They are Namma Bengaluru’s beloved folk-rockers whose visually electric, high-energy live act is one musical experience to die for! Yes, it took 3 years for them to release their second album ‘Topiwalleh‘ (blame it on their extensive tours) but it was worth the long wait and you will agree if you listen to the numbers. Our very own musical genie Usha Amudan in conversation with Vasu, Varun, Sanjeev,Pavan and Jishnu of Swarathma.
I have to say there are very few covers that actually stand out. Both your album covers are colorful. It’s like Holi on a single page. Creativity much?
Vasu/Vocals & Guitar: Actually we don’t do covers, we play our own compositions… well…sorry I couldn’t resist that.
We believe that our music is a reflection of what young India today is and our art-form (designs) reflects that. When we have costumes and performance that reflects a vibrant celebration and theatrics, the intention is that our design should also reflect the same to have a cohesive message to put across. Each medium of work should support each other: music-costume-graphic-film-marketing. So there is no way that our designs could be anything but colourful; be it the truck/Indian Kitsch art in the first album or the newspaper as our theme in the second one. Having said that as a designer and as a person I also have a natural inclination towards colourful stuff, you should check out my wardrobe some time (3D goggles available before opening it).
What has changed since the release of “Swarathma”?
Varun/Guitars: There have been a lot of changes both musically and personally. Musically we feel a lot more confident to enter a recording studio or even play gigs. Songwriting has evolved a lot over the years with each of us exploring constantly and expanding our musical boundaries to include a wider spectrum of everything we come across in our daily life. This has brought out a great sonic difference in the band. Besides travelling with the band and spending so much time together has helped us understand each other so much more than what we did a couple of years back. And it is a journey and this will only grow into something bigger with each day passing by.
“Topiwalleh”, how has the response been for the new album?
Varun/Guitars: There have been some really good responses and a couple of not-so-good responses too, due to sharp shift in the sound of the band with a lot of heavy influences being added to the band’s sound. As a matter of fact there are still a lot of reviews that are still coming out as we speak. But from the point of view of people who matter, their response has been very encouraging, and we’re happy about it!
Tell us about the collaborations involved with “Topiwalleh”? How has that aided in the formation of the album.
Sanjeev/Violins: In Topiwalleh, the collaborations happened at multiple stages. During the songwriting, we collaborated with Devanand Varaparasad, a folk artist, during our song writing workshop in Mysore. The idea for the song Koorane was born out of this collaboration.
Once we were ready to record the album, we were helped greatly by Loy Mendonsa, a veteran musician of Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy fame. The best part about collaboration with Loy was that he did not try to change our songs, but he gave them that extra edge to take them to the next level. Thanks to Loy we managed to up our production levels compared to the first album.
If you thought the percussion section sounded nice and tight in Topiwalleh, here’s why: Vivek Rajagopalan on mridangam, ghatam and Raju Sardar on the dholak. Both came on board and nailed the parts in no time!
We got second time lucky when we had the rare opportunity to collaborate with the legendary Hindustani Singer Shubha Mudgal for The Dewarists. Little did we know when we wrote and recorded this song in Mysore in less than 4 days that it will one day become part of our second album Topiwalleh. But considering the vibe of the song and the overall reception it received, there was no way we could leave it out!
On the lyrics department, we were helped a great deal by Puneet Sharma, Samir Shisodia and Imran Chowdhury. In fact, the term Topiwalleh for the title track was coined by Imran.
It was a great experience working with each one of them and without their help and support, this album wouldn’t have sounded the way it does.
The growing indie scene is largely popular among the younger Indian audience, incorporating the social factor into the lyrics might actually entice the older population to give your chords a listen. What’s your take on that?
Pavan/Percussions & Vocals: First of all I don’t think the indie scene is largely popular only among the younger Indian audience. From the personal experiences I have realized that audiences from all age groups tend to enjoy the music. Usually the older population is less seen at the venues, may be because of reasons like inability to stand for long periods of time at gigs. The indie scene in India has been there for the past several years, but only now it is gaining popularity. I am sure older people also wanted to make independent music but might not have been accepted positively then. But incorporating the social factor into the lyrics might add an advantage also, both for the young and older audience. Reason being everyone in the society has something to say. And when we as artists bring that out on stage with along with music, it is like representing their concern. So naturally it will be embraced, across age groups.
