Swarathma’s Blog

June Gig Rush :: Playing for Bangalore
June 8, 2011, 11:11 am
Filed under: Tour | Tags: , , , , ,

Tour Poster Artwork - Vasu Dixit

Howdy pard’ner?

It is time to return to Bangalore and play for the good people here. Chasing this thought we’ve come up with this rather exhaustive list of Bangalore gigs. We haven’t played this often in Bangalore in a while and we’re looking forward to it. This blog post goes up when the first two of the dates have already been played! But there’s still three more to go. So where are you going to be at?

June 16 | Infosys Campus | Private Event (New date!)

June 18 | Big Junction Jam Festival | Palace Grounds | Tickets

June 19 | Fete de la Musique | Alliance Francaise | Entry Free

June 21 | Handshake Concert | Chowdiah Memorial Hall | Entry Free

Tour updates here: Facebook | Twitter


Calm Like a Bomb – Swarathma and Shlomo the Beatboxing Adventurer
September 21, 2010, 6:07 pm
Filed under: Experiences, initiatives | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

We had to scrape our collective jaw off the floor when we first watched Shlomo’s videos. The man, as it has been established several times over, is brilliant. An impeccable sense of timing with raw talent makes for a heady combination as amply felt by audiences at the Glastonburies of the world. We were struck by his penchant for innovation and his easy going style. When the collaboration got confirmed, we wondered, what’s he really going to be like in person?

Nevil (That Cat Entertainment), Raies Khan (Dharohar Project) and Shlomo under the influence of our Topis, right before the gig.

But we needn’t have worried. Shlomo came across with the lack of artifice generally reserved for old friends. But under all the affable charm was a razor sharp, keen sense of what would work, and how to make it work. It would be the first time he would collaborate with a full band on his tour, with the previous gigs being with the likes of Sidd and Gaurav of ToT and Ujwal and Suhail of Advaita. It was good to see morchang madcap Raies Khan with whom we’ve jammed with on our tour of Jodhpur last year. He’d put on weight and picked up a few more tricks along the way. The rehearsal post-soundcheck wasn’t world-beating, I must say. We didn’t find the feel, and when we tried to bring voices together under Shlomo’s direction it felt a little ‘exposed’ in the man’s own words. We wrapped up with the idea that you cannot rehearse spontaneity. It was now up to the God of Jambands to see us through.

The 'Calm-like-a-bomb' Shlomo directs a mad final jam, Varun and Vasu have eyes transfixed on him to catch the cues (Pic: Rakesh Ayilliath)

The show began with Shlomo showing the audience a thing or two on how its done! Bangalore watched in disbelief as the dude worked his loop station to get insane awesomeness on the road. The somewhat awkward about to be an astrophysicist teenager turned international beatboxing superstar still retains a sizeable chunk of his boyish charm that shone through his topi-topped performance. When it was finally time to collaborate, something clicked. Like a missing piece of the puzzle that unlocks a mystery. We flew with Pilot Shlomo at the helm. It was awesome the way he would direct our playing, almost like a an orchestra conductor, the ebb and flow of a song we came up with totally on the spot. In the end, ‘Hey You Macha’, ‘Ee Bhoomi’ and ‘The Encore’ turned out to be pieces we will remember for a long long time. We’ll also remember the incredulous look on his face when we gifted him squeaky baby shoes. Hope your baby jams a dance with you, brother!

And the final coolness factor? HIs manager Irit. We loved her. Not least because she’s his mom! Can you imagine how cool it is to take your mom on a tour of the world with you?!

Loveboxing, Bedfording: Swarathma UK 2010 Tour Diary

Cartwheels on the Common

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…

Montry with a new found friend

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!

A wisp of cloud in a blue Swarathma sky

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!

Classic mmmmoment.

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.

Our benefactress Chini was incredibly sweet. Pun intended.

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.]

The Larmer Tree Ride: Swarathma UK 2010 Tour Diary
July 25, 2010, 7:07 pm
Filed under: Tour Diary | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Festival Flags

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.

The Nari Cousins Prashant and Vijay.

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?

You look up at the sky and this is what you saw.

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.

Weathering the Storm: Swarathma UK 2010 Tour Diary

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.

We were accused of bringing this weather with us, wrongly of course.

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!

Sungard Gig: Live Photoblog!
December 19, 2009, 12:29 pm
Filed under: Tour | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Amaan Ali Khan, a scion of the family of Liaqat Ali Khan looks wryly at the chaos that reigns around a Swarathma soundcheck.

Getting all the Swarathma channels on one mixerboard is quite a task - here's what engineer Niranjan is looking at during this gig!

This is the drum kit Montry finally okayed. Count the number of mics on this, and win a grand prize!

Storm clouds gather when The Pavan summons the energies from within his soul and causes a cosmic meltdown...

Hamara music thoda 'Hartke' hai.

One of the crew members of new Hollywood blockbuster Avatar is one of our new band mates. err... yes.

And this, ladies and gentlemen is where the Tweets and FB updates come from. Jishnu's Nokia E63

When Music Brings you Together
October 29, 2009, 8:13 pm
Filed under: Experiences | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Montry and I were hanging out and having lunch at a small Mallu mess, where you sit at the family’s dining table and eat whatever’s been cooked – a fabulously simple concept. The only menu decision you make is “Would I wanna wash my hands first?” We were well into our wholesome meal of payar, pulissery and meen-curry when we suddenly heard the pounding of a double bass pedal going kwazoonga on a kit and the low-growl of distortion distilled by soundproofing. “A band jamming!” we said to ourselves.


Montry and his New Brothers in Arms: Metal Act 'Hybris' Sushant (bass), Monish (guitars) and Vivian (drums)

So after breakfast, we gatecrashed the jam of up and coming band ‘Hybris’. We were really taken by their hand-painted Stranger amp, as we were with the general chaos and bonhomie that the jam pad exuded. We liked.


The nifty hand-painted Stranger 15 Watt Cube: A Sure Sign of Good Times to Come! The handiwork of bassplayer Sushant!

Hybris had never heard of Swarathma, maybe they never will get into our kind of music, but who cares, we were all in that moment, together. Beautiful, isn’t it, how music can make you drop your inhibitions and make friends in the unlikeliest of places?

Text and Pictures: Jishnu Dasgupta