Swarathma’s Blog

Getting Lucky with Sennheiser!

The brightly coloured topis tend to make you smile. Swarathma jamming for Lucky Ali at Sennheiser's showroom.

If there’s one thing that Swarathma loves its getting together with musicians of any shape or size and JAM!

There’s something really incredible about the spontaneous combustion of two highly inflammabe musical ideas in the same room. The result is frequently magical! We got a chance to make this happen at the Sennheiser Experience Zone launch at Bangalore, and we got our favourite bands and artists together for a day long jam!

Lucky Ali began the day with a deftly snipped red ribbon that declared the showroom open. But things really got underway when we played for him “Topiwalleh” with him wearing a fluroscent blue and white bad boy and grooving along. It was a dream come true for us when we picked Vasu’s guitar up and jammed with us on “Anjaani Rahon Mein” a song I’ve heard since I was in school.

The Solder boys showed up soon afterwards to kick off the open jam. If you haven’t heard them yet, head over to their Facebook page for some stright up honest alt rock peppered with boyish charm. And then they just kept pouring in: Sachin from Parvaaz, Rauf from Ministry of Blues, everyone from Aks came in, with

Solder and Swarathma come together. Rock x (Alt + Folk) = Awesomeness

musicians picking up whatever instrument that was lying around to join one long massive jam. Sandeep Vashistha dropped by with his flutes as did Bindhu whose vocals added so much colour to the rainy afternoon. It was also great to have our old cohort Rahul Pophali on the tabla.

To end, you realize that you don’t really need a lot to create memories with music. Just a space where minds can come together and feed of each other’s energies. And Sennheiser’s showroom was just that.

Swarathma endorses Sennheiser wireless in-ear monitors and microphones.

Pictures: Santosh Swami (full set) | Video: Sameer Sahab and Vasu Dixit | Text: Jishnu Dasgupta


Taking on the Topiwalleh: Supporting Anna Hazare

Sanjeev and Varun get into the groove with 'Ee Bhoomi' at Freedom Park. Pic: Rohan Arthur

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

Behind The Real Firestarter: Pavan ‘Superstar’ Kumar
April 7, 2011, 4:24 pm
Filed under: Experiences, initiatives | Tags: , , , ,

' I am the Firestarter, I say!'

Those who know of The Prodigy’s recent India Tour for the Invasion Festival will remember the Real Firestarter video that went insanely viral with over 10,000 hits in less than a week. It featured Superstar Rajnikanth, or someone just like him. The man beneath the wig and the apoplectic dance moves percussionist Pavan Kumar speaks of his experiences as the REAL Firestarter. This is the first part. Watch the video here

It all started while I was watching the film ‘No one killed Jessica’ at the cinema theatre. I got a message from Vasu saying ‘Do you want to act the character of Rajnikanth?’ Suddenly I started seeing Rajni on screen! I immediately replied back to him saying that I would love to as I am one of the hardcore fans of the ‘Superstar’ and that it would be my tribute to him. Vasu told me in detail what this whole project was. I came to know that this was a promotion for the band The Prodigy’s India tour. The next day Shreyas (OML Digital) called me and said that I’ve to organise costume and makeup for my character. I made a list of the make up guys and after many calls, I found one guy at Yeshwantpur who seemed to have the kind of coat, wig and moustache I was looking for.

On the day of the shoot I along with Montry went to get the costumes. On reaching the shop I gave him the specifications and showed Thalaiva’s pictures and told him that the wig has to be as close as possible to that of Rajni’s. That man asked what was the shoot about and also who’s the actor. When I told him that it was me,  that man laughed and said you are the production in charge and also the actor! After trying out a couple of blazers, wigs and moustaches, I selected one white coat, a wig and told him to shape the moustache  according to my face, which he did. Then he told me what should be told to the make up artist, when I told  him I’ve to do the make up myself, he couldn’t believe it!