Swarathma’s music for the indie film, “Greater Elephant”. How does that feel?
Jishnu/Bass & Vocals: To begin with it feels great to be able to support the Elephant! On a more serious note, it feels wonderful to be able to contribute music to an independent film. We know and respect Srinivas Sunderrajan (of Enter Guerilla Films) via his association with metalcore band Scribe. In fact, we’ve even collaborated with Scribe on a couple of occasions. So when he came to us with the idea of the film and wanted to use our music, we were more than happy. If you watch the film you’ll realize that Swarathma’s music does fit in really well with the theme of the film and its sequences. It was also great to hear that the film won the jury prize at the South Asian International Film Festival in New York!
Tell us about “Action Replay”. What brought about the venture and how has the response been thus far?
Vasu/Vocals & Guitar: I’m not sure if the order of these events are right but here it is: We were travelling to Naukuchiatal (home of Shubha Mudgal ji) to stay at Shubhaji’s mother’s house and ‘chill’, that’s when Shubhaji’s mother suggested that we should perform for the locals there and some children from a residential school there. So we did jugaad for a basic sound system which could produce some sound and did a show which was the beginning of our Action Replay shows. As a part of the same tour, we went to Kolkata and played a show for the children (girls) rescued from human trafficking across border and it was an amazing experience to see those children smiling and dancing. This gave us more hope and strength in believing our music and what we can do with it. Basically we felt that such shows are the ones which satisfy us as artists and also do more than just entertain, there is an unknown connection that happens with such audiences who open their hearts and accept you with much love and warmth. So we decided to take this as a serious step and Jishnu with his marketing brains came-up with the name ‘Action Replay’. And from then on we’ve played at leprosy centres, Blind schools, Old-age homes and many such place where people wouldn’t have even thought of watching a live band play, they probably would never get close an opportunity like that in their lives. The response so far has been something that enriches and makes us believe in our music and keep going on. This is why I want to keep singing, because I know that I need to reach out to such people as well, while I also do corporate shows which pay our bills.
Recommend a track from either album for the first time Swarathma listener.
Jishnu/Bass: From the debut album Swarathma – ‘Pyaasi’. From the new album Topiwalleh: ‘Topiwalleh’.
What was the band aiming when it started off years ago?
Sanjeev/Violins: Swarathma started as any other college band back in 2002, trying to make original music and have fun in the process. Of course, the desire to do well was there – but so was the desire to make music that was original and music one can relate to. I think at that time, given where Swarathma was, getting a chance to perform on stage was a big deal. But the band stuck to what they were good at, writing songs and performing them at whatever opportunities came by.
Cut to 2007, the aim is still pretty much the same, only the desire has become much stronger. The lineup changed and with the new people came new ideas, new sounds and new expressions. The ideology remains the same, to make music one can relate to.
What’s next in the pipeline for the band?
Jishnu: I think we need a much needed break after the hard work we put into the writing, recording, post-production, promotion and touring for the album Topiwalleh! I don’t remember working so hard ever before, and everyone in the band played their part. I think it is important to rest, rejuvenate and return with fresh minds for what lies ahead. For the next year or so, we intend to promote Topiwalleh and the songs from it with more concerts, taking our music to more places and people. We would like to put out a live album, pretty soon. That will be our focus. We also want to start writing material for the third album and collaborate and share musical ideas with more artists.
Upcoming projects? Performances?
We’re working on the new anthem for youth TV channel Bindass. That should be interesting. As for performances, it is the end of the season, so you should ask us this 2 months from now.
A note to your fans:
Jishnu: Big love, thanks and respect for listening to us and supporting us for all these years. It would not have been possible without you.
Fill in the blank. People who love _____________will love our music.
Varun – People who would love us for what we are will love our music
Sanjeev – People who love listening to music that touches the soul will love our music
Pavan – People who love simplicity and honesty will love our music.
Vasu – People who love art which is more than just entertainment will love our music.
Jishnu – People who love the courage of conviction will love our music.
Interestingly, a Bollywood flick lead to the discovery of today’s featured artiste. And this film had none of the conventional singing and dancing. Not that it would matter. My finger is ever ready on the fast forward tab. I digress. Anyways, it was worth the effort because here I am about to share my find with you guys.
