Tag Archives: Nigel Rajaratnam

Our House by Stella by Starlight


Our House by Stella By Starlight does what a debut album/EP should. Although it betrays the band’s flaws it also, more importantly, highlights why we should be paying more attention to them now and in the future. Stella By Starlight is a 6-piece indie-folk/acoustic outfit from Mumbai that has actually been on the scene for quite a while – since 2012 to be specific. After touring India and playing for crowds at prestigious venues, the band released their debut EP in January 2016. Our House may be a collection of only four songs but the album took two whole years to craft. It is a perfect snapshot of the band’s journey during those years, which also adds to the nostalgic and melancholic feel of the album.

It feels like Indie/Folk music is what all the hip kids are listening to these days at all their cool music festivals and it is a burgeoning genre in the Indian music scene with indie artists such as Prateek Kuhad and Nischay Parekh gaining immense popularity. This is why it can be hard to stand out when the music scene is awash with other great indie artists. However, with this EP, Stella By Starlight has made a valiant effort to do so. While listening to the album, the first thing that caught my attention was the vocals. They were just right – not astoundingly powerful but not washed-out either. The vocals were restrained, soft and soothing with just the right amount of oomph when needed.

Given, this EP is not experimental or out of the box but really, does it need to be? Our House is perfectly pleasant with songs that you can listen to on a loop for hours. This doesn’t mean that the band has played it safe either. Every song is well-crafted where all the instruments and the vocals work so well with each other. Percussion is deliberately sparse on the album and so are dramatic interludes to maintain the mellow mood of the album.

Our House starts off on shaky ground with ‘Coco’. It is a nice song, but ‘nice’ should not be the word to describe the first song on the album. ‘Coco’ is a light-hearted, piano-driven song about a beloved pet that has a ‘Mr. Bojangles’ vibe at the beginning. However, the song lacks complexity and is hence, not memorable.

Fortunately, the next song ‘January’ is an absolute gem and a personal favourite. This track is set off by the beautiful breathy vocals and appealing melody and is the kind of track I wish was the opener of the EP. ‘January’ is an acoustic track that fits the sorrowful lyrics seamlessly and just when you think the track couldn’t get any better they throw in a flute instrumental by Shirish Malhotra that is just divine.

This track is followed by another stellar song ‘Days’ where, again, the vocals shine. The vocal harmonies and backing vocals lend a dreamy quality to the song. Another acoustic track, ‘Days’ is haunting and bittersweet but picks up the tempo slightly towards the end before mellowing out again to finish on a melancholic note. It also features the harmonica that takes the nostalgic feel up a notch.

The EP ends with a heart-wrenching song – ‘Waiting on Him’. This song is more of a ballad than a folk song as for most of the song, the vocals are accompanied only by a piano. The track does get a bit cheesy at the end when the saxophone section begins but on the whole ‘Waiting on Him’ is an enjoyable, smooth ballad that works as a nice outro for the album.

Apart from the first track, which is tad cutesy and odd, Stella By Starlight has managed to create a smooth, laid-back, minimalistic debut EP that acts as a tasty amuse-bouche for what is to come. Our House is another great EP to come out of the indie/folk genre that is mature and restrained and where the sparse instrumentation and wispy vocals work very well together. The entire EP was produced and arranged by Nigel Rajaratnam so a huge shout-out goes out to him for polishing the songs so well. Judging from their debut EP, there are definitely more airy, dreamy folk tracks waiting for us in the future from Stella By Starlight.

Avatar photo

Anusmita Datta

Anusmita Datta is an ardent day-dreamer, music lover, die-hard foodie and occasional writer. Her obsession with pandas is sometimes disturbing and she can be often found lusting after momos!


Dischordian at The Bflat Bar, Bangalore





Touted as being one of the most promising bands over the last year, their debut album was looked forward to by many as tangible means to solidify their reputation of being a cut above the rest. Dischordian is an unmistakeably Goan-sounding acoustic folk outfit with elements of jazz; they can speed it up with as much ease as they tone it down. Lead singer Garreth D’Mello has a powerhouse voice that can have songs sounding rustic and comforting, while being equally capable of helming growl-styled songs like ‘Your Right Heel’, which anyone could tell is written from a place of unfiltered rage (justified, since it’s about the Mangalore pub attacks). They also have a very specific talent: making lyrically melancholic songs come out sounding uplifting!