By the time I started from the costume shop Vasu had finalized the location. He along with a couple of  cameramen had reached the location. On the way from the costume shop Montry and I watched the Prodigy Firestarter video and decided on a couple of moves to be done in our own way. And I managed to shave in the car. The location was Ejipura, near Koramangala. It was right outside our earlier jam pad. This was chosen to avoid traffic. It was told that the whole shoot had to be done in about 20 mins. Before people start gathering we should finish the shoot. So I had to mentally prepare myself for it. After reaching Ejipura we parked the cars opposite to the Temple. People were busy in their work and had not noticed us yet. We knew the  moment cameras come out it would start grabbing attention. That’s what exactly happened when the   cameramen started taking test shots. The people – especially the kids, started gathering. I went inside the car and started the make up. Until I was outside, people were least bothered to look at me. Once I came out fully loaded with costumes, the kids first shouted “Ley, avne kanla hero!” (Hey, look he’s the hero!)

I concentrated on the act. Started imagining Rajnikanth’s moves. I also wanted to mix the moves of our own Rebel Star Ambarish. I had not rehearsed the moves at all. I decided what ever comes naturally to me, I’ll do.

Coming up: What shooting the Firestarter feat. Rajnikanth video was really like!

Rhythm Gurus II: Montry Manuel on his Teachers
March 14, 2011, 5:12 am
Filed under: Experiences, Music | Tags: , , , ,

The heart of Swarathma’s feel-good vibe is powerhouse drummer Montry Manuel. In the second part of the series on his teachers, he writes about Jeoraj Stanley George, acclaimed jazz drummer from Chennai who has mentored Montry over the years.  Read on to learn more about Jeoraj, his life and music and impact on Montry.

My mentor, JEORAJ “Jo” STANLEY GEORGE was my second teacher who helped me take my skill set one step  ahead. I met him at the Unwind Centre, Bangalore where I had joined a class for Pro Sessions.

My Mentor Jo recording in studio

The most hardworking artist, he learnt his skills from the DRUMTECH Institute, UK and was awarded the best student, the year he graduated from there. He was also trained by Joe Boy for his advanced skill set before joining Drum Tech. He came back to India and settled in Chennai where he started his struggle as an artist. After all his achievements, he had to put in more hard work to get himself noticed in this industry and within a few years he made it big. He has toured with Keith Peters and Carl Peters, Madhav Chari Trio, Amit Heri and Group who specialize in Indian Fusion. He has also toured with AR Rehman. He is also a very well known Session Artist and has been called in as a Guest Artist on many occasions.

Jo's drum setup


He had helped us a lot during the recording of our first album. He was the one who helped me polish my sound, my drum beats and rhythm for songs like Patte Saare, Jaana Kahan Hai Mujhe, Bolo Kya Hai, Yeshu Allah aur Krishna and Barsenge. He taught me the grooves of rock and reggae and the basics of samba beats which have helped me develop better sound for the album.

Get a taste of his music here

On his various visits to Bangalore, we always get together to discuss music and get some tips to learn new tricks to develop a better and more refreshing sound.

Text and Illustrations: Montry Manuel, Edited by: Hafsah Parkar, Pics: Facebook profile

Behind the ‘Rockstar’: Varun on Life as a Musician
March 5, 2011, 3:55 am
Filed under: Experiences | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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.

“Guns n roses cannot be the same with just the name, it’s the members who made the difference” - Slash

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.

“If you ever get professional jealousy, then you're losing it. Do not criticize anybode else until you know you can do better, and even then do not do it” - Ethel Beck, mother of Jeff Beck. Pic: Gibson Guitars

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.

“Playing guitar is like speaking, don’t always play fast and blabber something, then nobody will understand what you spoke” - Alwyn Fernandes

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

Rhythm Gurus I: Montry Manuel on his teachers
February 28, 2011, 5:33 pm
Filed under: Experiences | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Montry Manuel plays drums for Swarathma. A feel-driven drummer to the core, he’s the heart of Swarathma’s good vibe machine.  You just need to look at his on-stage smile to be captivated. In the first of this series he speaks of the teachers who moulded him into the drummer, and person, he is today. This edition is about Cochin based drummer and Montry’s first teacher, Jerry Peter.

JERRY PETER,  a drummer based in Kerala was my first teacher when it came to my skills as a drummer and a musician. I met him at the Cochin Arts and Communications (CAC) Institute where he taught me for a period of six months.  He is trained in Indian Carnatic Vocals and the Mridangam. He was trained by DAVID in his initial years of drumming and later he learnt his pro skill set from JOE BOY.