Shaa’ir (Monica Dogra) and Func (Randolph Correia) is an electro-rock/trance/alternative/ *insert genre here* musicians based in Mumbai. Dogra moved back to the Indian subcontinent from the States, conjoining hands with Correia (one-fourth of Pentagram) to what was to become S+F in 2005. Four years into their collaborated efforts, they won the AVIMA award 2009 for the most Mindboggling-Out-of-this-world-track for “Together again” from Light Tribe.
What inspired Shaa’ir and Func to make music together?
I think we both were most inspired by our immediate synergy. It was as if we had always been meant to play together. We met in the middle of the night at a jam session, and instantly felt in sync. Randolph was on guitar, and I was free-styling. We could have gone on for hours, it was just that magical.
So when I returned to Bombay, after quitting my life in the US, I found him and asked him to play with me. He agreed, and a few months later our first record was born. After our first gig, we knew we had something cosmic. We owed it to the powers at play to keep going.
Major Influences in your music?
We are most inspired by our environments, and the lives that we lead. We’ve been walking unpaved paths from the inception of S+F – and all those rocks and windy ways, teach us lessons. What we learn goes into our music. Randolph and I often speak about how everything in this world can be distilled down and what you have left over is love. That’s what influences our music. Either trying to distill, or the realization that occurs after that distillation.
How has your compositions evolved since 2007?
I think that with age, your skill level increases, your experience widens, your ability to create becomes more fine-tuned. Practice makes perfect. The Love Album was a lifetime of raw experience put to music, Light Tribe was the chaos of touring around the world as a completely Independent band, and then Mantis came from a more reflective mature space of experience.
I can’t really choose a favorite, but I do think that technically, Mantis was our best effort…our best album. It’s hard to count the number of ways we have evolved, but we are the kinds who try to evolve rapidly and with grace – and when we look back on the short number of years we’ve been a band – we see the distance we’ve traveled, and we feel proud….not satisfied…but, proud. This feeling doesn’t make us lose momentum, but rather it makes us hunger to go even further.
New Day: The Love Album and Light Tribe; both were commercially successful. This would have certainly helped with the spread of Mantis. But why free download?
It’s hard to say what makes a record commercially successful. For us, we just want more people to hear our music…to us, that’s “commercial success”.
How important is clinching a record deal?
In my opinion it isn’t important at all. What matters the most these days is how good your music is, and whether or not you have an internet connection.
What was the band working towards in the beginning and how has that changed thus far?
We’ve always worked towards making the best music possible and uniting people through our sound. Be it on a dance floor, or in a room….
We like to think of ourselves as musical bridges across genres, oceans, and hearts.
How different is Shaa’ir + Func from the rest of the Indie Bands in India?
Favorite achievement as a band?
Performing at Glastonbury after Massive Attack on a solar and bicycle powered stage.
Where do you see yourselves say 5 years down the road?
Bigger. Better. Stronger.
Which is harder? Writing a song, creating the music for it or performing live? Why?
It all ebbs and flows. Sometimes the song is the hardest to conquer, sometimes the production is the hardest to figure, sometimes the skill to execute the record into a live format is the hardest. But, there is something about music that has a guiding invisible force…there’s something instinctual that tells you when it’s done, tells you when it’s good, tells you when changes need to be made. It’s kind of like finding God.
Where have you guys performed so far? Favorite Venue
My most favorite recent venue was Cherry Beach Studio, in Toronto. They made a mini-studio inside of the warehouse space, with Elephants and living kama-sutra statues. It was all very campy, but the gig was insane, and the sound was beautiful. I’d go back and do it again.
Future Albums? Upcoming gigs?
We’ll start working on a new record as soon as we’re both done with our travels. Randolph is returning to India with a massive new setup. So our gigs will for sure be next level. We’ll make sure of it.
Which song from your released albums would you recommend for someone who hasn’t heard of the duo?
To be honest, you have to listen to them all….We’re pragmatic….We’re so many things at the same time. Check out “My Roots” off the album Mantis.
If could change one of your songs, which one would it be? What would you change about it?
Wouldn’t change a thing. Silly question.
What is it about Shaa’ir + Func that we don’t know, but we should?
We live to love.
People who love (____) will love our music.