So, backstory dealt with, the day of the gig arrived and I was glad that it was at The Bflat Bar. For all intents and purposes, The Bflat Bar is probably the best venue for the sort of music that the band plays. The perfect spacing and the proximity to the band are perfect for an acoustic set with a little fun thrown in at the end.

A little after 9 o’clock, Garreth walked onstage without much ado and the aimless chatter petered off into the comforting sound of his expert plucking. Starting off on a mellow note (leading the audience into a somewhat false sense of security, considering the mayhem toward the end of the show), ‘One of These Days’ is a song about yearning that conveys the emotion perfectly without falling prey to becoming a prolonged whine. A few bars into the song and the ever-smiling Nigel is up onstage, jumping into things with his melodica. Next up is ‘Stone’ which is a personal favorite of mine. There’s too much feeling in this song to let it go by without special mention! The throaty guitar and restless lyric are particularly endearing.

“What was warm once is cold to the touch,

And the past is a flimsy old crutch” 

Guitarist Howard Pereira pussyfooted his way onto stage shortly after the first chorus and Aggie (Agnelo Picardo) walked on last, to add his trumpet to the fray. After some light cajoling to buy the album between songs, they’re off into ‘Baby, Maybe’ – an upbeat ditty with close to nonsense lyric and the best introduction of the set – “This is a song about drinking, so you’ll probably like it.” The clarinet and guitar sounded a bit jarring right down the middle but they recovered with ease.

Nigel surprised me by shifting to the clarinet for the song (but I was soon to get accustomed to this since he ran through several instruments during the course of the gig) as did Aggie who hopped across to lightly assault the drum kit during a later song. You realize that these aren’t just boys with their musical sounding toys; they’re as serious about their music as they are talented exponents of it.

The eagerly-awaited free Feni shots were finally brought up when the band requested people to come up, glasses in tow. There was much hesitation and bribery (a free CD) until someone finally complied and the band got into another song. The band dispatched songs from their album like ‘November’, ‘Must Drink’ and ‘Curtain Call’ – a sombre song with heavy saxophone influences and lyrics that surprise you with their ferocity, and ‘Lover’ for which Garreth flipped his guitar over to play slide and a tambourine appeared suddenly in Nigel’s able grip.

In retrospect, these songs were the perfect lead-up to ‘The Old Whore’, their most popular song. It’s one of those songs that isn’t particularly upbeat but has a crowd crowing with enthusiasm from the word go, with its macabre lyric and catchy chorus. The song was sung several times over (by the band and the audience), with band members grinning ear to ear at our enthusiasm to sing the words “for the old whore” over and over (and over) again.

George from Lounge Piranha was the surprise guest artist and along with the band, did a cover of LP’s ‘Handhold’, which was enjoyable. At the behest of our screaming “Another!” and “Encore” and the more direct “Don’t stop!”, they also covered “Let It Be” and Garreth grinningly sang the naughtiest version of La Bamba I have ever heard!

There was yet another attempt at The Old Whore before they wrapped up the show with a very cool cover of Hunters and Collectors’ ‘Throw Your Arms Around Me’, made popular by Pearl Jam.

A rip-roaring success, the gig had just the right amount of everything and I hope Dischordian decides to hit the Bangalore circuit harder the next time they come around!


Howard’s “I may be able to change this water into more Feni since I’ve been told I look like Jesus” joke.

Aggie’s notes stand disintegrating at a glance.

Nigel’s two-gulp downing of an audience-sponsored shot.

La Bamba!

Avatar photo

Sharanya Nair

Sharanya is a 'writer' and an 'editor'. You know the type. She loves her music too much to share.


The Feni Farm Riot Album Launch by Dischordian at Blue Frog, Mumbai





Tuesday nights at the Blue Frog often promise something special. And this one was no exception, as Dischordian launched their much-awaited and long overdue debut album, The Feni Farm Riot. I made my way to the venue after a hard day’s work, and reached there well in time. At the pass counter, I spotted a fair amount of merchandise up for sale, including posters and coasters featuring the impressive artwork on the album cover, and of course copies of the album itself.

