Swarathma is a band that has been around for a while now and I've always heard great reviews of their show, yet have never seen them live. I had heard their albums and liked their songs but only in a grab-a-beer-and-chill manner, not in a go-crazy-and-jump way. But little did I know that that was all about to change.
Pyaasi was the first song of Swarathma that I had heard and having heard that Swarathma was playing at a MALL I just assumed that they would play slower tracks just like that. But once again, I was in for a real treat.
Alright two paragraphs of explaining how I was in a real treat probably might not seal it for you guys. Here's a better explanation of the gig :-
Raja, his sister and me reached the venue at about 7 PM. There were only about twenty people or so. The crowd was kept about 15-20 feet away from the stage and ahead of us were a bunch of cameras from what I'm guessing is every TV station in Bangalore.
Soon, five extremely colorful men took to the stage. It took me about ten minutes to get over everything that the vocalist had on. He had really colorful clothes on just like everyone else BUT he also had these light blue socks with all these weird cartoon creatures or something on them that reminded me of well Christmas and a pair of red converse with a different colored shoe lace on each shoe. Extremely wacky I must say!
THE CRAZIEST MAN I MAY HAVE EVER SEEN.. BUT A PHENOMENAL VOCALIST - VASU DIXIT
The first song, I didn't quite catch the name, just remember the words "Chaddi Buddy", was a really fun one and got the crowd jumping and well in the right mood. The crowd soon started building and I think there were around 50 people around now and many standing on the pavement trying to watch the band.
Swarathma, then introduced Mr. Seth Malloy from Boston on the saxophone and they played a track called Kyun Bala, which was the track that introduced the band on the episode of The Dewarists that featured them. Seth brought out an entire jazzy feel to the track and the vocals on this track was simply killer. Vasu may seem weird and crazy but he's got a mind blowing voice. The end was specially brilliant. The way they kept increasing the tempo made an already groovy track even more fun. By the end of this track the crowd had absolutely lost themselves.
The end of this track saw the band then give way to the staff at Garuda to go on with some promotional crap. There was this one MC that was extremely amusing. But anyway, some female won a gold coin and we booed the guys out of there and finally Swarathma were back on, minus the saxophone.
They then played a track called Aaj Ki Taaza Fikar, which is the first song to be released from their latest album Topiwalleh. They have promised that the entire album shall be up for free download, one track after the other. Aaj Ki Taaza Fikar is about the sensationalism by the media and how we are all just too scared to open the papers these days in fear of what awaits us in there. And it takes some guts to explain all that in front of about half a dozen news channel reporters and cameramen. The track itself had a heavier riff at the beginning but then went back to the usual Swarathma-ish sound. I simply loved the verse riff on this one. Hats Off Varun.
Vasu then pulled out an instrument, which I think is known as a Bapan, according to the Dewarist episode 'Changing World'. It's got that really funky yet folk sound to it. You gotta hear it to really know what I'm talking about. And out came the song that really changed my view of Swarathma that night, Khul Jaare Sim Sim. The track was such a groovy one and one that you could just sing along too. It showed the immense depth in their music and the versatility of these musicians. Half way through the song, there was an interesting duel. It was a Bapan and Khanjira vs Drum and Bass battle and my goodness me was it exciting. The energy that the band, especially Vasu, has is just infectious. No matter how uptight you are, I assure catch this band live and you will for sure let your hair and you will just groove with them.
Next up was a track called Khurani, a track about how we are the prey of various corporations that just need us to buy their products. Once again, takes a lot of guts to say anything along those lines in a place like Garuda Mall and in front of a bunch of sponsors that need us to do just that, buy their products!
The start was extremely well heavy and I expected the song to be somewhat along those lines. The track was kind of an anti-climax though, because the song turned to be a rather soft but nonetheless a neatly structured one. There was some nice guitar work and once again Hats Off Mr. Varun. They had this tribal Lo-Lo-Lo thingy that you see in those ancient Tamil movies depicting those scary goddesses and yes it was fun to do that along with the band. :p
A song or two later, they donned their Topis and played my favorite track of the night, Topiwalleh. It had this swing jazzy feel to it that just made you want to well dance and shake your hips et al. The vocalist showed some killer stage presence during the song and the song had a fricking BRILLIANT END!
Following this was Ee Bhoomi Ee Swarga. Followed by a drum solo by Mr. Montry Manuel, a personal favorite. In all the songs, he didn't play anything that was technically mind-blowing or anything but somehow all the beats that he has played just fit each song ever so perfectly. During the solo, each band member chipped in with a few percussion items themselves, including a unique new instrument, which is just a bunch of old used ball bearings in a bottle, an idea conceived in the brilliant mind of none other than Mr. Montry.
This was followed by a track called Ghunghunaiye(I think that's the name :s), dedicated to their Goddess KATRINA KAIF.
Following this was their last track of the night, Pyaasi. They played the song due to popular demand. Everyone brought their cell phones out and brought a lovely mood to proceedings. Though not prominent, there was once again some excellent guitar work. Usually all gigs have a thumping end with a lot of drum and bass and the guitarist going crazy. But this gig was very different, it ended on a really soft and sober note. And in a way, it was personally a very fitting way to end the gig, with the song that actually got them into public view and with what is my personal favorite track by the band, well until Topiwalleh came along of course.
FROM L-R : Jishnu(Bass), Montry(Drums), Vasu(Vocals), Varun(Guitars), Pavan(Percussions), Seth(Saxophone), Sanjeev(Violin)
I'm glad I was finally able to catch Swarathma live on stage and I would definitely love to see them live once more.
Anyway, after this it was time to grab dinner and rush home so that I could get some sleep before my flight to Delhi, to catch Suraj Mani live in action with motherjane for one last time. I'm sorry but I will not be blogging about that gig cuz beyond it was more a personal moment than a musical one.
Also, I hope you caught the episode of The Dewarists that featured Swarathma, in colloboration with Shubha Mudgal. They came up with a pretty decent track known as Duur Kinara, which is also up for free download.
p.s. Photo Credits : George Bernard