New Day: The Love Album (2006)
The duo debuted with their combined efforts some 5 years ago with New Day: The Love Album. I took an instant liking to the track titles, beginning from “Ambidextrous Love Hands” to “Oops” to simple one word titles like “Hit” and “Swirl’. Maybe it’s me, but the songs took time to grow on me. There were a few tracks I was able to relate to such as “Moonlight” which came with a dash of Jazz and “New Day”. “Government” reminded me so much of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”.
Light Tribe (2008)
Light Tribe held a lot more power than their debut album. The entire album tackled themes with regards to Freedom of Expression and Choices made. Tracks were a little light headed compared to the themes they represented, which is a little unconventional I’d say. Tracks like “Her Story” with its amazing lyrics and “Lord Inside” were personal favorites. The band is highly experimental and that’s appreciative. “Embrace” can be addictive. Light Tribe carries one of the best written lyrics amongst the three.
This album was a pleasant surprise. “Not Alone” and “Hyperbole” were my favorites. Coincidentally those were the first two tracks so one ends up giving the entire album a good amount of time listening to. Mantis is a good place to start appreciating S+F. The transition within a single track is a lot subtle in this album as compared to their previous ventures.
To quote Dogra, “Mantis was our best effort…our best album.”
I am excited to share all about her with you guys. For starters, she is the first female musician to be featured on this site. Is that awesome or what?! I mean seriously! As I approach musicians to share about their music with us, it just ends up being either a solo male artist or an all dudes band. I’m pretty sure there are loads of female artists across the South Asian Continent. But I just haven’t come into contact with one…till now.
She is a potential mixture of Neko Case + Kaki King + Lisa Hannigan. I think) one might be able to draw parallels with these singers when it comes to G’s music.
Anyways let’s cut to the chase….
She has been around for a while now making music in and sometimes out of Bangalore. G has yet to release an album under her name, however many of her songs have been making rounds via social networking websites and Soundcloud.
I manage to source her out just so that we get to learn more about this upcoming Indie artist and of course be introduced to her groovy music.
Gowri Jayakumar is the Maggie haired musician who…
has woes and indigestion aplenty, and an audience that will indulge only if whinged musically.
Did you grow up wanting to make music?
Making music sort of happens on its own, when you have the company of a guitar, or any other musical instrument I suppose. It did for me. There was no musical dream before I picked up the guitar, but since, we’ve just been growing together it seems.
Do you do this full time?
It’s time I did! But no, it’s a weekend affair as of now. I work 5 days, and sleep most the other two. And in between, I play.
Tell us about the instrument/(s) you play?
I play the guitar, and recently picked up the harmonica. I use both at shows, but am rusty at the harmonica, but it still sounds good to me. Just getting the hang of it.
Your music influences?
I’m not sure how I can answer this. But I could tell you what I love. I love storytellers mostly. And among those, Tom Waits, Nick Drake, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Madeleine Peyroux, The Be Good Tanyas are some of my favourites. I love Kaki King, I just love her. Ideal sound - I love heavy basslines, jazzy chords, buttery vocals and so on. And I love Chemical brothers, Radiohead, Jamiroquai, Spin Doctors, and these guys as well.
Depends on the mood I suppose. These, with the many small n big experiences influence me…maybe.
What genre do you consider your music to be?
Ah well, nothing exclusive. I sing my songs; play the guitar, sometimes the harmonica. I don’t know. Call me an acoustic singer-songwriter, folk, country, acoustic rock. I’m not even sure these things apply anymore. There is hardly any relevance to genres anymore.
What kinda themes do your lyrics tackle?
Hmm…well…a lot of guilt. Temptation, love, fear of dying (a close friend died, and it’s been a haunting theme since), travelling, growing old, alone and ugly…and stuff like that. Nothing pleasant.
One of your songs were along the lines of “cruella tucked me into bed..”? Is it the same Cruella I think it is?
Heh. It’s “Oh cruel luck, she tucked me away, and promised laughter at the break of day, she taught me songs of survival and fun, and when I see trouble, she told me to run”
I guess Cruella works too. <Oops..my ears played a trick on me>
This song is part of my Guilt series. Wrote this one and “see the pussy run” after I did something that made me feel queasy, and was on this trip of justification, defense and all that. But failed. So I just wanted to palm off the blame, and be cool.