In keeping with the creative title, the band had arranged for free Feni shots for everyone who entered, and I promptly claimed mine. Feeling distinctly happier, I settled down at the bar counter with a beer and a few friends, and waited patiently for the gig to begin. Having never watched the band play before, my curiosity was piqued by the range of instruments that currently adorned the stage, including a grand piano, a drum kit, two acoustic guitars and a djembe.

Dischordian’s lineup for the evening consisted of Garreth D’Mello on lead vocals and guitar,Howard Pereira on lead guitar, their newest member Nigel Rajaratnam switching between the saxophone, piano and melodica, and Agnelo Picardo playing the djembe and the trumpet.

The gig began with the slow and introspective ‘Stone’, followed by a track called ‘Baby, Maybe’ and the lyrically interesting ‘Same Old Conversation’ featuring some cool trumpeting by Agnelo, definitely one of my favorite tracks on the album. The band had a smooth, relaxing tone and the crowd was warming up to them nicely.

The next song, called ‘The Curtain’ was a new one as indicated by Garreth, and had an interesting arrangement with Howard relinquishing the guitar to play shakers instead. For the wonderful ‘Scourge of Love’, the band played a slightly different and slower version than the one on the album, and had Nigel switch from the melodica to the piano.

Garreth now left the stage momentarily, and returned with a large tray full of Feni shots, which he proceeded to pass out to a very eager and appreciative crowd. I certainly hope their next album has the words Tequila or Baileys somewhere in the title.

Next on the list was ‘She Lied To Me’, followed by the very intense and haunting ‘Save Me’, and the upbeat ‘Lover’. Garreth then went solo on ‘One of These Days’, and the rest of the band returned to play ‘How I Wait’, ‘Don’t Wake Me’ and ‘November’, all off the album.

The next song had Varoon Nair of The Mavyns accompanying the band on the harmonica. The song was called ‘Must Drink’, and reinforced what was clearly the theme for the night. With a slightly adapted chorus and a little help from an enthusiastic crowd, the band successfully coaxed their only teetotaling member Nigel into downing a few sips of beer, eliciting plenty of cheers all around!

It was now pretty much the perfect time to play one of Dischordian’s best and most well-known songs, ‘The Old Whore’, for which they were joined by Sidd Coutto (of Zero and Tough on Tobacco fame) on the drums. Like a perfect crescendo, the list continued to gain momentum with the brilliant up-tempo ‘our Right Heel’, followed by ‘Bucket of Blood’.

The supposed last song for the night was a cover of Rock Plaza Central’s ‘Anthem For The Already Defeated’ but the audience wasn’t about to let them go anywhere quite so soon! The band played an encore of ‘November’, with Sidd Coutto getting back behind the drums, and followed it up with an encore of ‘The Old Whore’ featuring Howard on the mandolin, and the crowd joining in on the catchy and humorous chorus.

The final song for the night quite clearly put the icing on the cake, as the band signed off with their trademark ‘Mera Sabse Lamba’, a popular (and admittedly PG-13) take on the immensely well known tune, ‘La Bamba’.

If I had to be really picky, I’d say that I might have liked to hear a short introduction to at least a few of the songs, especially since this was an album launch. But whether it was the Feni shots, the strategically placed merchandise, the brilliant set, or a combination of everything, Dischordian certainly launched their debut album in style.

At the end of the day, it was heartening to see a large number of people swarming the counter to buy copies of the album, and for anyone hoping to sell their music, I’d say that this is way to do it!


Mihir Joshi’s The Bombay Rock Project at Inorbit Mall, Mumbai





The Bombay Rock Project, although being a new entrant into Mumbai’s music scene, comprises a line-up of musicians who are well established in their own right, each of whom plays for a number of city bands. The gig they were playing today was at a mall, and I didn’t really know what to expect from them in terms of music, or the venue’s sound setup.

It was a typically windy and rainy June evening in Vashi, as the band set themselves up in the Inorbit Mall compound, close to the entrance. The place was sheltered by an unusually psychedelic looking ceiling way above, and kept out most of the rain. There was a sparse crowd present, as you’d expect in a mall, most of who were either known to the band, or curious passers-by.

A quick chat with one of the band members told me that I was to expect covers of classic Bollywood songs, with a twist, and maybe a couple of English songs thrown in as well. This surprised me, given the kind of music that I’ve heard each of these musicians play before with other bands.

