Swarathma’s Blog

Three Days Down :: Notes from Swarathma in Studio

These pictures tell the story of our time in Empire Studios, Mumbai. People say that recording an album represents a watershed in the life of a band, as you come to terms with both your songs and your ability (or lack of it) in playing them. These are notes from that process.

The chai is one of the best things about Empire. Brewed in plenty by the canteen here, we have endless glasses of this invigorating fluid. Pic: Santosh Swami

Montry's drum setup is expansive and wowsome. If the studio sound is anything to go by they're going to sound big and full. Various indie scene drummers have helped - JJ of Something Relevant, The Demonstealer and Sid Coutto of ToT/Zero come to mind. Thanks guys! Pic: Nitin Joshi

What we had for lunch is irrelevant. What is remarkable is that it got Sanjeev's fountain going. Young children can also learn about the concept of night and day by this picture. Pic: Santosh Swami

An extreme-ish close up of Jishnu's Musicman bass during a warm-up session prior to the day's recording. Bass and drums were tracked together, live! Pic: Nitin Joshi

Just to give you an idea of the size of Empire's recording hall. It's MASSIVE. The height of the room gives some solid depth to the live drum sound. Pic: Nitin Joshi


Angels and Demons: The Album Photo Essay Part III
August 12, 2009, 7:48 pm
Filed under: Album Design | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Pavan Durathma Pavan continues with his experiences of shooting for Swarathma’s album inlay. Interestingly, this time he speaks of Angels in Saris and Demons on Doorways…

Page 10: “Demon Face”
Shot on: 7th November 2008
Pandavapura Taluk, Mysore
Nikon D70


As I went searching for bullock carts around Mysore, I found this cart on which rode two kids. When I hailed them and asked them to stop the cart, they obliged. They asked what I was shooting for I told them this was for a music album, but I could see they didn’t understand what I meant, but they were really happy that I was shooting their bullock cart!

They told me that they would take me to the artist who does this kind of work and in fact he was the only guy who painted the carts and lorries in Pandavapura. As I went near his studio, I spotted this demon poster pasted at the entrance. Of course, there is no way you can miss it. I felt that this would be apt for the song “Bolo Kya Hai”

Page 14: “Angel in a Sari”
Shot on: 5th November 2008
Mysore Palace Area
Nikon D70


Nowadays there is very little graffiti done on the Tongas (horse drawn carriage) in Mysore. Perhaps there is just too little income from it for the painter and Tonga wallah alike. A few of the them shared their thoughts about how their colleagues were swapping their Tongas for Auto rickshaws for their bread and butter. It is really sad to see these Tongas disappearing. I don’t think the coming generation would be able to see and experience the thrill of the clip clop of hooves down a village street.

After I came back near the Palace looking around for good Tongas, I found a few parked. This one particular Tonga had nothing much on it except a few drawings of these lovely Angels. The character itself drove me crazy. Usually our interpretations of angels are drawn from the fairy tales. But this one was better than those, a middle aged lady clad in a Saree and a matching blouse with wings!! It was like one of the characters that have been drawn straight from any typical middle class families, where we come from. I just couldn’t help shoot this picture – and there couldn’t be a better image to thank all the people that made the album possible.

To be continued…

Text and Pictures: Pavan Kumar | Edited by: Jishnu Dasgupta | Download complete album artwork

Vasu speaks to Dixit: The Swarathma Album Inlay Design Story
July 21, 2009, 5:13 pm
Filed under: Album Design | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Dixit-Vasu copyIn an exclusive telephonic interview, our correspondent Vivacious Vasu catches up with Designer Dixit to get a hang of what went behind the much talked about CD inlay design of Swarathma’s Début Album. The kitschy Indian motifs inspired from the ubiquitous lorries, brightly painted walls among other things have caught the attention of aficionados and amateurs alike. Exerpts from the interview:

DOWNLOAD Swarathma Artwork

Vasu: So, Sir…how did…

Dixit: Sorry to interrupt, please don’t call me sir…makes me feel very old.

Vasu: Oh..sorry sir…err…Dixit…how did the whole concept for your CD Design germinate?

Dixit: Germinate? Well…we wanted to have a concept for our CD design after the album recording. So I guess it must have been then.

Vasu: Very interesting…You are a Post Graduate from NID (National Institute of Design), so does that make Design easy for you?

Dixit: Heh?  I really don’t know? If you really see the Album and its inlay, I’m not the actual designer; the real designers are the people who’ve done those painting on the trucks, buses and bullock carts. They are the real artists. I just got images shot of those works or designs which were already there and put it together.

Vasu: And yet you call yourself a ‘Designer’?

Dixit: Next question please.

Vasu: Hello…are you there…?

Dixit: Yes….I said no comments.

Vasu: So, what do you call this ‘art’?

