Tag Archives: AR Rahman

Epic Shit by Sanjeev Thomas


Sanjeev Thomas is one of those talented composers who you’ve barely heard of but whose music you’ve been jigging to on a regular basis. He’s been a Bollywood bigwig, lending himself to titles like Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, Jhoota Hi Sahi and Rockstar– and before all the elitists out there begin to scrunch their noses to dismiss him, it should be told that he plays guitar for A.R. Rahman too. He started out as an independent musician – some of his bands include Buddha’s Babies and Buddha Blown (five points if you can point out a thematic similarity) and more recently he headed the Chennai-based rock lineup Rainbow Bridge. With the album Epic Shit, Sanjeev T is back to his origins as an independent musician, so don’t be expecting a Rahman-style orchestral setup or Bollywood-esque catch-and-throw moments.

Epic Shit is hardly forgettable. The sound production is pristine. With minimal effort on your part, each note impresses itself like an ant burning under a magnifying glass. Technical excellence is all too obvious – this is unsurprising because Baiju Dharmajan has studded the album with his string-play. In the album, Thomas synthesizes the Carnatic sound-laced prog-tones popularized by Motherjane and Avial, and does a solid job of fortifying the genre. However, while an incredibly pleasurably listen, Epic Shit falls a few breaths short of the ‘epicness’ it claims.

It is not that the songs aren’t inspired. They each have a clear quality of narration which I find shamefully missing from a substantial portion of contemporary releases. ‘Chekele’ speaks of the adverse conditions of the peasants of Kerala to Baiju’s exquisite melodic formations and the vocals mix quality which is like a tribute but with a somber aspect. The song, a version of which was also performed by Avial, seems not to lament but rather to exalt the inherent struggle. ‘Electric Pranaam’, definitely my favorite track, features more engaging riffs and rhythmic sequences. An instrumental piece, it reminds one of Baiju’s Motherjane moments and the beat-boxing injects a refreshingly prog aspect. Asad Khan’s sitar, though sparingly present is, as usual, invigorating. This is the song I put on repeat precisely because of its examination of the contemporaneity of apparently traditional Indian sounds. An expression of morning respect to the Gods of music, it abounds in variations of count, tempo and consequently, sentiment – think movement from serenity to energetic build-up to a sense of reconciliation. ‘Zamzayo’, matches ‘Electric Pranaam’ in ingenuity, but in its lyrical aspect. A song about pride and faith in one’s abilities when isolated, it features gems like “Curtain calls/She applauds/Fade out slow and….can’t find my way/To that shining day”. The musical schema is simple but haunting, accentuating the lyrical effect of a pleasing nonchalance towards extraneous concerns – a fitting song to shut out the world with.

‘Palli Vaathil’ has an unmatched ‘local’ scent. A Keralite folk song of Catholic lineage, it retains a lilting, lounge-ish flow that builds into an edge of frenzy. The flute and raging vocals (Sayanora) stand out, but the banjo, though muted, speaks volume of Santhosh Chandran’s obvious skill.

When it starts out, ‘Feel Me Now’ has a bit of a Portishead sensibility. Apparently basic lyrics belie a complex thematic understanding. Speaking, or attempting to speak of a collective human perceptibility, a sort of psychological or sentimental core that all human comprehension responds to, the song features a psychedelic musical ethic, peppering it with Warren Mendosa’s surreptitiously emphatic guitar. Like its topic, the music has a quality that is juxtapositional – the quintessential post-Floyd atmospheric tunes mixed with a gentle high synth. To me, ‘Feel Me Now’ requires more than a couple of listens, but it is a memorable track, with a little effort.

‘Mixed Emotions’ is all about sensual appreciation. With the tap guitar skills of Achyuth, it expresses appreciation for individual emotional and intellectual maturity through introspective experience. ‘Purple Lie’ sings along the same vein, but advocates the exploring of the possibilities of an expanded mind – an acid trip mashing information and emotion. To me, it isn’t entirely farfetched to conceive of this song as a culmination of the exhortations sung of in ‘Mixed Emotions’.

The thing about Epic Shit is that while it seems flawless, it falls short of being awe-inspiring. There are very few moments that make you sit up, take notice, re-wind and try to pick it up. Baiju’s style is easily discernible, but I prefer him in The Baiju Dharmajan Syndicate or Motherjane. A bit more of Asad Khan and Roop Thomas (Blakc) wouldn’t have hurt either.  The album ends up being pleasant and entertaining, but needs to tread a few more steps to be considered brilliant.

What does boggle the mind (in a good way, of course) is the album art. Created by a group of artists called Wow Makers, it gives the likes of The Bicycle Days (Calamitunes) and T.L.Mazumdar (BUeC) a run for their money. Intensely symbolic, it visualizes the fusion the album aims at. Nature plus humanity plus an eye of serendipity allows for a plethora of interpretations, much the songs, though I would give the art an edge over the music.

Nonetheless, the album is worth a listen. It epitomizes the burgeoning popularity of Carnatic laced prog and more importantly, is a testament to Sanjeev T’s effort to substantiate the Indian independent music scene. His return to the five-piece band model marks a reversion to personally crafted, un-industrially packaged music that few would chose to take up after continuing financial and commercial success. But even though one would like to hear more of the guitarist rocking Rahman’s Mausam and Escape, what counts is Sanjeev T’s return to the heart.