So finally after a long drawn out sound check, the band was good to go. On lead guitar was Sanju Aguiar of Devoid, on bass was Ishaan Krishna of The Hoodwink Circle, on drums was Agnnelo Picaardo of Dischordian, on keyboards and saxophone was Nigel Rajaratnam of Dischordian, and spearheading the project was The Works’ vocalist, Mihir Joshi.

The first song was an upbeat cover of the title track of the Amitabh Bacchan starrer, Don, and set the stage for an energetic set list. The next was a cover of ‘Janu Meri Jaan’, from the 1980 classic, Shaan. At this point, I must admit I didn’t quite know what to make of the band. It felt a little bit indulgent, and more like they were playing to the masses, and not to a more discerning audience.

The band seemed tight and the overall sound was fairly good, given the windy conditions and that the location was for all practical purposes, a driveway. Ishaan had broken the top string of his bass guitar at the end of the second song, but to everyone’s bewilderment, nonchalantly proceeded to continue without it.

The next one was a rather crowd-pleasing mash-up medley of ‘Summer of ’69’, ‘Sweet Child o’ Mine’, and ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’. The songs were blended together quite well, but essentially stayed true to the originals. This was followed by another two hindi covers of the songs ‘Dekha Na’ and ‘Jawani Janeman’. So far, I had no complaints about the performance itself, but given the set list, it felt a little like we were watching an Amitabh Bacchan tribute gig.

Things started picking up with the next song, an interesting jazz-like cover of  ‘Dum Maaro Dum’ with a nice drum solo from Agnnelo and a piano solo by Nigel. Things got even more interesting with a reggae mash-up of John Mayer’s ‘Your Body Is A WonderLand’ and Lucky Ali’s ‘O Sanam’, scoring highly on the creativity scale.

The next two songs were covers of ‘Saara Zamaana’ and ‘Aap Jaisa Koi’, both of which had a distinct classic rock feel to them, and were followed by ‘Inteha Ho Gayi’ (yet again featuring the Big B) and was for me the best song so far, with Nigel switching to the saxophone towards the end.

Tossing in another English track, the band did an unusual take on the David Guetta house sensation, ‘Love Is Gone’, before moving back into hindi mode with a cover of the title track of the movie ‘Rock On’ as Mihir went into the crowd and got people to sing along with the chorus.

In response to the crowd’s request for another fast song, Mihir belted out ‘Dance Dance’, probably not my favourite of the evening, but there was a lot of energy in the performance, and some nice guitaring by Sanju. The list concluded with ‘Om Shanti Om’ and a cover of Deep Purple’s ‘Smoke On The Water’.

The performance overall was very entertaining. Agnnelo was solid as ever on drums, Nigel was creative with his keyboard, Ishaan was quite flawless despite playing with only three strings, and Sanju’s guitar riffs were excellent. Mihir was clearly the life of the band and though his vocals were at times a little bit pitchy, more than made up for it with some incredible showmanship and stage presence.

I’ve always found it interesting to see the name of a band qualified with the word ‘Project’. It indicates a certain lack of pretence, a degree of experimentation, and to some extent, an organised approach, all of which, The Bombay Rock Project at first glance seemed to fulfill in fair measure.

The band appears to be well prepared to take on the music scene. Their costumes and logo look to be steps towards creating a solid identity. Their performance looked tight and well rehearsed, and the members appeared relaxed and were enjoying themselves. The musicianship was of excellent quality and had a balanced sound. All in all, they appear to be unabashedly, a hindi cover band, and clearly look to be taking the commercial route by introducing rock music to the masses.


Vasuda Sharma Farewell Tour at The Blue Frog, Mumbai





As I made my way to the Blue Frog on Sunday evening, I was clearly still recovering from the effects of the power-packed previous night at B69. It was the second leg of Vasuda Sharma’s farewell tour that I was headed for and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, given that I’d never watched Vasuda live in concert before, and that her initial claim to fame was being a part of the group Aasma, a product of Channel V’s ‘Pop Stars’ project. However, her more recent foray as an independent artist, combined with the stellar lineup of guest artists and supporting band for the night, had certainly roused my curiosity.