Dixit: You may call it ‘Kitsch’ art or ‘Pop’ art. Or the ‘Kitsch of Pop’, if you’re feeling smart.

Swarathma Pg_5

Vasu: Are you saying that your music is ‘Pop’ Music?

Dixit: ‘Pop’ music means popular music. We aren’t very ‘Pop’ now, but soon we’ll be.

Vasu: Who are your target audiences, Truck drivers and Bullockcart riders?

Dixit: Well…it is for them ALSO. This art style is very close to Swarathma’s music, it has that rawness in it. It is unfinished and not perfect. And I like imperfectness, look at me! It is very bright and colorful yet naïve. It is an everyday art, same as our music

Vasu: Your bandmate Pavan Kumar shot those Images, How did you guys work together? What were his inputs in the design process?

Dixit: You must hear it from the horse’s mouth about that.

Vasu: Oh…you mean your ‘ghodi’ you use in your shows?

Dixit: NO. I mean Pavan’s mouth. In fact, he had lost his Camera few weeks before this project but he jugaadofied with a friend of his for a Camera and went in-and-around mysore in search of these wonderful pieces of art.

Vasu: So, you are also from Mysore, infact you’ve done BFA from CAVA (Chamarajendra Academy of Visual Arts), is that the reason why you went back there?

Dixit: If you look at the Kitch Art in cities like Bangalore, Delhi and Mumbai it has become very modern and computerized. You hardly see hand painted posters, mudguard paintings and even on rickshaws. Mysore still has its tradition and naivety intact. It is painful to see it also changing, so before it vanished, I thought I should capture them. In a way this is my tribute to all those artists, who go unnoticed.

Vasu: Does you being a member of the band help or is it difficult, for designing?

Dixit: It is both. It is difficult because I never got paid by the band…grrrr…hope my bandmates are reading this. It is helpful because I’m partly involved in approving the designs (laughs).

Swarathma Pg_13Vasu: Your portraits on the CD Cover and the ‘Cut-out’ style paintings in centre fold are very interesting. Who is the artist and what was your brief for him?

Dixit: The paintings are done by a very talented passing out student for CKP (Chitra Kala Parishad), Bangalore, Manjunath. I gave him a lot of references from the 60s and 70s Indian Film Posters. The colors and techniques (brush strokes) were inspired from there. I asked him to follow the style and yet retain the characters of the musicians. I think he has done fantastic job.

Vasu: Some people say they are quite distorted. I mean look at Jishnu or Varun, the paintings hardly look like them.

Dixit: Ahem…ahem.. Actually that’s what we wanted. If you look portraits of Sharukh khan, Sanjay Dutt or Salman khan behind rickshaws and on its mudguards, you’ll find them disproportionate, they are a little distorted, but the characters are captured. And that’s exactly what we’ve also achieved.

Vasu: Is it a successful design then?

Dixit: Now you are talking like my Jury Panel at NID. If today you are discussing it, I would like to consider it as successful.

Vasu: That’s true. You’ve hand-painted all the lyrics in the inlay, I believe.

Dixit: Even I like to believe the same. This is for all my school-teachers who have got nightmares about my handwriting, and have given me a hard time. Hah! Who’s laughing now?!

Vasu: Why didn’t you use any fonts?

Dixit: I wanted to give it a ‘Personal Touch’.

Vasu: How touching!! Any message to young budding designers?

Dixit: “Dear budding designers, considering I’m a ‘blossomed’ designer all I can say is never lose your fragrance”. Was that a little philosophical or should I… ?

Vasu (interrupting): That’s quite enough, Thank you, Thank you, I’ve got all I need. Nice speaking you. Hope you come up…with much better designs in the future. Have a great day. <Click>

Dixit: But I’m not done! I have so much more to….hello…hello?

Written by Vasu and Dixit, edited by Jishnu Dasgupta.

Recording Live Drums: Montry’s Story in the Studio
April 25, 2009, 2:32 pm
Filed under: Album Design, Studio | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

montry-manuelMontry is Swarathma’s fiery shot of high-energy drumming. Off-stage his wonderful nature charms musicians and listeners alike. Indeed, there’s hardly a musician in Bangalore who has not jammed with Montry, or does not have his number on his phonebook!

It was a dream come true, recording our debut album. After winning the Radio City Live contest, when we finally went into the studios it felt great.

I had never recorded drums in a big studio before. I’d also never played to the metronome (the constant beat per minute reference click sound that recording is done to). I was quite nervous. We had the option of programming the drums but that wouldn’t have sounded ‘live’ or the ‘feel’ would be missing. But it was a risk. What if the drum sound was not good enough? It would be too late to do anything. I wanted to play live, and I was so happy when my band supported me through it.