Tell us about the album in the making.
There was this Resonate Music Award that I won in 2009. That afforded me studio time n all, and I went on to record my songs at Chris Avinash’s studio in Bangalore. So, I recorded about 8 songs, and got Rzhude David, the former bass player of Thermal and A Quarter to play bass in some songs, Chris to play guitar, and Muthu Kumar to play percussions.
The songs are somewhat jazzed up and has a band sound. So, right now, I already put up two songs on Soundcloud. I mean to spread it around through gigs and all, and just do it like that.
What should we be looking forward to in the album?
Oh well….my songs sung in a studio I suppose. The album is a completely different side and sound of me. For those who have heard me before, all solo and live, I’d just say it grew on me, it would on you too. The real music is in live performance I feel. So just get to the live gigs, and an album could be a sweet takeaway.
How can we gain access to your music?
Keep looking out in soundcloud right now, plan to populate it with more songs…some from a recent gig at CounterCulture in Bangalore.
There’s my facebook page, which I CONSTANTLY update, then my myspace page, and then my youtube page. Haha. So I’m there on the internet through and through. But Soundcloud’s the best bet. And Gigs of course, that’s the best and nicest way to get hold of my music…if you want.
Yeah, well, there’s this Tribute to Women by Rolling Stones in Bangalore on the June 24th.
If you could tour with a local band, who would that be and why?
A local band…I would say Peter Cat and Recording Co, a band from Delhi. They were all so delightful. But I may not necessarily fit in, but it’s a fun band…looks like. For my own music, I’d just want a nice, laidback, lazy prodigal double bass player, and a kickass percussionist. Am set on the guitar, feel shifty givin up that spot.
Right now, I just want a versatile, mind-blowing set-list, and gigs all over the country. And then, gigs all over the world. I just want to keep travelling, and making music. I’d hope to meet a million cool people as I go, and strike a jackpot somewhere somehow. But to keep moving and playing songs, would pretty much be it. I’d very much like that.
A birdie told me an album might be in the making. However, it hasn’t been entirely sure if the album is still in the making or Gowri might just release the tracks on Soundcloud instead. Nevertheless, it’s good to be optimistic.
A few of her other tracks are available on Soundcloud but still, I am nice so will share them here as well. But you HAVE to visit her site, for she updates them regularly with newer tracks.
“Bangalore’d” is an acoustic pieced, somewhat along the veins of Kaki King’s “Doing The Wrong Thing”. Worth the listen!
“Tea” is a another track to look out for. Most of her tracks or should I say almost all of them tells a story each. A different theme is tackled in each. The variance provides for a fresh beginning with each number.
“Hello” is up for free download. Good music and you barely lifted your wallet! How cool is that?! This is one track that is a tad more jazzy compared to the rest. My favorite too; apart from the Guilt Series “Cruel Luck” track, which by the way is awe- to-the-some.
The tracks to really look out for would be “Hello”, “Tea” and a few others that I had the privilege to listen to but isn’t officially out yet. So, you just gotta trust me and take my word for her music, will you?
Last bit of news before I leave you to sway to her beat, Gowri J. will be performing at Kyra, Bangalore for Taj Divanta’s Divas of Rock, together with Sulk Station and the Petri Dish Project. Event begins at 9:00pm. More details can be found here.
Here’s a chance to go catch the dudette strumming away live. If you will be hanging around Bangalore in a fortnight, DON”T MISS IT!
Author’s Note: If you have been diagnosed with the following, it’s recommended you contact me and I will get back to you with the remedy!
• You have a favorite musician that you want featured in Indie Rhythms
• You know a budding artist and he needs a platform to spread the word
• You came across an album that swept you off your feet or made you crash into a wall even
• You witnessed this amazing live performance and you wanna share the experience with us (OK for this one you cannot directly contact me.)
Now all of the above would gladly put a smile on my face and perhaps a gift in your mailbox.
Thank You for Tuning in!
This time we put our soul on the line in featuring Blues Conscience from Chennai. I have to say they belong to the minority of indie bands, that actually go onstage in suits and yes, hats too. A three member band composed of Anek Ahuja on Vocals and Bass, Aum Janikiraman on Vocals and Guitars and Neil Smith on Drums. They claim it all began at a sister’s wedding. Indian Weddings? Blues? I couldn’t connect but who cares. All it took was a wedding to bring out the blues in these dudes. Voila!