Admittedly, I’ve had my reservations in the past about the Indipop genre and the whole ‘Popstars’ concept in general, but I decided not to let any of that cloud my perception of today’s event. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the gig did in fact begin punctually at 9:30, precisely as I was informed.

Vasuda looked great as she took the stage along with her supporting band for the evening, and was greeted warmly by the crowd. There was already a fairly decent turnout, and I was quite sure that it would increase as the night went on. Accompanying her was Vinayak Pol on drums, Denzil Mathias and Alex Rintu on guitar, Crosby Fernandes on bass, and Nigel Rajaratnam on keyboards.

After a brief exchange of pleasantries with the audience, Vasuda kicked off the set with two very well composed originals, followed by a cover of Maroon 5’s ‘This Love‘. Her voice had a pleasant tone and she clearly possessed superb vocal control.

The first of the guest artists was Parsheen Irani, who came up on stage to join Vasuda for an upbeat cover of Michael Jackson’s ‘The Way You Make Me Feel‘. This was followed by a cover of ‘Never Really Loved You Anyway’, originally by The Corrs, along with Geetanjali More and violinist Yogesh.

The crowd was now well and truly in the groove, and were clearly enjoying themselves. Vasuda’s fellow Aasma singer Neeti Mohan then joined her to do a cover of The Dixie Chicks’ ‘Ready To Run‘, getting the country feel spot on with the inclusion of the violin and with Nigel playing the flute.

Sangeet Haldipur, also of Aasma fame, was the next guest artist, and showed some incredible piano skills on a soulful solo that was accompanied only by Vasuda and Nigel’s mellow backing vocals. The songs so far had been interspersed with each of the artists sharing a moment and saying a few kind words about Vasuda, contributing significantly to the feel-good vibe in the place.

It was the perfect time for the pace to pick up, and with charismatic guitarist Ravi Iyer joining in for a cover of the Joan Jett classic ‘I Love Rock n’ Roll‘, it certainly did. The next song, a rendition of Janis Joplin’s ‘Summertime‘, saw Vasuda demonstrate some exceptional vocals and an extended solo by Ravi Iyer, showing all of his skill and versatility, with Zain Calcuttawala stepping in to play the drums.

Keeping up the tempo was popular RJ and The Works’ vocalist Mihir Joshi. Dressed in a black suit, Mihir belted out an energetic cover of James Brown’s ‘I Feel Good’, and with the very talented Rhys D’Souza on saxophone, the entire ensemble sounded perfect. Rhys stayed on for the next song, an impressive rock n’ roll original by Vasuda called ‘All Night Long’, with the dynamic Jaspreet Singh on vocals.

The two originals that followed were for me definitely the highlight of the evening, with Sheldon D’Silva joining in on bass. The long instrumental interludes allowed each of the musicians a moment in the limelight, with some wonderful solos including an organ mode keyboard solo from Nigel, a guitar solo by Alex, and a show boarding extended bass solo by Sheldon, who completely blew the audience away with his brilliant creativity.

Vasuda paid tribute to Alanis Morisette with a dark rendition of ‘Uninvited‘, following which she was joined by the last member of Aasma, Jimmy Felix. The two of them sung a cover of Bon Jovi’s ‘In These Arms’, as Jimmy improvised on the chorus to say goodbye to Vasuda in his own unique way.

All four members of Aasma now got together on stage to sing their hit single ‘Tumse Hi Pyaar‘ and did a fine job of it. (I for one, was quite glad that it wasn’t the awful ‘Chandu ke Chacha’ that they’d decided on performing on The Blue Frog stage!). And finally, Vasuda invited all the guest artists on stage, as they went on to sing the INXS classic, ‘Life Is A Highway’, quite perfect for the occasion.

All in all a fine show, and there are a few points here that I’d really like to emphasize. The sound was absolutely brilliant. With an ever-changing lineup of musicians and instruments, never once was the sound imbalanced, and The Blue Frog certainly lived up to its reputation in this aspect. The organization was spot on. Again, with an ever-changing lineup including intermittent exchanges and tributes between artists, I’d imagine it to be a logistical nightmare. Kudos to the organizers and to Vasuda’s managers, Dream Makers Entertainment.

