Filed under: Experiences, initiatives | Tags: anna hazare, freedom park, india against corruption, jam, live, swarathma, topi walleh
It is not every day that you get to be part of something larger than yourself. So when we received word from the folks at India Against Corruption about their efforts to support Anna Hazare’s indefinite fast to bring about changes to the committee that will determine the nature of the Jan Lokpal Bill, we didn’t think twice. We were on tour, coming in from Hubli overnight by the tour bus which we took straight in to Freedom Park in Bangalore. Changing in the bus and doing the morning ablutions at a public toilet were adventures, but they were totally worth it. Check out what we did thanks to Anju Maudgal Kadam.
It’s hard not to be cynical about imagining a world without the deep rooted corruption that is India today. Politics is shunned by the ‘educated’ youth, people like you and me who love moaning about the problem but do nothing about the solution. We’re too caught up in our own lives to bother about anything that falls outside our own interests. Which was why it was incredible to see how Anna Hazare managed to ignite hope for change in a nation as inured to corruption as ours. To be sure, nothing is perfect, and the proposed bill is not going to cure all the evils, but at least it is a step.
India Against Corruption are the folks that put together the SAAKU movement (‘enough’ in Kannada). We couldn’t make it for the event, but we did send in our support via this video. You can join their facebook page here.
This fight has just begun. The Topiwalleh are many in number. But they’re not as powerful as they think.
Text: 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: Live Setup, Music | Tags: jean luc ponty, live, sanjeev nayak, swarathma, violin, zeta
Sanjeev Nayak has been variously described as the ‘aathma’ in Swarathma, the Bald Genius and plain ‘hot’. Here he goes behind the scenes to decode what being a violinist in a band is all about. After all it is not every day that you find the bow taking to strings in a rock band setup! Read on for influences, gear, inspirations and more.
Why does a band need a violinist? The answer is quite simple – to play music!
I can assure you that the chances of you meeting a violinist that plays for a band, are not very high. Trust me, there are far fewer violinists out there than guitarists or drummers! Now, that’s a good thing, as it directly puts the violinist into a group of small but interesting breed of musicians!
A few months ago, I was in Amsterdam on some work and there I met a colleague who happened to be an amature musician himself. The moment he realized I was a violinist that played for a band, he thought it was cool and we joked about forming a band together. He was like “after I finish singing my first verse, mate, it’s time for you to unleash that wicked Bach violin solo!”. Quite cool indeed!
Traditionally, the Violin, and instruments that belong to its class, are what make up the string section of an Orchestra. Vioinists play different roles in an orchestra – the first violins play the melody, the second violin and the rest of the string section normally back up with harmonies. However, in a band setup, its role is somewhat different. Various people have adapted it to suit their musical styles. I believe that when the violin is used sparingly in a band, it stands out. In Swarathma’s music you can hear the violin playing different roles – during solos, it’s loud and takes the center stage, sometimes it whispers in the background playing harmonies. There are times when it plays nothing at all!
Many technological innovations have occured since the times of Bach – one of them being the electrified violin. This again, was born more out of necessity. In an predominantly electric setup, to get the violin’s sound level up there with other instruments like electric guitar, without having to go through that nasty feedback loop on stage, choice of a solid bodied electric violin seems entirely logical. It’s not a new phenomenon, Jean Luc Ponty, a virtuoso violinist I totally admire, pioneered it in early 70s with his Zeta Jazz Fusion violin. Ponty was among the first to combine the violin with MIDI, distortion boxes, phase shifters, and wah-wah pedals. This resulted in his signature, almost synthesizer-like sound.
Electric violins come in different sizes, shapes and colors! Moreover, you can tweak their sound using pedals to add more textures. Many a times after the show, people come to me and ask what was the instrument that I was playing – is it violin they want to know. I’m almost tempted to say that it is an instrument from another planet!
I use two electric violins on stage: NS Design CR-5 (pictured) and Zeta Jazz Modern 5-string. Both are tuned differently. With a little reverb and acoustic blending, I get the tone I like. But tone is again something one is never satisfied with for too long! I keep looking for new violin sounds and styles.
Finally, I don’t think its about what instrument you play. One can be a violinist, a guitarist or a pianist, but what matters most in a band is how the instrument is used to enhance the sound of the band.
P.S: Did I tell you this? If you want to be a violinist and look cool, shave your head
Filed under: Live Art, Tour | Tags: delhi, folk rock band, hard rock cafe, live, rock, saket, swarathma
Filed under: Experiences | Tags: alwyn fernandes, band, bruce lee mani, jeff beck, live, slash, swarathma, taaq, varun
I am writing this blog article listening to one of my favourite artists – Amy Lee (Evanescence). I spend most of my time listening to a lot of music, playing guitar and taking guitar lessons. In the course of teaching I come across lots of people, kids who enjoy every bit of music, working people who come to unwind after a hard days work. And in one such class when I met a friend/student of mine, he asked me what does it take to be a full time musician. I was not quite sure what to tell him. All I could remember was me asking Bruce the same question.
