoners we went to Barnet they raised their eyebrows like two worms startled when they were about to kiss. Well, there’s a music store which held great promise but alas, we didn’t find what we were looking for. Except of course a terrific lunch at the Chipping Cafe; there’s something about inviting English cafes run by East Europeans. All the warm wooden furniture, the happy hand-painted menus and delicious aromas are rendered worthless by the icy stare behind the counter. “Ve do not zerve de tap vater’, barked the erstwhile Auschwitz guard when I requested for a glass of aqua. Which brings me to the price of bottled water – what do you spike it with here? Silver shavings? Why is it so frickin expensive?
Varun and I caught some of the exhibits at the British Museum, the loads of riches from around the world the noblemen on tour took back for their Raani ma as offerings. We couldn’t see it all of course, but gawking at a few thousand years of history did give us an idea of the smallness of our existence and how little we are in the scheme of things. In the end I succumbed and picked up a Rosetta stone paperweight. Not that I am inundated by paper flying away in a breeze, but it felt like a nice thing to have. Nothing like weighing your bills down by an edict issued in three languages.
When we return: having Susheela Raman and Talvin Singh at our gig!
Text: Jishnu Dasgupta, Pics: Swarathma, Artwork: Montry
Filed under: Tour Diary | Tags: experience, festivals, kingfisher, london, swarathma, Tour, uk
An international tour with Swarathma is a whole new animal. We’ve been abroad some four times before this, but every time there reigns chaos.
There are business travellers and there are business travellers like us. With eighteen pieces of checked in baggage, including but not limited to a horse torso bearing trunk, a horse head bearing carton, music CDs, masks, half a dozen guitars (or so it would seem) and a small sized percussion store that could power a small nation’s economy. Swarathma on tour is a frightening nightmare for airline check-in staff. They have been known to follow the band’s tour schedule on facebook and calling in sick on the date of travel. On the day of our flight to Delhi, our stop over en route to London, the poor hapless lady who bore the brunt of the baggage barrage was a rather sever looking Kingfisher airlines girl upon whom we descended with six trolley loads of maal. I get the feeling she was just about to leave for the day when she was confronted the prospect of through-checking in six ugly boys to Heathrow airport via Delhi. We could see her synapses frying and a small wisp of smoke curled up from under her ears. We smelt despair. Our careful monitoring of weight ensured that we were not overweight, which caused her acute disappointment. Score: Swarathma 1, Kingfisher 0.
Witnessing the entire brouhaha were Mumbai boys Tough on Tobacco, our brothers on the road, returning from a series of gigs in Bangalore. If you have not checked them out yet, do so now. Goats, we are told are Happy.
Cocooned in the comfort of the cabin, most of us tuned into the onboard entertainment channels. The inflight movie was Karthik Calling Karthik, something that movie buff Vasu Dixit was as deep into as a tantric yogi in his tapasya. But salvation was not to be for some glitch in the entertainment system made it all go haywire and before he knew it, the movie had begun all over again. It’s like eating your way into dessert and having to look at the menu again. Vasu was not amused, and summoned the stewardess, who was apologetic, but not without a ready explanation about why Vasu should think no more of the interruption. “The movie is very boring sir”, she drawled. “It is about this guy who imagines that he is calling himself, and later you realize he is a psycho who leaves himself voicemails.” There. No further need to watch a movie again. Ever. They should just print movie endings on the fancy menu cards.
When we got off the plane we realized to our shock and awe that our luggage which Wicked Witch had checked in through to London had somehow made its way to the baggage claim in the arrival lounge at Delhi. Inquiries revealed that since our London flight was ‘tomorrow’ they could not honour the through-checkin. Yes, there’s a classic airline WTF moment. Quite surprisingly Kingfisher ground crew at Delhi took matters into their own hands and before we knew it, we were walking out all smiles and gear-less. They took care of it. Swarathma 1, Kingfisher 1.
We trooped to the home of Satadru and Gauri, my classmates from XLRI who very graciously hosted us for the night. The real reason was that we didn’t want to miss the world cup finals, but don’t tell them. For those who might not know Satadru was also the vocalist for bodhiTree the XLRI band that I played bass for and the one which achieved some notoriety with the risqué songs you wouldn’t sing at bed-time.
Next Stop: London!