Where they came from, how they ended up doing what they are doing now is better expressed in Anek Ahuja’s own words.
Tell us about Blues Conscience.
We’re a 3 power act, just like “Cream”. Although, we do collaborate with other musicians such as Maarten Visser on saxophone, Siddharth Kumar on keyboards. We also did a stand-up comedy and blues act with Shyam Kumar. As a 3 piece we got our music figured out as base, to let any other musician collaborate easily with us.
How was the band formed?
The band was formed to perform at my sister’s wedding. Although we did not restrict ourselves to blues, soon after the wedding, we thought why not do a blues act. Since all 3 of us really enjoyed, playing and listening to it.
Why Blues Conscience?
‘Cos it didn’t restrict us to authentic blues but rather, we play music which is heavily influenced by the blues.
A Blues Band amongst the rapidly growing punk, hard rock, metal indie scene in India…Howdoes it feel?
It feels great! There aren’t too many blues bands out there. I guess ‘cos all the newer bands are pretty young, and cater to a young audience. The blues has more soul, and appeals to a much more mature audience.
You guys do this full time or have separate jobs apart from this?
We all have separate jobs as you might be aware, of India’s opportunities for musicians. Moreover, we’d like to get richer faster so we can buy ourselves better equipment. I run a graphic design/advertising agency here in Chennai called Whoa Mama Design, Aum runs a similar agency called MMU Communications and Neil works at Amazon.
Major Influences in your music?
Buddy Guy, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Joe Cocker, Chris Rea….
Inspirations behind the song writing?
Most of our ‘writing’ is never really written. The words just come, while jamming on a guitar, and then we take it; twist it around and see what comes out of it. Mostly for new songs, the lyrics change a couple of times during a show before it’s properly set. Although Aum our guitarist likes writing his songs with many versus. I like to keep it simple I guess.
How’d you guys managed “blue” and “Barack Obama” to work inthe same line for the track Barack Obama.
Barack Obama was not written for him. It was written for an American girlfriend of mine, who at the time, was returning, to the states as he won the elections. I didn’t want her to leave. “So the only way I could make her stay was if Barack Obama comes with me”.
Not forgetting the “interesting” Shaggin’ Ma Dog (????) – How did that came about?
Shaggin ma dog, a pretty popular hit on the Chennai circuit, was originally written to cheer up a close friend of mine, when his dash hound died. I know, it’s dark humor, but it did cheer him up. And then, the song was used once anyone else’s dog died.
Which is harder? Writing a song, creating the music for it or performing live?
I wouldn’t say either of them are hard. Although performing it live really determines how well you’re able to shape the soul in to the song.
How important is clinching a record deal?
I have no clue. Right now to us not too important I guess.
If you could tour with another band, say from the local arena, who would that be? And why?
Well I think “Soulmate” from Shillong, is an awesome band. They got their feet, into the authentic blues with great riffs and amazing vocals, I’d love to tour with them. I guess also cause they have a great fan following, and would help us reach out a bit as well.
Well we have a demo of 8 songs, out of which 2 are really covers. But we have written about 10 songs now, probably write another 2-4 more, and call it an album sometime soon. We also will re-record all the songs from the demo, as that was a rushed job.
We’ll be playing at Counter Culture Bangalore as an ode to Robert Johnson – Ode to the Blues on May 7th. There are other bands playing as well.
Which song from your originals would you recommend for someone who hasn’t heard of BluesConscience?
Kamasutra, Tipalo, & Shaggin ma dog.
People who love (____) will love our music.
They have yet to release a solid album. But, demo songs and a few cover songs are already up for audience listening. And if you have been around Chennai long enough, you would have heard them perform at a myriad of locations around the Southern Coast.
Kamasutra and Morning After were my favorite tracks amongst their many compositions. Be it any track, the vocalist had the x-factor in his voice to pull you into the track and perhaps get you to groove a step or two. The saxophone accompaniment is an another reason why one should really listen to this track . Blues Santa was another track I sort of liked. But I can’t say it was a favorite. It was not bad in its own way.