My teacher Jerry interacting with his first love

A man of few words, he carries very strong beliefs. As a teacher he says ethics are very important above all. Technical knowledge about music is always good to know but more importantly you need to get the feel of the music first. He taught me that more than being a musician is it important to be a good human being. His classes were always different and as musicians we always shared our minds which made the change. Hence, I developed a personal attachment towards him as a teacher.

Jerry Peter's Drum Setup: Tama + Roland TD-7. Jerry uses Vic Firth 5A drumsticks. On a personal note his favourite drummer is Ian Paice.

One of the things I admire about him is his skills of drum tuning and the precision he maintains when it comes to sound. But most importantly, he was the one who encouraged me to buy my first drum kit- Gladnick (Made in Bombay).

He currently plays for a band- Exodus. You can hear some his music on reverbnation. He is touring Kerala and beyond trying to showcase his dedication to music. Recently he had organized an event called- Wooden Shield. It was a large scale event where in 25 people had got together to make a big drum circle. It was a tribute to the journey of legendary drum warriors.

Even today, I refer to him for tips on music and sound for our album and lyrics. Immensely hardworking, he manages his family and music which is very difficult while still being based in Kerala. He teaches in a few well known institutes in Kerala where he has over a hundred students. Many of his students have made it big while many more will do too, under his guidance. And all this is possible because of his dedication towards music and his instruments.  A BIG THANKS TO HIM!

Coming up in Part II: Jeoraj Stanley George.

Compiled and edited by Hafsah Parkar. Pics: Shiv Ahuja, Jerry Peter’s Facebook.

‘Don’t be an Asshole’: The YP Foundation Open House Series

Let’s say you’ve just been blown away by a mind-bending concert by Delhi based alt-rockers Them Clones. And you’re in a band that looks up to them, and wants to know how they got so far. Did they worry about band members leaving like you’re doing? Did they have it tough before they played sold-out gigs? Do they like sausages? But you can’t go up and have this discussion at the end of a rock n roll concert. So how do you find out?

The Open House Series put together by the YP Foundation is an effort to bring people together for “an interactive, multi year workshop series for interested, upcoming and established young artistes that explore information, ideas and models that protect promote and publish Independent Music in India.” There is more meat in that statement than an average steak. And if you pardon the terrible pun, there is SO much at stake if you’ve chosen to be in the profession of indie-music. Which is why initiatives like these are laudable, and we really wanted to support this effort.

If you getsticulate while speaking you can distract people from the real point

I joined the third in the series of workshops earlier this month with Neysa Mendes (PR Angel for a bunch of Indie’s big names),  Surojit Dev (drummer of Them Clones, who’ve been exploring some pretty radical new brand tie-ups), Gaurav Vaz (bassist/manager of The Raghu Dixit Project and General Dude when it comes to everything online) and Sahil Makhija (guitarist/vocalist of Demonic Resurrection and metal music entrepreneur). Dev Bhatia (manager of Jalebee Cartel) made a cameo appearance as well. August company, and that too in February. In the audience were a bunch of bands and artistes, and those who had an interest in the music business.

The Demonstealer shows so\m/e metchul support!

The experience brought us together in a wonderful way. Questions that we’ve asked and found answers to over the years came back at us, and it’s a good feeling that there are forums like these where you can get answers. There were other oddities, like The Demonstealer, purveyor of metal mayhem, posing with a Swarathma presskit, showing that when it came to artists and their relationships, genre played no role in the equation. I found Neysa and Sahil’s presentation on music PR quite helpful. To quote Sahil, “Don’t be an Asshole”. A lot of doors open up when you’re nice to people around.

The panelists with the panelling. And the panelers.

A lot of people ask me about how Swarathma carved a niche for itself in the online space, and while its true we do work hard to create content that is interesting, it stems from something more fundamental. We’ve figured out an IDENTITY. One that sets us apart from the rest. Once you have that, social or antisocial, media is only going to work for you.

Kudos to the team at YP Foundation for putting this together!

Text: Jishnu Dasgupta. Pics: Shiv Ahuja