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

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?!

The Music of Marrakech: Morocco Tour Diaries Part III
May 23, 2010, 4:58 pm
Filed under: Tour Diary | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

There is little doubt that the one thing we will take away with us from Morocco would be the richness of its music and the warmth of its people. Music is everywhere. And everyone appears to be musicians! Pictured here are Kraqabs. The percussive sound that is the hallmark of Gnawa – the traditional folk music of Morocco.

When I tottered out of the 36 hour plane ride into Casablanca’s waiting arms, my pickup was Louaï l’Majdoub Hafa, a volunteer with the festival. No sooner than Aman and I had stepped into the van with our luggage he got the driver to put on some insanely awesome music – Chaabi (popular) music, he explained was what most people listened to, and was marked by staccato and syncopated hand-claps. Despite not having slept in 2 days, I felt the exuberance of the music of the land literally wash over me. That wasn’t all, the next CD to be popped into the deck was ‘Gnawa’ the traditional religious form of music that uses a three-string bass-guitar-ish lute called the Gimbri and the Kraqoub, twin hand-held percussion. That’s how my three hour drive from Casa to Marrakech was spent!

We met the great Cheb Khaled who performed at the festival on Day 1. Unassuming and down-to-earth, he laughed with us when we told him about how we were huge fans of his, all the way from India! Pic: Tassi Osman Kenza

These gentemen were part of the 30 piece orchestra that backed up the pro-acts in the festival. Seen here trying their hand at Pavan's Kanjiras. Pic: Pavan

We were keen to jam with some street musicians, and had heard a lot about the square Jama el Fna where artists flock to every evening and we were not disappointed. There were no less than six or seven groups of musicians going at it, with a curious crowd, sometimes appreciative, sometimes indifferent, making an odd donation. When we approached one such group to join them they were really thrilled, and made us very welcome. They played their songs, we played ours, each of us adding our own flavour to the other’s songs. But the true high point came when one of their Banjo players broke into ‘Tujhe Dekha Toh Yeh Jaana’ with an impish grin! They made quite a killing that day, folks all around paid quite a bit for the Indian novelty item!

We spent a lot of time in the markets in the Medina, looking in at many music stores. Two of them stand out: Bob’s Music where Jimmy Page and Robert Plant are rumoured to have dropped in and the little known Hasan’s Tresor De L’Art Musical. That’s where we learned most about the instruments, the way they play it.

The Oud is a common Moroccan string instrument. There were many of these in the orchestra at the Festival Awtar. Pic: Delna

This is where we also thank the beautiful people of Morocco, especially the ones who made our visit so memorable. I cannot remember the number of people (right from the time we made contact with the Festival organizers on Facebook) who told us, “You are very welcome here!” At the risk of missing out a few names, Kenza, Faty and Nadia: you ladies made everything lovelier than it already was. There was Louai and a bunch of his friends (whose names I cannot all recall, alas) who we owe thanks for all the help.

Finally, we didn’t realize it then, but there is a hugely positive musical vibe all over the country of Morocco. We are fortunate to have tasted it. And I hope we’ve managed to bring some of it back with us!

Text: Jishnu Dasgupta

Folkin’ Hell! Jam sessions from the other world
October 13, 2009, 7:28 pm
Filed under: Tour | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

RIFFAnd now, ladies and gents, the real reason we went to the Rajasthan International Folk Festival. For the rare opportunity to jam with folk artistes, to feel, even if for an instant, music created with no motive known to so-called civilized men. Music created by instinct.

We spent the better part of our three-day stay at Jodhpur either soaking in the terrific ambience or worrying about our show. The fact that our hotel was 60km from the venue didn’t help either, it was a long drive into town! And so it wasn’t until the last day that we had time to ourselves.

We’d met Rais Khan when he performed with Dharohar before our performance. His powerhouse performance blew us away and we pretty much stalked him thereafter. The moment we got a chance we whisked him away from the performance area to a dark (and relatively quiet) area of the fort. We jammed. And how!

This free flowing jam lasted about half an hour, weaving in and out of folk-patterns, djembe rhythms, kanjira expressions and vocal histrionics. We did the whole gamut of folk: Nimbuda (Rajasthan), Shadher Lau (Bengal), Theyyam (Kerala) and Carnatic alaaps. Suffice it to say that we had a complete blast.

Rais Khan: Our partner in folk-crime from Jaisalmer, Rajasthan. Adept at the Khartal and Morsing, he brings incredible energy to every performance.

Rais Khan: Our partner in folk-crime from Jaisalmer, Rajasthan. Adept at the Khartal and Morching, he brings incredible energy to every performance.

Thanks to Ashima Yadava for the video. You can check out her photography here.

P.S. Apologies for the poor video quality, lighting was bad. We hope it doesn’t show us in bad light. 😉 The grooving, dancing, swaying silhouette is a Texan fan of ours who we met at the gig. He had the most fun!