That was Kamasutra for you. Fancy their music now? It doesn’t quite stop there. Although my selections here differ from what Anek suggested, you need to get the best of both worlds so I’m still gonna go ahead with my choices.
Morning After was a tad less upbeat but similar to the previous track the vocals were amazing and let’s not forget the instruments behind this particular track. They were the unsung heroes.
Most of their tracks reminded me of John Mayer (but that could just be me) and perhaps Jimi Hendrix for you. Either way, the tracks were definitely worth listening too. Since many of the tracks were demos they were fairly short. No worries, we have been assured that the band will be re-doing some of their demos and we might just be treated to a full fledged album soon.
Red Jam and Memphis Blues are stand alone non-lyrical tracks. They bring with them the beauty of the music these guys are capable of coming up with. It’s a great start for one who has never been exposed to the genre before. I particularly loved the way Red Jam started playing.
One need not be into the entire “blues thingy” to get the feel of it. That’s the thing. You can be a newbie to the entire genre but still groove to it. Unlike metal whereby if you’re not into head banging, you’re just torturing your ears. For starters, because hardly we feature blues here, I’d recommend you guys to go treat yourselves to Blue Conscience.
If you think you have known all about them and are already a fan, time do what I do and obviously preach: stalk! Simply stalk them on their fan page, (don’t we just love social networking sites) keep track of their upcoming gigs and go attend! And of course return to that same fan page and leave them an encouraging compliment on how much you enjoyed the show. And if the comment boxes on these sites aren’t enough for you, write to us (or mail to: sip[at]gingerchai[dot]com) about your experience and we will feature it.
Ode To The Blues – 100 Years of Robert Johnson
Before you start reading about it, I have to tell you that the event sounds uber exciting. There is a whole range of items arranged for the audience. I’d be more than glad to attend. So here’s the thing, if you are in Bangalore, I suggest you go have some blues fun on my behalf. Now onto the real stuff…
Celebrating the 100 years since the birth of world renowned blues guitarist Robert Johnson, a week of movies, music and maybe popcorn has been organized. And it starts today!
If you’re around the region, you ought to go catch up on the movie screenings that begins on the 1st till the 6th. Movies that will be screened include Feel Like Going Home by Martin Scorsese, The Road to Memphis by Richard Pearce, Piano Blues by Clint Eastwood to name a few.
And that’s not all!
As previously mentioned by Anek, Blues Conscience is also part of the big performance!
Surjo Bhattcharjee does not represent any band. He hasn’t made the headlines…yet. Rolling Stones lost its chance to chat him up and have his face shot in fancy angles for its covers because GingerChai pushed its way through first. Ha! At this point, we owe Pranjal Srivastava a Thank you for recommending Surjo.
Surjo is from Jamshedpur and has been playing the guitar for the last 13 years; performing at various Indian cities. Many may have seen him play covers for the notable bands like MOTHERJANE, Raghu Dixit Project and such.
Despite his somewhat low profile, he has built quite a remarkable fan base online. He has his own Youtube Channel, where he reproduces some well known tracks and a few of his own compositions. Surjo was once associated with the band Soul Alchemy and his FaceBook Page holds over 800 fans!
Currently he plays with RockBaaj, a Kolkata based band that largely plays popular, mainstream songs. Why would an Indie Artist be pulled into the mainstream culture? He has some valid reasons, not here though.
According to the various bios I poked my nose through while writing this, revealed Surjo to be a “reluctant vocalist” but an avid guitarist. His guitar skills have been well showcased in his videos. For his vocals, I haven’t heard much, we’ll decide when he makes his debut sometime this year or early 2011.
But before we get to his upcoming EP, we figured we’d ask the budding musician to tell us what we should know about him and what we should expect of him. We always give people a chance to promote themselves as we at GC do not believe in staying low profile!
Having cleared the air, this is what Surjo had to say…
Who is Surjo?
Difficult to say really, I keep on making new discoveries about myself. But I’ll try to keep it only to music. I’m first and foremost a fan of all the great music that has been made over the years. My own music is almost secondary in a way, since whatever comes out of me, will have some relation to all that I have heard over the years.