If I scratch my head trying to think a bit, I can say it was not so long before i decided to pursue music as a career. It was around my 2nd year of pre-university that I got more inclined towards guitar playing. I’d see guitars as my best friend than just an instrument. After dealing with a lot of difficulties playing in a college band, I soon started looking for a good tutor. After a couple of years I met Bruce Lee Mani and I knew he was the right guy. I cant help mentioning his name in most interviews or blog articles cuz he really crafted my playing and introduced me to different genres of music. Although I must admit that a lot of other guitars players around me have helped crafting my skill.
As far as my experience is concerned after choosing music as my career, it has been definitely hard but I love doing this . Right from those days doing free gigs just to get it all going, giving all your time for the band, rehearsing to sound better everyday and finally doing all the backstage work from carrying equipment to sleepless nights and being totally broke. Its all been good fun. The band eventually became a family and having said I prioritized it more than other things as a result of which some people thought I literally ignored the rest. But those who really knew me believed that I was doing everything for a reason.
Everything in the band is just like any other family. Yes we fight too! We argue, we crib about things sometimes, we support each other and though we can’t say we are the best of friends with each other, there is still a love hate relationship that keeps you going. And the longer you stick, the better it only gets. I always treat the band with great care only cuz I know what a small mistake can lead into. There is a lot of learning from the big international bands I admired. I d still say, Slash’s autobiography says a lot, teaches a lot.
I don’t say I follow the quotes that inspired me 100%, but yes I am trying to. This is the way I keep the rock n roll going.
Text: Varun. Pics: Facebook profiles
Filed under: Live Art, Tour | Tags: bengaluru habba, biriyani, folk rock band, hard rock cafe, hyderabad, live, Tour
The prospect of touring Hyderabad opens up delicious culinary corners of the mind. We’re heading for the land of Biriyani. So what’ll it be, Paradise or Bawarchi? Are the boys going to pick up some freshly baked Karachi Bakery biscuits, or are they going to partake of the awesomeness of Famous icecreams?: And what about Eat Street? And if they live to tell the tale, are they going to be able to play the 2 gig dates below?
Jan 27 | Hyderabad | Hard Rock Cafe | GVK One | 8.30pm
Jan 28 | Bangalore | Bengaluru Habba | RMZ Infinity | 7.00pm
Find out, later this week!
Filed under: Experiences, initiatives, Music, Tour | Tags: alwyn fernandes, band, collaboration, live, manoj george, rzhude david, sai babu, swarathma and folks
It’s a terrific feeling when the people who have inspired you over the years consent to share the stage with you, and jam with you on songs that you’ve written. Manoj George, Alwyn Fernandes and Rzhude David are people who are part of the reason why we are doing this. So when it was time to put together a show at Bangalore’s Hard Rock Cafe on 23 Nov, we wanted to make it special for our audience, and for ourselves!
Manoj George is to the violin what the bow is to the string. He uses a western tuning but can conjure up such intense soundscapes that could be from anywhere in the world. Having recently set up his Manoj George Four String ensemble that plays an eclectic fusion-y set, he has inspired our own Sanjeev Nayak in various ways. In fact at many a Swarathma jam session Sanjeev will break into one of Manoj’s better known compositions, just for fun.
Alwyn Fernandes is one of the guitar players that Varun really looks up to. Every couple of times we meet him Varun would tell us a story of what he learned from Alwyn in terms of playing, compising, phrasing and so on. We even checked out his jam pad when we were about to set up our own. (The carpet in our pad is flicked from his, but don’t tell him). Recently back from a trip abroad, this gig would be Alwyn’s return to the scene in a way. And we were thrilled it was with us.
Though Rzhude David, erstwhile bass player of Bangalore’s own TAAQ, couldn’t make it owing to a stomach bug, I’ve learned a thing or two about bass playing and of the approach to music from him. In one of our sessions Rzhude told me about ‘being in the moment’. Where the only thing that exists is the explosion of the note at your fingertip. I’m going to remember that for a long time, though putting it into practise is a different ballgame altogether!
Sai Babu, percussionist by night and fitness trainer by day came in to fill Rzhude’s shoes. Montry has jammed with Sai on many occasions and the energy that Sai brings to the stage is quite something else, as those who came for the show will remember.
The upshot is that Baawra (feat. Alwyn Fernandes), Let’s Go! (feat. Manoj George) and Ee Bhoomi (feat. Sai Babu) turned out to be real gems. We hope to take the concept of Swarathma+Folks further. Stay tuned!
Text: Jishnu Dasgupta
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.]