Finally, the music. The aspect of this gig that I was most impressed with was the quality of music, covers and originals alike. It’s probably not always easy playing a song or a set with a group of musicians that isn’t a regular band, but watching this lineup, you’d never know that. Kudos to Vasuda and the rest of the band for holding the show together over those two hours and I wish her all the best!


B69 Hindi Bajaao





To be quite honest, I wasn’t really looking forward to this gig. I was telling people “I god a bad code” all day and the meds I had been taking hadn’t really helped so far. To top it off, it was a dry day and looking for alcohol when you’re sick is never fun.

I reached what is probably my second favorite venue, B69, at 8.30pm and was hoping that I hadn’t missed much. As it turns out, I was early and it was quite a sight to see and meet everyone outside the venue instead of Vasant Bar which is the normal meet and greet point, as it was closed.

After narrowly dodging a passing by Sai Baba procession, and managing to down some strong swipes of Old Monk and Pepsi, we stepped inside to catch the first band Kamaal Ke Phool just as they were starting. The first thing that everyone probably noticed was the girl bass player. The guitar player in his cool jacket had an awesome tone going for him with his Godin guitar plugged into a Marshall amp. Nice tone for someone who was only switching between A and B on the amp. The singer, Hitesh I think, sounded like he was having a hard time. His voice sounded harsh, as opposed to the soft music that the band was turning out. I think he wasn’t well. The song ‘Hey Ram’ deserves a special mention here, particularly for the cool duet between the drummer and guitarist. Overall the band had really long songs and was quite boring in parts. But great potential as all the musicians were committed and rehearsed. Special mention for Bryan on drums, who impressed one and all with his fast rolls and great time keeping.

Having watched Sector 8 perform acoustically several times over, I was already familiar with a few of their songs. And seeing as they had won the Artist Aloud, Rock your November competition recently, I was really looking forward to hearing them tonight, full band, and full power. And they certainly didn’t disappoint! Great compositions and vocals, and the band was TIGHT! Full marks to Abel’s clean picking guitar technique, and superb presence by the vocalist, Mrudula. The geeky rhythm guitarist on backing vocals looked afraid of the mic again. Excellent performance, although they only played four songs, and this was probably the only aspect of their set that I didn’t like. Definitely a band to watch out for in the future!

Next up was Pradakshinam. This band has been around for a bit now, although it has had a line up change or two. A very hard working band, always in the news and up to something or the other. I must say, they looked very weird on stage with the way they were dressed individually. To everyone’s amusement, the vocalist, Suraj started off by announcing, “It’s republic day so lets DO IT!” which really seemed like he was suggesting something else entirely. The guitar player is one funny dude, calling the sound guy ‘Szechwan’ every time he asked for something on his monitor. I don’t think he knew that the sound guys name is ‘Shezan.’ The band had some tight drumming and nice harmonies. ‘Ajnabee’ had a nice build up, although the song in parts reminded me of a John Mayer pop song. Major chaos on the third song but they recovered well. Nigel’s keyboard and Aggie’s drums suddenly got too loud towards the end of their set. Nice tight performance as expected. Stand out job by the drummer again. Looks like it’s a night for the drummers to shine!

By now the slight buzz from my meds coupled with the rum was beginning to fade, but the real headache was something else entirely. The last band of the night, Seher, had just started and they were extremely LOUD. And not in a good way. I really don’t know what the vocalist was on. Probably a mix of ecstasy coupled with Viagra. The guy looked really loony, eyes closed, hands almost caressing himself as he swayed from side to side making some weird humping movements. I gagged a little bit. Normally I wouldn’t mind, but he was off key way too many times, shouting into the mic on all high and long notes, while somehow managing to look serious. Imagine the corny applicants at American/Indian Idol auditions who think they can sing and you will get the idea. Bad stage presence, no one was in sync, and the compositions were nothing out of the ordinary. I’m surprised they headlined. I really felt bad for the drummer as the band was making him sound amateurish as well and he was the guy who impressed the pants off all of us with the first band of the night! Being the headlining band and also easily, the most tenured band, that was a very tardy and amateurish performance – far from what I expected.

Well I guess you take the bad with the good. Great effort by HRC (Hindi Rock Circuit) and I hope they keep ’em coming!

Avatar photo

Howard Pereira

Howard is a guitarist with Mumbai based bands, Dischordian and Overhung. His other interests include drinking, comic books and occasional writing.