I love to play the guitar, it is the source of great joy and it’s the greatest leveler for me. There is something very supernatural about the guitar for me. People have moods, and are ever-changing. What they like one day, they might not the next. But a guitar has no such hang-ups. You play the same notes and it gives back the same to you, unflinchingly every single day, like a best friend. Music is like life, blood for me. In school when they would ask for hobbies, I was sorely tempted to say academics, since music is not something that I ever thought was a passing phase for me.
What inspired you to make music?
It seems to me that music is the language that I communicate the best with, so it’s a natural progression that when I need to speak out for something that I believe in, it will invariably come out in the form of lyrics and melodies. Different moods seem to pour out through either words or music. It just seems natural to me. I mean I often think that making music must come naturally to everybody, since it comes naturally to me. It’s about listening to what is inside of you, and then playing it.
Major influences in your music.
Everything that I have ever heard is an influence in my music, from old Bengali songs to Bollywood numbers that I have heard (nothing of late, I’m afraid), to old school rock, blues and metal and pop. Everything has an effect, whether it is a positive or negative effect remains a matter of choice. I could listen to something that might come out in a certain way in my compositions, and that’s a positive effect. I might listen to something and know subconsciously that it won’t figure into my music, and that’s a negative effect.
What genre do you think your compositions belong to?
That’s really for the listener to decide. I love blues, rock and funk above all else, maybe somewhere in there I guess.
What can you say about the instrument you play?
It is my interpreter, my girlfriend in a lot of ways. It plays whatever songs I want it to play without complaints. One of the things about a guitar is that it is a very sexy instrument; the names of the various parts of the guitar are like waist, neck, ribs and so on. And no guy has curves like that.
Jokes aside, the guitar has the innate ability to calm me down. Irrespective of whether I am in hyper joy or sadness, the guitar just gives me a peace of mind. The instrument is always bigger than the people playing it. That’s how I feel about me and my guitars anyway. I just got a new Gibson Melody Maker, to add to my Fender Stratocaster and Comet Telecaster. So I am about as happy as a guy could be, especially sincethe Gibson was won in a contest and therefore did not burn a hole in my non-existent pocket.
When is your debut album releasing?
The date isn’t fixed as of yet. There are tons of ideas waiting to be recorded.
What is/will it be about?
The biggest dilemma for me is to decide whether it is going to be an instrumental album or vocal album. For all I know I might come up with something midway. The album is going to capture my state as a person and musician at this present moment. All of us face issues in our lives, I’m no different, and I would like to explore that territory, and hopefully the listener shall find it relevant and can relate it to their own lives.
What should we be looking forward to?
Melody, lyrics, and tons of guitars!
You have played covers for bands like MOTHERJANE, The Raghu Dixit Project, etc. Best Experience?
Opening for huge bands like this is great because you get to see people who have actually made it in the profession of your choice go about it, and it is a massive learning experience. Most memorable experience, there are 2 actually. After both gigs, both Raghu Dixit and the member of MOTHERJANE were so nice in their behavior and generous in their praise that it is just a huge confidence boost to someone like me. When Baiju Dharmajan, the lead guitar player for MOTHERJANE, gave me a hug before and after my show, it was definitely one of the most standout moments of my performing career so far.
To be received with affection by one of your idols is always a great moment.
Who writes your songs? What kinda themes do you tackle in your lyrics?
I’m the one writing the melodies and the lyrics. The themes come from my everyday life, from what I see around me. Whether it is about me, my friends or something more global; I have always felt that my lyrics should be simple. In terms of language and content, so people can try and get the message, and hopefully mould it and interpret it the way of their choice.
I want to be involved in music through my life; nothing is more joyful to me. Whether it is as a performing artist, recording artist, studio musician, producer or whatever else, music fuels my everyday existence, and I can ask for nothing more than to be a part of it for as long as I am here.
Thank You for tuning In!
Author’s Note: If you have been diagnosed with the following, it’s recommended you contact me and I will get back to you with the remedy!
You have a favorite musician that you want featured in Indie Rhythms
You know a budding artist and he needs a platform to spread the word
You came across an album that swept you off your feet or made you crash into a wall even
You witnessed this amazing live performance of an Indie band and you wanna share the experience with us (OK for this one you cannot directly contact me.)
You think I need to do a better job
You simply wanna say “Hi Usha, the series rocks”. (Although this can very well be done at the comment’s section)
Now all of the above would gladly put a smile on my face and perhaps a gift in your mailbox.