Amit-KilamWhen Amit Kilam came on as producer, we did not know how much of a difference he would make. From the first day he set us at ease, and by the end of it, he was much more than a producer, he was a brother and friend.

What he did for me I’ll never forget. Swarathma could afford to spend 16 days in the studio. We were apprehensive about how long the drums would take to record. But I did it in just 3 days flat! It was all because of how Amit gave me confidence and made me give my best. He even lent me his equipment.

I must mention Aakash, the man behind Kshitiz Studios in Delhi. I really liked him; he was a peaceful guy. And he knew how bands worked, and gave us his best.

Since then we’ve recorded at Yash Raj Studios (live drums, this time with the band playing along!) we couldn’t have done that if I didn’t have the confidence from our album recording.

Drum Kit: Yamaha Pro Series
Snares: Premier, PDP
Cymbals: Sabian 18′ Ride, Paiste 16′ Crash, 10′ and 8′ Splash, China & Hi Hats
Percussions: Cowbells Rainmaker

As told to Jishnu Dasgupta

Album Photo Essay – Part II
April 20, 2009, 5:26 am
Filed under: Album Design | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

pavanPavan continues with his experiences of shooting for Swarathma’s album inlay.

Page 6: “Sathya Harishchandra”
Shot on: 5th November 2008
Sayyaji Rao Road, Mysore
Nikon D70


When studying at CAVA in Mysore I’d seen these mobile temples that look like small carts. They’re quite popular too! I used to see a lot of people visiting them. They decorate the whole cart with mythological characters and stories. They resemble cut out art. The moment we decided the theme of the design to be everyday art, I knew I was going to get a shot of it. There are quite a few these carts in Mysore. This particular image was shot from the cart, which is in front of the famous Krishna Rajendra Hospital. This government hospital is frequented by many people from nearby villages, for many of whom prayer is an important part of healing. The location of the cart aside, the curious element is the pictures on the cart – the graveyard scene from the Sathya Harishchandra myth! Not very encouraging for a hospital, now is it?

Page 2: ‘A Beautiful World’
Shot on:
10th November 2008
Regulated Market Circe, Lorry Stand, Mysore
Nikon D70

A Beautiful World

I decided that I would explore this place near Regulated Market in Mysore where I used to see a lot of lorries parked. I knew that I would get some good shots of lorry graffiti here. When I went there I found this particular lorry, which was from Hassan. The landscape on it had a very true treatment of traditional lorry art. It was bang on for depicting “Ee bhoomi”. Finally it got used as I had thought.

To be continued.

The Album Design Photo Essay – Part I
April 2, 2009, 5:49 pm
Filed under: Album Design | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

pavanPavan is Swarathma’s intrepid percussionist. Armed with a bewildering array of quirky percussions he lends a folksy earthiness to the sound. Also a lensman, Pavan’s photographs speak louder than his words. Here he speaks of the experience of shooting for Swarathma’s album inlay.

I was doubly excited about this project. One, because it was my band’s maiden album. Two, because it was my responsibility to shoot pictures for it. This was the culmination of both my passions, Photography and Music!

When I started shooting, I had great experiences on the way. I shot hundreds of pictures and each had its own story behind it. When we short-listed 13 photos for the album, I decided that I’ll share the stories behind these pictures…

Page 2: ‘The Horse”
Shot on:
6th November 2008
In and around Mysore palace
Nikon D70
The Prancing Horse: Click for Full Size
I had thought I should shoot some pics which would represent the band’s mascot the “Ghodi”. My hunt for Tongas (one horse carriages) began. As a person who was born and brought up in Mysore, I knew that the Tongas here had good graffiti on them. I also knew that they are fast disappearing, in the wake of motor vehicles. Mysore palace is a parking spot for many, but I was disappointed: they had almost no graffiti! So off I went to an older part of Mysore called Agrahara, where there is an old Tonga stand. But to my dismay there were just two Tongas there!

Almost desperate, I came back to the Palace, and lo and behold, there were around ten Tongas! Four of them had some very good art on it: the use of colour was really interesting. With much excitement I started shooting. The Tongawallahs were very co-operative allowing me to shoot. This is one of the shots from it.

Page 3: “Auto”
Shot On: 10th Nov 2008
Location: Mandi Mohalla, Mysore
Camera: Nikon D70

Jaana Kahan Hai Mujhe - Click for full size
Vasu and I headed out after breakfast with no particular destination in mind, in fact a lot of Swarathma’s music happens in this way! We just randomly went around the city looking out for interesting graffiti. As we went towards Mandi Mohalla we found an automobile shop, which had this auto, painted on its wall. We decided that this was made for depicting the song ‘Jana Kahan Hai Mujhe’ as the song is about journey. The texture of the wall makes this image really interesting, I’m glad I could capture its essence.


Edited by: Jishnu Dasgupta