Shreya Bose

Shreya Bose is an English grad who is rethinking her dedication to academia and trying to figure out the secret to personal sanity. Currently, writing seems like the only activity that offers both inspiration and catharsis. When free, she overdoses on Yukio Mishima and Kahlua.


A.R. Rahman Tribute by House of Symphony at FICCI Auditorium, New Delhi

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Nikhil Kumar

Nikhil Kumar is a Delhi based photographer who loves clicking, especially weddings and concerts. He used to be the lead vocalist for a rock band but quit singing to do photography along with his job as a software engineer.


The Inner Self Awakens by Agam


Software engineers by day and musicians by evening or at least over the weekend – such is the story of Agam. Formed in 2006, following a few compositions (which were mere experiments then) by a bunch of friends in an apartment studio, Agam has become a powerful force with their brand of music since then. This Bangalore-based ensemble features Harish on vocals, Praveen on lead guitars, Swamy on keyboards, Vignesh on bass guitar, Jagadish on rhythm guitars, Ganesh on drums and Sivakumar on ethnic percussions.

From winning a musical reality show helmed by maestro A. R. Rahman himself to collaborating with Shreya Ghoshal, the band has had a glorious journey thus far. Though, a performance on the fabled Coke Studio stage has been the talking point for a while now and makes a perfect setting for the release of their debut album. ‘Agam’ literally translates to ‘the inner self’ and hence the album gets the name ‘The Inner Self Awakens’. Each song in the album pivots around a central Raga and is embellished by the elements of progressive rock, which brings into perspective a completely unheard of and unexplored genre – ‘Carnatic Progressive rock’. With the songs quite often delving into religious themes, the cover art of the album has been aptly chosen to depict the Keralite festival of Theyyam.

‘Bramha’s Dance’ starts off with a vedic chant accompanied by war-field percussions and roaring bass-lines that provide a worthy build up to this terrific album – almost as if calling out to awaken the enormous beast from its Carnatic foregrounds. Harish’s violin is subtle but adds the most mellifluous of touches to the song. The appropriate use of cymbals, the ghatam and Praveen’s electric guitar are in complete sync with the vocals as the song goes through a plethora of moods and tempos.

‘Dhanashree Thillana’ is the progressive rock rendition of a Swathi Thirunal composition based on the Dhanashree Raga and is perhaps one of the finest tracks in the entire album. This one kicks off as a typical rock ballad but gradually transcends into melodic taranaas moving over an entertaining rhythm structure. The guitar sounds magnificent and the jugalbandi with Harish’s vocals leads to a perfect finish.

Inherently violent in nature and composition, ‘Rudra’ fits the bill for Tandava or what the more mainstream metal-heads call it – ‘head-banging’. Like any regular metal song, it is loud, noisy and all about the heavy guitar lines and percussions. But a funky and rather jazzy bass solo, high-pitched melodies and the wonderful usage of the conch towards the end, for me, stole the show.

Justifying the moniker, ‘Boat Song’ is for vallamkalli or the Boat Race during Onam. The song has got an extremely happy ring to it and you won’t be alone in thinking that the song sounds like something out of a Malayalam movie. But that’s only till Praveen churns out a breath-taking guitar solo that dispels all clichés.

The start to the song ‘Swans of Saraswati’ is an incoherent feature here and perhaps a tad overdone for the sake of rock. Though, it soon takes shape in a beautiful guitar solo, like any other song in the album, this song relies predominantly on Harish’s vocals and his numerous alaaps. This enormously brave endeavour to give Thyagaraja’s ‘Bantureethi’ a rock makeover is an absolute stunner. It’s unbelievable how Rock gets weaved into Carnatic Classical music with such ease – as if they weren’t ever different entities, just like a perfect marriage.

‘Malhar Jam’ is the most refreshing, energetic and undoubtedly the best composition on this album. This song also featured in a multi-producer episode of Coke studio, though a very different rendition of it. This one has got no israj in it and the flute segment by Annada Prasanna Patnaik (who does a cameo here too) is subtle and barely forms the highlight. This one’s got more room for Swamy’s wonderful work on the keyboard, taranaas and Vignesh’s heavy bass lines. The song forms a grandstand finish to this magnificent thirty-eight minute album.

The sonorous vocals of Harish stand apart throughout the album and the percussions, bass and guitar lines complement each other well. Their experiments with a few classics may make a staunch Carnatic listener think twice, but for a generation thriving on a healthy blend of sensibilities, it’s a guaranteed treat. The rock may have got a little too heavy for fusion here and there in the album but the underlying beauty of a raga has barely been compromised. Six years has been a rather tantalizing wait but when sated by such an eclectic experience, it has been worth it.  For a debut, this is a scintillating start by Agam and may go down as one of the top albums to be released this year. The album goes through the various textures of a human brain and listening to it is a spiritually uplifting experience – all this for a meager amount of Rs. 90 – who wouldn’t want to buy it?

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Shubhodeep Datta

Shubhodeep is home to a lunatic in his head, who is on his own with no direction home. Tell him about his grammatical errors! Follow him on Twitter @datta_shubho


Babelsberg Orchestra at Palace Grounds, Bangalore

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Chethan Ram

Chethan Ram is a failed musician but wants to keep his association with music by capturing the best moments through his camera. His loves Hindustani and Carnatic music.